I joined the Etsy community back in 2008. Even at that time I felt like I was a little late to the party. It’s hard for me to believe that my shop has been around for five years now and how much the marketplace has changed over the years
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Business ebbs and flows, mostly depending on how much attention I pay to it. I exist in a niche and focus on making items that I would want to wear or have in my house myself. My own geekgirl/fangirl tendencies have made me an eclectic seller with a unique supernatural defense line featuring vervain and wolfsbane jewelry. So I go with it and seek out new options for monster and creature related pieces. I make people happy by providing them subtle ways to express their inner geek – a way to be true to themselves throughout the day when they may be chained to a desk or cubicle or stuck behind a register. (That’s why I wear a lot of the same pieces myself, after all.)
So why am I suddenly stopping to question the vitality of the Etsy marketplace?
On one hand, Etsy still appears to be going strong. In April there were over 4 million items sold and almost 1 million new members signed up! That’s an insane amount of volume and even though sales seem to be up and down from month to month the trend is steady. From this perspective, Etsy isn’t going anywhere.
From a seller perspective, though, things feel different.
Operating in a small niche like I do it’s sometimes difficult to break through the noise of such a huge marketplace. Etsy’s roll-out of new features over the years, obviously built to capitalize on the social media obsession, has started to push the community more towards sharing (ala Pinterest) than buying. Circles, now followers, and favorites have filled up my activity stream but severely reduced my close ratios. Combine that with changes to the search functions over the years (a switch from most recently listed to most popular) and all this favorite and treasury activity makes it really difficult to show up in a search that ISN’T extremely targeted. To combat this I’m trying to build up my base, come up with new items, and promote where/when I can.
It was through these efforts to find some new, cool things that I stumbled across the most disheartening aspect of the bubble that has become the Etsy marketplace. The handmade marketplace that we knew and loved has had a HUGE influx of overseas wholesalers passing off cheap mass-produced items as “hand-crafted”. What’s worse, is how easy they are to find and how frequently I’m seeing them pop up!
Type in “harry potter bracelet” for example. In the first page of search results there are 20+ Etsy shops all listing the same bracelet with only minor variation. Do the same search on AliExpress.com and you’ll find…..the same bracelet with only minor variation. I’ll guarantee you all of those sellers’ profiles have them listed from China or Hong Kong and each and everyone will mention their “handcrafts” in their shop description.
When I discovered my first fraud I was beside myself. They were selling huge, fashionable statement necklaces at an average cost of $20-$30. The shop had over 2,000 followers, and I think 20,000+ sales. At an average per item price of $35 they were bringing in enough revenue to replace one of my household incomes. There were pieces designed to look like they were a collection of vintage brooches – but they had 10 for sale at a time! Any handcraft jewelry designer would know that it would be next to impossible to create 10 of those same “unique” vintage pieces. What’s worse? They had been open for at least two years!
I did what I was supposed to and I reported the shop. I added links back to aliexpress with samples of the matching jewelry. I actually took it a step further and contact Etsy directly to say, “HEY! Are you monitoring this?! Because if not, I’d love to help you do it!” and I got an obligatory reply saying thanks for supporting the community, just keep doing what you’re doing, blah, blah, blah. They claim that they monitor their sellers but they must not spend much time on it. This first shop had been open for years, had a ton of traffic and was showing up in the favorite feeds of people I follow regularly.
Since then I’ve been watching. Each time I get to spend some time I’m Etsy browsing or looking through my activity stream I seem to come across at least 5 fraud shops. It honestly takes less than 10 minutes. And each time I find them I start reporting them.
The good news? It worked. The first shop I reported appears to have been removed (or at least suspended). Yay, Etsy!
The bad news? I can’t even begin to quantify how many are out there and how many more open each day.
What can I do? I’m going to keep finding them, tracking them and reporting them. On top of that, I’m reaching out to the rest of the Etsy community, sellers and users alike, to start doing the same. I don’t want to watch Etsy turn into the next eBay.
Once a week I’ll be posting a list of “Etsy Frauds” here on the blog. All I’m asking is for Etsy users and sellers to take a few minutes to report the shops and spread the word. Since I don’t want to ONLY focus on the negative, I’m going to try to find new favorite sellers, too- shops that still feel true to what built Etsy.
On top of that I’ve created a team on Etsy for interested sellers to join to promote their favorites shops (including their own!) and help report abuse to Etsy. To join the team, click here. Then watch for the first frauds & favorites post later today!