The results of a quilting trends survey were presented yesterday by Mark Hyland, CEO of Premier Needle Arts.
Every three years since 2009 the quilting industry has conducted a survey assessing the size of the market and new trends in consumer behavior. The survey was called Quilting in America and was funded by F+W media. Findings were presented at the premier Schoolhouse at Quilt Market and a one-page summary was made available online (Download 2014 and 2017 survey results).
The survey data announced yesterday was funded by Premier Needle Arts, the parent company of Handi Quilter, Superior Threads, Pro Stitcher, Quilt Pro Systems, Connecting Threads, Knit Picks, and WeCrochet. Hyland explains that this is an annual survey the company conducts and is less detailed and has less analysis than the Quilting in America survey. Hyland said the survey data was only being presented in webinar format only due to how costly it was to conduct. “The survey costs between $200,000 and $250,000,” he noted. “The data will not be available to download.” There will be a one-page overview of the information coming sometime in the next 6-8 weeks.
A graph showing the size of the industry.
Employment of quilters.
This year’s survey consisted of 140 questions and took approximately 40 minutes for respondents to complete. It was sent out via email in late January and early February 2020 to nearly 1 million quilters, 98% of whom were located in North America. 20,000 responses came in, and there was an 83% completion rate. The quilters surveyed were from the consumer email lists of leading quilting brands (these brands were not specified in the presentation) along with Golden Peak Media’s consumer list (Love of Quilting, McCalls, and QuiltMaker).
Hyland didn’t provide any details regarding the breakdown of the race, ethnicity, or demographics of the quilters surveyed. Hyland explained in an email that this data was not provided because “they were not predictors or indicators of quilter’s behavior or habits.”
A second supplemental survey was conducted May 26-31 to gather data specific to the pandemic.
Third-party data analytic experts from Emperitas, a business intelligence and data science firm, validated the questions to remove bias and assisted in analyzing the data. Other industry market data was also provided by Ernest & Young.
Size of the market
The estimated size of the quilting market is $4.2 billion, up slightly from $4.1 billion in 2018 and $3.8 billion in 2014. North America has between 9-11 million quilters, a number that’s been stable (between 8-12 million) over the last decade. 98% of quilting consumers are female and 65% are retired. Between 2020 and 2024 the population will see a 2% annual growth of females at retirement age which leads to an anticipated corollary growth in the quilting market. The age band in which quilters started quilting more actively was in their mid-40s.
Consumers say they quilt in order to relax, relieve stress, be creative, and connect with family and friends through gift-giving.
How purchasing habits have changed.
Top sources for quilting information.
The average quilter
The average quilter is a retired woman in her 60’s with a household income of $74,000. 19% have full-time jobs and are working longer into their retirement years. The average quilter feels she’s at an intermediate level at making and finishing quilt tops and has been quilting for more than a decade. She starts 8-10 quilts a year and works on project 6-10 hours a week (up from 5 hours per week in 2017). The average quilter owns 4 different types of sewing machines.
According to the study, participation in quilting guilds is beginning to decline. (Granular statistics on this topic were not provided.)
The average quilter learns about quilting from friends and online. She finds product ideas through video tutorials and gets inspiration and motivation through free video tutorials, quilt shows, magazines, and local retailers. She’s spending more time online looking at quilting-related media than she did a few years ago. About 46% of quilters are now searching online for quilting products and education every day. Another 29% are searching online weekly. 33% of respondents said they are searching and shopping more online now than they used to.
Quilters’ top source for quilt-related information is websites and blogs (19%), with magazines and newspapers coming in second (14.1%), and YouTube coming in third (13%). Trusted retailers were only 5.4%. The top places for quilters to seek out education are YouTube and classes at local shops.
Other hobbies quilters enjoy include gardening, reading, knitting, crochet, embroidery, cooking, baking, and painting.
Where quilters prefer to shop in 2020 (top 2 choices).
What most influences purchasing supplies.
Type of quilts
Modern quilts have grown in popularity since 2017 when they were under 10% of the type of quilts most often created. They’re now closer to 15%. Traditional quilts have also grown in popularity. In 2017 they were about 40% and in 2020 they are closer to 58%.
Unsurprisingly, fabric continues to be the most sought after product category for quilters. 41.1% of respondents said they are consuming more of their stash than buying. About 66% of respondents said they prefer to buy fabric and thread from an independent quilt shop (holding steady from 2017), while 57% said they preferred to shop online (up from 51% in 2017). Prior to COVID, attendance at consumer shows was up.
In the follow-up survey conducted May 26-31, 27,000 quilters answered questions about their feelings and behaviors in the pandemic environment. 92% of respondents said that quilting was filling about the same, a little more, or much more time in their lives now than it had in a pre-COVID environment. 51% of those quilters said they didn’t feel comfortable gathering at a large event. According to the survey, show attendance will be down 40-50% through the rest of 2020.
This is interesting consumer data, but not representative of the industry. First, the survey participants were already on mailing lists of unspecified “leading quilt brands.” People who sign up for company mailing lists are likely to be dedicated consumers of the brand within a limited demographic. Second, conducting the survey via email will automatically skew the results to older consumers, who are more likely to respond to email communications. It’s obviously useful for these companies to know more about their own dedicated consumers, but we should be careful not to apply these findings to the quilting industry as a whole.
I’d say it’s pretty spot on in many regards, in my opinion. which is based off the larger quilting guilds in North Carolina, whose membership is made up almost exclusively of women over the age of 60, most of whom are retired and have money to spend on their craft.
My guild of 180 members, of which I’ve been a member for over twenty years, meets the metrics in the survey very closely. I’d not discount this survey as no one survey is going to be perfect in it’s scope, this one is in keeping with other similar reports I’ve seen presented online.
I think you’re right Ellen. The “leading quilt brands” immediately presents a bias. In my experience, modern quilters, and a lot of younger quilt makers use non-traditional fabrics for quilting (Essex, Kokka, etc.), they’re not using Moda, Hoffman, etc. So the brands themselves are going to present a significant filter.
Agree with both of Ann’s and Ellen’s comments: Ann’s in that in the two guilds I participate in, the metrics of the study are pretty closely aligned as well. But as to Ellen’s, I also see younger quilters coming on board. Having said that, I believe we more-established quilters need to find a way to reach out and teach other younger quilters. I gathered together a group of about eight young mothers and we are steadily learning block and quilt skills. They are creative in finding their way to source their fabrics, and are eager to take from my annual discard (and I am happy to share). They are sometimes more productive than I am!
I’m happy we are all still here, and slightly growing. Thanks for publishing some of the results.
You’re welcome. I agree that this survey data, given where it was gathered from, has got to be flawed and not showing the total picture.
This seems like older info to me! The number of quilters blogging is a whole lot less than it used to be! There are a lot of quilters who are in groups of facebook etc. I can’t believe the LQS is where most quilters buy their supplies unless they count the sales from online purchases. Most of the LQS have closed around where I live, and I hear a lot of quilters complaining about that! Like most things today I think this survey is being used to influence you! Just my opinion!
I guess it depends on the economy of your location. So far all four of our are quilt stores were doing well pre-pandemic. Not sure about now. Time will tell. But I always check my LQS before I buy from larger online retailers.
I agree with all the comments above, especially related to demographics of the 1,000+ membership of the 13-chapter Northern Virginia quilt guild of which I’m a member (though I am an outlier, younger and not retired).
I’m a casual/lurker member of number of quilt-related FB groups and a surprisingly large (to me) number of the quilters purchase fabric at Walmart, as that is what they can afford. I suspect these quilters fall into the category of those not on manufacturer or magazine mailing lists that Ellen references. These people, if counted, might also pull the average $74K income level down.
As those of us who buy fabric at the popular online and reputable LQSs, quilting is not an inexpensive hobby.
Also, for quilters in more rural or remote areas, there may not be any local quilt guilds to join.
But the statistics are very interesting nonetheless – thanks for sharing them, Abby.
You’re welcome. Lots to ponder.
Thanks for sharing this information on your blog, Abby — it’s much appreciated!
I am wondering about the graph concerning the size of the industry. Are those raw $$ numbers or are they corrected for inflation? As costs increase, the amount we spend increases but is it a “true” increase? Also, this graph seems to conflict a bit with the “How purchasing habits have changed” in that 41% are using their stashes, but the previous graph shows we are spending more. Again, this spending increase (which may not be statistically significant from the previous year) seems odd of 41% are using their stashes and not purchasing as much. Also, does the spending chart include machines as well as consumables (fabric, patterns, rulers, etc)? Machine prices have increased considerably in the last few years. Also, many quilters also do machine embroidery so was that somehow broken out within this survey or included in the spending statistics? I am very curious as I work for a local Sewing Center and what I observe (as unscientific as this can be!) is Quilters– older/retired mainly women; embroiderers- younger couples looking to supplement their income with an embroidery business and many more men interested in embroidery than quilting…. maybe it is an equipment(machine) thing!
Whatever happened to the longarm service sector?
I came across this data doing research for a class on web production. While the data was interesting, the response rate was about 2% – which significantly increases the probability of severe bias in the interpretation of the results (especially in demographics which the presenter claimed were not relevant in predicting behavior. The difficulty predicting might be related to the low response rate). The research differs on what is an acceptable rate, but the average response rate to a survey in 2019 was about 33%. Given the 40 minutes to complete and the 140 question length I’m not surprised at the 2% response rate. Everyone – think how many questions are on the Census and look at the infoormation derived from that. Ultimately, most researchers agree it would be better to obtain a higher response rate (e.g 70-80%) from a smaller selected random sampling of the population. It’s surprising to many, but this would probably yield more precise data and more accurate interpretations of that data.
Those figures represent total revenue for the industry. Inflation would be a component of the the total aggregate revenue. The data you are curious about would require some data extrapolation using excel/sheets and some mathematic ingenuity. Then you’d be able to see the big picture and how much inflation is really cutting into the “bottom line”. the bottom line would be getting passed to the independent creators and small business owners. The handful of companies controlling the IMPORT of all the materials & equipment to supply the industry are up a conservative 20% in profit over the past 3-5 years (estimated adjustment for inflation ).
That is an insanely thin data set. Even more so at a cost of $250K. I would strongly consider a close audit of the techniques, used to develop and deploy this survey. I’m not implying something seems off, I’m making the statement that something is incredibly unbalanced with the cost of that little data.