October 6, 2013

Hundreds of thousands sell handmade, vintage goods on Etsy

The online marketplace has more than 300 million members in 200 countries.

By Virginia Bridges
Mcclatchy Newspapers

Wren Maczka was nervous about putting the first pairs of arm warmers and fingerless gloves on her Etsy shop that mostly sold trim and lace.

click image to enlarge

Debbie Rothstein, right, checks out laminate hoop earrings made by Kiona van Rhee, owner of Lucky Accessories, in van Rhee’s studio in Raleigh, N.C. Van Rhee uses her Etsy shop as her retail outlet for her handmade items.

Photos by Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer

click image to enlarge

Kiona van Rhee, owner of Lucky Accessories, works on an enamel initial pendant in her North Carolina studio.

TAKE YOUR ETSY SHOP TO THE NEXT LEVEL

Review your “about” page. Be sure your story is clear and gives your customers a glimpse into your business.

Polish your policy and shipping information so it’s easy for customers to understand.

Keep your shelves stocked.

Describe your item in a personal way in the “overview” section.

Use quality photos of your items. Presentation is key.

Source: Etsy

“I knew I liked my stuff. And I knew my friends liked my stuff,” said Maczka, 29, whose Etsy shop, Zen and Coffee Design, is now filled with hundreds of her glove designs, which range from white lacy bridal and black satin corsets to casual stripes and one-color sets.

Three-and-a-half years later, Maczka spends her days – and sometimes nights – checking for orders, communicating with customers and designing and sewing from her Raleigh, N.C., home studio. She has sold hundreds of her “arm warmers and fingerless gloves for all seasons and styles” to people across the globe. About half of her orders go to Canada, but she also has customers in Great Britain, Australia, Norway and Italy.

“Surprisingly, I get a ton of orders from Norway,” she said.

Maczka is among the more than 900,000 sellers on Etsy, an online marketplace where people sell handmade and vintage goods that include jewelry, candles, clothes and art. It has more than 300 million members in 200 countries. Etsy doesn’t release numbers by region, but a “team” of Maine-based shops on the site has more than 700 members.

The Etsy community generated more than $895 million in sales in 2012. Sellers pay a listing fee of 20 cents for each item added to their shop, and Etsy retains 3.5 percent of the sale.

While Maczka is happy selling just on Etsy, other artists and small-business owners use it to supplement their sales, test their market, get ideas from customization requests and as a stepping stone on their way to wholesale or a larger marketplace.

“Just because you open an Etsy shop, it doesn’t mean at all that sales will just roll in. You have to spend just as much time bringing your own traffic to it,” said Kiona van Rhee, who designs and sells her jewelry wholesale through her Raleigh company, Lucky Accessories, to about 40 stores across the nation.

Van Rhee uses her Etsy shop as her retail outlet for her handmade items, which include colorful enameled “lucky penny pendants” and a “peapod” line with freshwater pearls wrapped in silver.

Etsy newcomers can get started by turning to its “Seller Handbook,” the marketplace’s business education blog, and by joining Etsy “teams,” which are self-organized groups that can provide support and motivation, Dana Mauriello, Etsy’s director of new business opportunities, wrote in an email.

“It’s more than just listing a few items in their shop,” Mauriello wrote. Sellers need to spend time thinking about their brand and their target audience, then take steps to engage with the community.

Once an Etsy shop is set up, sellers should think about other ways to expand their business, she said.

“They can consider adding customized items to their shop, look into wholesale opportunities, or marketing opportunities,” Mauriello wrote. “We encourage our seller community to utilize all resources to help grow their businesses.”

Van Rhee learned about Etsy shortly after it was founded in 2005. At first, only crafters knew about the site, van Rhee said, and she used her Etsy shop to sell clearance items.

After a few years, van Rhee noticed customers at shows asking if she had an Etsy shop.

“Then I started to pay a lot more attention and put a lot more products there,” she said.

Van Rhee also experimented with the way she advertised, and found she had a lot more sales when ads directed people to her Etsy shop versus her website.

“I cut down my own shopping cart completely,” she said.

(Continued on page 2)

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