Does get your vote as one of the most innovative marketing web sites? That probably depends on whether they are competing with your shop for customer dollars, or allowing you to find new and unusual sources for handmade merchandise — and perhaps even a new way to supplement your store’s sales.  I recently discovered a line of magnets on the Etsy site, and after a bit of e-mailing back and forth (made easy by Etsy’s communication tools) arranged to buy a quantity of them wholesale.  I also noticed a number of retail stores supplementing their “bricks” operation by selling vintage or handmade items on the site.

 What is Etsy? It is an innovative online marketplace for buying and selling all things handmade, launched in 2005 in Brooklyn, NY. There are now over 2 million items for sale by over 170,000 vendors around the world — and an impressive 10 million unique viewers a month, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

 It is free to set up an Etsy shop, but the sellers pay a 20¢ fee for each item listed, and then 3 1/2% of sales.  Paypal is the lingua franca in the Etsy world, and the shopping cart system makes it easy for customers to buy from multiple vendors.  The smart vendors seem to have added a bit to their product prices in order to keep shipping costs — which are usually given for the US, Canada and the rest of the world — very reasonable.

 The Etsy search engine and communication tools are state-of-the-art.  Just for fun, try the Colors tool on the left of the screen.   Run your mouse over the colored dots, and when you linger for a moment, you’ll see products featuring your color of choice. Double click on an item to bring up ordering information.

 Etsy has made a major difference in how artists market their wares, which may make it difficult for a gallery or crafts shop to compete. On the other hand, there are artists who are happy to sell on Etsy (just as they have always sold at crafts fairs) in addition to selling wholesale to independent retailers.  If you sell handmade items, try using Etsy to look for new sources. You can even search geographically for local artists from your area in the Shop Local section.

 Could you supplement your store’s sales by selling your products on Etsy? That depends on whether you make some of the merchandise you sell (marketing handmade goods created by someone else is not allowed) or whether you sell crafting supplies or vintage items that are at least 20 years old.   If you are an artist helping to also market crafts by other artists, you could set up a collective shop as a team.  Etsy could be a new source of customers around the world for your gallery or crafts store.


Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder