Etsy sellers are squeezed by the ‘Amazon effect’


Local artist Elowyn Dickerson took part in Etsy’s strike and recently made the decision to leave the platform after she denied his request to report someone for copyright infringement. She has been selling her artwork since she was 14 and has operated her Etsy storefront for about five years. Photo contributed.

Manufacturers – business owners who sell handmade products – feel pressured to produce more while paying increasing fees to the platforms they sell on. This “Amazon effect” seeps into the business model of many small stores.

Consumers have grown accustomed to Amazon’s fast shipping times, fast checkout process, and no-questions-asked returns. This mentality has trickled down to manufacturers eating up those costs.

Etsy, an e-commerce platform for makers to sell handmade goods, recently hiked its fees to sellers from 3% to 5%, sparking outrage from makers who say their profit margins are slimmer because of this.

On April 11, a strike was called and several Etsy storefronts closed their shops in defiance of the changes.

Alana Little, owner of handmade jewelry company Make Pie Not War in Fresno, said Etsy encourages sellers to offer free shipping on orders over $35. Although it’s not required, Little says search engine optimization won’t show manufacturers on the first page if they charge shipping fees over $35.

“Basically, if you don’t, no one will see you,” Little said.

Shipping costs come straight out of the manufacturers pocket.

Little has operated her Etsy shop since 2007 and said the strike was a symptom of a bigger problem.

“Specifically, us manufacturers – most of us are smaller. Either we don’t have any employees or we only have a couple. We’re squeezed from all sides,” Little said. .

The evolution of American consumerism has forced manufacturers to compete with Amazon.

“People want everything to be like Amazon, with a really fast turnaround. They want everything to be free,” she said.

The “customer is always right” mentality is also detrimental to manufacturers. Little says keeping up with changes in social media algorithms is also the hardest part of juggling a business. Algorithms decide when and where ads are seen, but the criteria can change on a whim.

Etsy’s high rates were the icing on the cake of rising wages and hiring problems.

“I think it just discourages people who are already being treated badly by customers and inflation is high. It’s just a lot for people,” Little said.

By the time she honors free shipping and pays the increased fees, profit margins shrink. Shipping prices increase, along with its shippers and labels.

Elowyn Dickerson participated in Etsy’s strike and recently made the decision to leave the platform after rejecting Dickerson’s request to report someone for copyright infringement.

“Someone took my exact design and started selling it on their Etsy store,” she said. “They charged a dollar less than me, so they knew what I was doing and they tried to beat me at my own game.”

“I had to go through a thousand steps to report it and I got an email from Etsy today saying they rejected my report,” Dickerson added.

She said participating in the strike was worth it, even though the sale of her artwork accounts for nearly half of her income. She hopes there has been a noticeable drop in Etsy’s revenue because of the strike.

She has been selling her artwork since she was 14 and has operated her Etsy storefront for about five years.

She recalls that Etsy used to host many other handmade stores on its platform, but now some manufactured goods are marketed as handmade.

“Over the years, I feel like Etsy has become a different kind of Amazon platform,” Dickerson said.

After her copyright dispute, she plans to move her virtual storefront to Shopify, another e-commerce platform that can be connected to the seller’s website. It can also be linked directly from Instagram.

Makayla Godden uses Shopify for her hand-designed clothes. Her business, Mak Made It, was born in the summer of 2020 when she was struggling to find a job. She started designing her own clothing line but never tried selling through Etsy.

Although Amazon’s fast shipping times have changed consumer expectations, she believes there is a way to join in.

“I see this as an opportunity to kind of say, ‘Okay, they’re literally taking over the world, so how do I go about it,'” Godden said.

She tries to ship as quickly as possible, and customers can use Apple Pay on her Shopify, so it’s simple to make purchases.

Since 2020, her shop has grown exponentially, and an HBO costume designer has reached out to get her clothes on her hit show, Mare of Easttown.

Lauren Lum, owner of FresLoCa, is an artist and jewelry designer. She started small and branched out to Etsy, but will also be moving her platform to her own website where customers can buy her products through Shopify.

Shopify appealed to her because it takes a monthly fee rather than earning its own profits on Etsy. She once explained how her $80 Etsy order only made her $60 after the fee was removed.

“It really takes the joy out of the art,” Lum said.

She described feeling more like a machine on Etsy and is looking forward to developing her art on her own website.

“This new jump is going to be pretty exciting,” Lum said.


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