Puerto Rico’s arts and crafts industry has been quietly gaining ground in recent years, driven mostly by a growing need to generate additional income or embark on a new career as the economy takes its toll on traditional employment.
The industry is said to generate about $100 million a year locally in revenue, which represents significant opportunities for the naturally crafty and those willing to learn a new skill, Víctor Rosado, executive of Newport Sales/Avanti, a retail and wholesale distributor of all types of arts and crafts goods.
“Crafting represents an opportunity for those who are unemployed, or retired, to find something to do that could represent additional income or even the opportunity to keep themselves busy,” said Rosado, who is also producing the 6th edition of the Arts and Crafts fair taking place this weekend, Feb. 11-12, at the Puerto Rico Convention Center.
The event, which was organized for the first time in 2009, is a showcase for the island’s retailers, wholesalers and artisan teachers to sell their goods and services. For customers, the fair is a chance not only to buy the materials they need for their creations, but also to learn new techniques during the seminars that are part of the event.
“Three years ago, we decided to organize this event for the first time to give consumers access to the new products that are available for them to turn into something creative,” said Rosado, noting that Newport Sales/Avanti took the initiative to organize this event after its operation experienced a transformation that prompted it to rethink the strategy to keep the business going.
“We’ve been in the market for 60 years and until the 1990s, we specialized in distributing sewing materials. But when the needle industry began to wane in Puerto Rico, our business decreased by 75 percent,” he said. “So at the end of the 1990s, we began distributing arts and crafts materials and about three years ago we set off to organize a massive event to turn people on to crafting.”
Newport organized the first arts and crafts fair in 2009. Its popularity grew the next year, when two more events were held. Last year’s two-day arts and crafts weekend drew about 12,000 people and generated about $500,000 in sales for participating exhibitors, he said.
This weekend, there will be about 60 booths set up and participation is expected to reach 16,000 during both days, Rosado said.
“This event gives our exhibitors an opportunity to also generate sales. Some immediately and others long-term, because they may get repeat customers after the event is over,” he said. “The way I see it, crafting represents two things: the chance for people to learn to make things that require a small investment, which they can sell, or give away as gifts that are unique and inexpensive.”
Another Arts and Crafts fair is already being planned for August, Rosado said.