Handmade marketplace Etsy is neglecting programs other than the core Etsy.com marketplace and sellers are feeling the effects. Some of these programs, like Etsy Wholesale, were established years ago and serve thousands of sellers, while others, like Etsy Studio, were launched more recently and haven’t yet built momentum. Now, they seem to be abandoned. Etsy declined to comment on the record for this article.
In May Etsy’s board ousted CEO Chad Dickerson and appointed Josh Silverman to take his place. In a press release shortly thereafter Silverman stated his intent to pare down the company in order to increase Gross Marketplace Sales (GMS), the measure Etsy uses to monitor growth.
He stated in a company press release, “By focusing on our ‘vital few’ initiatives, we will be a more disciplined company that is better positioned to create the world’s most compelling buying and selling experience. In order to drive focus we took decisive steps to double down on the fewest, highest-impact initiatives in our core marketplace while de-prioritizing other projects and streamlining our resources.”
The first step was layoffs. From May to July of 2017 Etsy reduced its workforce by 22%, eliminating 230 jobs in total. Many of those positions served non-core programs. Although the programs still exist, they’re no longer being monitored or improved.
DIY content on Etsy Studio is meant to inspire consumers to shop for supplies.
Etsy Studio, which launched in May of 2017 just days before the leadership upheaval, is a second marketplace devoted exclusively to craft supplies. Etsy Studio pulls in existing supplies listings from the core marketplace, showing them alongside DIY project tutorials written by Etsy staff members. The idea is to provide Pinterest-like inspiration to consumers who can then shop for supplies at the same time.
Silverman told Fortune last summer, just a few months after launch, that Etsy Studio was no longer a company priority. “I think the craft marketplace is a great marketplace for us, but the investment to create a new top-level domain is very significant, and we’ve only begun just to tap the core Etsy.com market,” he explained. “So we reallocated resources back to Etsy.com so it can achieve full potential.”
The Etsy Studio Instagram account was last updated on November 30.
The site now feels abandoned. The Etsy Studio Instagram account was last updated in late November, for example, and traffic is very low. My own shop has gotten 39 views and 1 order on Etsy Studio in 2018 while those same listings have gotten 7,253 views and 90 orders on Etsy. Forum questions about Etsy Studio go unanswered by Etsy staff.
Unlike Etsy Studio, Etsy Wholesale had gained traction and remains popular among the sellers and retailers who use it. Launched in August 2014 as a way to help connect Etsy sellers to retailers, the program helped Etsy sellers present their goods to retailers at special events, pop up shops, and trade shows. The annual Etsy Wholesale “open call” event, in which sellers were invited to pitch their wares to major retail stores including Paper Source, Whole Foods and Macy’s, had thousands of entries.
The Etsy Wholesale homepage still lists the year as 2017.
Now, although the site still functions, it’s gone stagnant. The final open call event was in August of 2016 and the Instagram account for the Etsy Wholesale has since been deleted entirely. The “fresh finds” homepage hasn’t been updated for several months and the website copy still says the year is 2017.
Etsy Manufacturing launched in September of 2015 as a marketplace to connect sellers with small manufacturers. Sellers could search Etsy Manufacturing to find cut-and-sew shops, laser cutting services, screen printers, and the like. Although Etsy had not yet monetized it, there were future plans for a fee structure. The site still functions, but this fall Etsy Manufacturing stopped accepting new applicants.
A crowded auditorium at the Etsy Up conference in 2016.
Other programs have been folded entirely. Etsy Up, a conference for sellers that took place once in New York City in the summer of 2016 with 400 in attendance (livestreamed to nearly 40,000), hasn’t been repeated since. In June an Etsy representative told me on Twitter, “We’re taking some time to review our plans for the year, and will be postponing the Etsy Up conference at this time.” The Seller Advisory Board that launched in October of 2015 as a way for sellers from around the world to provide the company with honest feedback has been discontinued as well.
Each of these non-core initiatives had varying levels of impact on the handmade community, but taken together they’re representative of Etsy’s former mission “to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world.” The goal was to “make the world a little more like Etsy.”
The new mission statement, “keep commerce human,” presents a much narrower focus. Commerce can be human without helping those humans to truly grow as small businesses, and without giving them a voice in the company’s future. When growth is the priority Etsy starts looking a little more like the rest of the world.
I’m not surprised. I thought it was going to be a big hurdle to overcome trying to be the leader in Etsy studio. Although I thought it could be a good resource for many. I wish if they weren’t going to use the product anymore they’d simply get rid of it so people don’t put effort into it with no return.
I agree that it’s not great for the brand overall to have these semi-abandoned URLs and projects. It’s confusing.
It’s pretty hard to reconcile a mission like “to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more fulfilling and lasting world” with “making the most possible money for shareholders” (i.e. the implied mission of a publicly traded company). Publicly traded companies have created the world of commerce the original Etsy was trying to change.
I agree with you.
Couldn’t agree more. In keeping with the shareholder mission of answering to bottom line, it will inevitably sacrifice the creativity and uniqueness that made Etsy big enough for them to notice in the first place. It’s also a slide down the slippery slope toward reducing diversity.
Etsy has been an amazing resource all these years. There is issue with their search algorithm being gamed to give the newest sellers front page access to encourage them to continue. That is great, in concept, but it leads the most successful marketers and artisans to seek other avenues. Amazon Handmade has proven to be a strong rival going head to head. While Etsy is turning its back on the ‘big guns’ in the maker movement, Amazon is actively recruiting us. I joined Amazon in 2016 and have had 1 on 1 meetings, phone calls, and email exchanges with their leadership. Amazon is positioned to ‘eat Etsy’s lunch,’ unless Etsy makes some serious adjustments, they risk being AAA ball to the big leagues of Amazon.
We all win if there is choice. I’m no longer rooting for Etsy to win, but I really like that marketplace and want to see it thrive alongside Amazon. It won’t win, but it could easily survive and even thrive in the growing handmade space if it considers it’s decisions outside of the echo chamber and looks for megatrends outside Etsy…
My goal is to grow handmade, continue to help Mystic Knotwork prosper, and cheerlead other people as they carve out their way in society outside of the big business trap. Both Amazon and Etsy serve to make that happen. Let’s work on ourselves and hope the venues develop even more successful approaches. I don’t want to lose avenues to reach our customers.
So what’s the next Etsy? Shopify? Artfire? What other site has the instant recognition and customer base Etsy has now? I’ve been slightly unhappy with Etsy since the big changes have taken place.
Thanks for writing this! Filled with very good info and concise. I sell on etsy and have etsy studio, live in NYC and definitely hear the grumblings of etsy not being that great anymore.
Well said, Matt.
I also noticed a stop to Etsy’s daily newsletters. I used to be featured in them often and it brought in a lot of revenue. The newsletters have completely stopped in the last 6 months.
I might need to give Amazon handmade another try. I sold on it for a year but I did not care much for it it. I found the site clunky.
I thought Etsy Studio was a good idea in concept, but buying all the individual parts that go into making the featured object was woefully unpractical for most craftspeople because of expense. Many people just want to make one of the featured item and not buy enough supplies (and sometimes tools) to make ten. If Etsy Studio failed, I have a feeling it might be due to that factor more than anything else, at least from a buyer’s perspective.
People complained when etsy brought out etsy studio because they felt it competed with the handmade market, now they’re mad it’s stale? Lol
I really love selling on Etsy wholesale as it has provided great accounts for me. I have noticed the neglect though, as there have not been many emails or wholesale news in the last year. I sure hope Etsy wholesale does not go. That would be devastating to me. I am staying hopeful.