One of the consequences of the COVID pandemic is that many of us have been forced to spend more time at home and find new ways to entertain ourselves. This has led to a rise in interest in craft activities, and Craftmar was established to help meet the demand for quality cross stitch kits in the United States.
Mehmet Colasan from Craftmar kindly answered some questions about the origin of the company and the cross stitch kits it provides.
What inspired you to start Craftmar?
We were selling Gurme212 branded canned and jarred food at Amazon when COVID-19 began shutting down the USA. Grocery sales rocketed and we hardly kept supply of our products to customers. Some industries benefitted from COVID, while some terribly suffered. That led us to think about which markets are niche and what products customers need, while sitting at their homes. Bicycle sales, fitness equipment sales, masks, hand sanitizers were for sure on the top of everyone’s list, but they had significant supply constraints as well at the time.
We thought about what people do sitting at home. They bought pets, games, and crafts. Crafts, especially cross stitch kits, were products which I was familiar with and after a short due diligence, we decided on cross stitch kits and contacted Vervaco, a very well-known manufacturer of quality kits in Belgium. A European supplier was much better because air cargo capacity was limited and ocean freight would take a lot of time from Asia, moreover China was also in partial shut-down.
We also discussed a few options for our brand name and decided on Craftmar, and started up our e-commerce site at Craftmar.com
What do you think your customers find appealing about cross stitch kits?
First of all, they come in different shapes and forms. Secondly, these are kits, you do not need to go out shopping to choose and buy your threads one by one, get an Aida cloth and cut it, or buy design sheets. What happens if one color is missing? You will continue visiting other places to bring these together.
In our kits, all you need comes in a package to you, even the needle. You simply open it and begin putting your X marks on the canvas using the threads and design. And thirdly, there are themes for every taste and purpose: birth and baby, animals, flowers, nature, beach and sea, religion, holidays, love and marriage etc.
What types of cross stitch kits do you sell?
We have two different types. With counted kits, as the name suggests, you need to follow a design printed on another paper and count your stitches while doing it. They have smaller holes on the canvas, and it is more for the advanced crafters. Stamped, also called printed kits, have the design printed on the canvas, and they have bigger holes and thicker threads. It is much easier to follow the pattern and complete. These are more suitable for beginners. We have different variety of kits: cushion kits, bookmarks, bags, tablecloths and runners. So, everyone can find some kit for herself (and himself as it is also a good hobby for men).
Were there any challenges you needed to overcome in setting up the business?
One of the well-known appeals of the US is that fact it is easy to start a business. You do not need to register for a company to start your business up. You simply get all you need by online and instant applications. You file your taxes, and all is good to go.
We sell more on several marketplaces, and without them, it is difficult to reach a scale. Every marketplace has different systems, setups and rules which needs to be learned well. Returns are also bad for any type of business. If you sell clothes, people buy 2-3 sizes online at the same time and keep only one at the end—this induces a cost to suppliers. Fortunately, we have a very low rate of returns.
There are always followers, which imitate what you do, and follow your path, usually with lower quality and cost goods. This is almost unavoidable unless you do something really sophisticated.
And another challenge, especially during COVID, is supply and transportation. Many passenger aircraft are grounded with significant commercial cargo capacity. Ocean freight takes time, you need to plan ahead and plan right. You need to work with right suppliers and partners not to fail in the middle, and I think this is the most important challenge.
Why do you think Craftmar is the best place to get cross stitch kits?
All marketplaces charge seller’s a fee from 5% up to 15%. There are also fringe costs like advertising on their platforms. These are inevitably built into product price by sellers. Brick and mortar retailers also have a huge overhead of their staff and real estate, which is built into the price.
We import our goods, so there are no middlemen, therefore products are already competitively priced. On top, if our customer buys the cross stitch kits direct from Craftmar.com, there is hardly any overhead in the price as we have very low cost of operations. The products do not expire, are small in size for storage and sorting. We do not need forklifts to move them around. We provide free shipping as the kits are lightweight, and that does not cost much. Overall, I can say that we offer the best prices to our customers using these advantages over marketplaces and retailers.
Are you planning to expand your range of cross stitch kits in the future?
Yes. We decided to start this in March, and we managed to import more than 80 different kits by May. Today, this number has reached 140, and before Christmas, we plan to have 270 different kits in stock and over 350 by 2021. That quantity is simply impossible to find at any brick and mortar store.
We are also starting with Lanarte, which is another high quality brand from same manufacturer. As long as we see the demand coming, we will bring more and more. We do not plan to lose focus by expanding to other hobby lines for now. We like selling what we know. Uncontrolled growth brings risk, which all of us have witnessed with COVID.
Thank you Mehmet for your time!
You can follow up with Mehmet Colasan at https://craftmar.com