It sometimes seems as if Amazon is trying to take over the retailing world.  Those of us arriving at the Javits Center for last month’s NY NOW show were surprised to see big door signs advertisements as we entered for ‘Selling on Handmade at Amazon.’ And although this program debuted in October, 2015, the fact that Amazon chose to promote it at the gift show indicates that they are now actively recruiting new artisans.

The promotional materials being given out at Javits gave 3 reasons to sell on Handmade at Amazon:

  1. Get your products noticed (it’s hard to ignore the fact that Amazon has 250 million customers worldwide)
  2. Custom orders are easy 
  3. Fees are simple

The Amazon program is based on taking a 15% cut called a “referral fee” that includes payment processing, marketing and discounted shipping.  There is also mention of a waived monthly fee, which was initially only going to be waived through last year.

Amazon is clearly going toe-to-toe here with Etsy, the innovative online marketplace. In addition to providing a platform for over 1.5 million sellers, Etsy has a wholesale division for artisans who want to make their products available to retailers.  Over half of Etsy’s sellers also sell through other venues, which might include local shops, craft shows or their own retail store.

In a thoughtful and thorough blog article comparing selling on Etsy vs. selling on Amazon, Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting shows that selling on Amazon ultimately is more expensive, and offers artists less control.  She also cautions potential sellers that their presence on this platform may make their products less attractive to retailers. “As someone who helps makers build wholesale strategies, I can imagine few things which are less attractive to the independent shop buyer than knowing that your wares are available 24 hours a day via America’s largest discount retailer. Crawl inside the mind of a buyer for a few moments and meditate on that through their eyes.”

Does Handmade at Amazon represent a direct challenge to shopkeepers? Probably not at this time. But it is hard to ignore that this giant company wants to take over the minds and wallets of shoppers everywhere.  The bigger Amazon gets, the more we have to try hard to maintain our corner of the market.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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