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To the Editors of American Demographics:

Your article on the knitting market was very interesting and is close to a subject I'm researching. Is similar information available on people who sew or quilt?

Dan Bayha

Cardinal Brands

Lawrence, Kan.

Dear Dan:

Sleuthing data on sewers — not the underground kind — was challenging. New York City-based Mediamark Research, Inc. collects household data on sewing machine ownership and profiles people who have sewn in the past six months — whether it's general mending, cross-stitch or needlepoint. But, to estimate a total national number of people who sew, and then drill into their demographics, is mostly guesswork. According to Karen Koza of the New York City-based Home Sewing Association, there are about 35 million sewers in America. These figures include people who know how to sew but, for whatever reason, don't. Privately-held sewing machine companies choose not to disclose sales stats, so it's difficult to estimate consumer spending in the sector. Still, sewing machine manufacturers recorded double-digit increases in sales over the past few years, according to Koza.

Younger consumers' interest in sewing is growing. Home & Garden TV, and how-to programs on other cable channels are helping to popularize the hobby. Sewing, it seems, is a nester's way to inexpensively personalize her home décor.

Luckily, more specific information on quilters exists. According to the most recent Quilting in America Survey commissioned in 2000 by Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, a sibling Primedia publication, and the International Quilt Market & Festival, a division of Houston-based Quilts, Inc., there are 20 million quilters in the U.S., ages 18 and over. They spent $1.8 billion on supplies in 2000, up 52 percent from 1997.

The most active among them are “dedicated quilters,� who spend over $500 on their hobby annually. Although they represent 5 percent of quilting households, these enthusiasts account for 94 percent of the total market, based on spending. In 1999, they bought 107 million yards of fabric worth $736 million specifically for quilting. That's enough fabric to circle the planet 2.5 times.

These dedicated quilters start an average of 14 projects per year. And their craft is taking over their home: 3 in 4 have a room in the house for sewing and quilting, to stow an average of two sewing machines and a reserve stash of fabric and notions.

While it's true that most quilters are female with an average age of 55, these women are upscale. Most have attended college and then some. Their average household income is $75,000 according to the quilting survey.

Although they're enamored with a pastime reminiscent of colonial days, these women aren't Luddites. They're computer literate. The average quilter spends two hours a week online visiting quilting Web sites for tips and techniques or to download free patterns. And high-tech advances are making their lives easier, too. Hopped-up sewing machines now offer Internet connections that can download sewing or quilting patterns. For those who want quicker results, quilting no longer has to be a patch-by-patch process toward gratification.


To the Editors of American Demographics:

I am interested in demographic information on Americans who wear hearing aids. It seems that the consumers who are the best market for the product are those who already wear them. Any details you can provide on this market would be of great assistance to us, and ultimately a valuable service to the hearing-impaired.

Anne Tomlinson

Shea Hearing Aid Center

Memphis, Tenn.

Dear Anne:

The hearing aid market is alluring, in part, because there's so much room for growth.

Approximately 2 million units are sold each year, averaging $1,400 a piece at retail. When batteries and other accessories are included, consumers' annual expenditure on hearing aids easily reaches $500 million. But the market is far from saturated. More than 34.7 million Americans ages 18 and older suffer from hearing loss, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But only 5.8 million people, just under 17 percent of those afflicted personally, own a hearing aid, reports Mediamark Research, Inc. (MRI).

The figures suggest a larger untapped market for hearing aids, which, by all indications, is sure to grow. Researchers who compare rates of hearing impairment over time confirm an unnerving trend toward more hearing loss earlier in life. Noise seems to be the main culprit. We're growing up in an increasingly plugged-in, switched-on society. Exposure to loud sounds, from the blast of hair dryers to the roar of lawnmowers to the pounding bass of personal disc players, promotes noise-induced hearing loss. It's a leading reason people go deaf or become hard-of-hearing.

Hearing loss is also part of aging. As Baby Boomers approach their late 50s, expect the number of hearing aid candidates to proliferate. However, those who prefer the sound of silence present a challenge. They say their hearing isn't bad enough, according to a survey commissioned by the National Council on the Aging. Others cite the high cost of the device, or say that it would make them feel old. The key reasons for a first-time hearing aid purchase are perception that one's hearing loss has worsened (68.5 percent), suggestions by family members (45.2 percent) and recommendations by audiologists (40.5 percent), according to surveys conducted by Sergei Kochkin, an American hearing expert.

Who chooses to get a hearing aid? Of those who opt for these devices, almost all are white (92 percent), and they tend to be less educated with lower household incomes than those who go without. These less educated folks often work in blue-collar jobs associated with industrial noise that can induce deafness (think jackhammers and drills). Age is also a major factor, says Carole Rogin, president of the Hearing Industries Association, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade organization of hearing aid manufacturers. When MRI data from 1998 and 2003 is compared, certain trends emerge. Hearing aid owners are going upscale. They're gradually becoming better educated and have higher household incomes. They are also more likely to be married than before (67 percent in 2003 versus 60 percent in 1998). But the vast majority of users (80 percent) still live in homes where the silence is not shattered by the bedlam of offspring.


Fax: (212) 716-8471. Attention: Sandra Yin


Address: 261 Madison Avenue, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10016

Submissions should include writer's full name, company, address and e-mail. Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

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