Made:TX in Houston is operated by St. Croix Retail and buyer Ali Mastain uses Etsy Wholesale to find stock many of the lines they sell.
Photo by Adrianne Stone
Like many makers, my journey to owning a craft-based business started almost accidently. After enough friends asked if they could buy the jewelry I was making, I opened my Etsy shop for business in the spring of 2014. Around that same time, Etsy announced that they were rolling out Etsy Wholesale which would allow sellers to host a wholesale line sheet from the same back-end as their retail shop. Sadly, just four years later, it appears that Etsy is pivoting away from Etsy Wholesale. Although no firm decision has been announced, the lack of attention and maintenance to the site is certainly disconcerting. I wanted to reach out to some of the people that have made the platform what it is today to see the important role that this platform has played in their lives and businesses.
Built With Etsy Wholesale
Amara Felice of Amara Felice Designs in Brooklyn, NY, had limited time to grow a business while she was raising a young daughter. She’s been an Etsy seller since 2007 and opened her wholesale shop in 2015. “I don’t do trade shows or markets…I don’t always have enough time,” she tells me.
Briana Cornelissen in her vintage and artisan-made store, Chipped and Chiseled
Photo courtesy of Briana Cornelissen
But, she says the majority of her business is now wholesale. She thinks that Etsy Wholesale makes it really easy for retailers to find her and to place repeat orders. “People are depending on it for their income and for me it’s the best platform out there for user friendliness,” Felice says. “It’s just easy to work with and I think buyers and sellers trust Etsy.”
Melanie Knight, owner of Starry Knight Designs in Corvallis, MT, says that about half her weekly orders come from Etsy Wholesale. Like Felice, she has been on Etsy Wholesale for several years and has seen tremendous growth in her business as a result, allowing her to hire additional employees (employees that she might have to let go if the platform disappears). She says that the fact that the buyers are pre-vetted and fulfilling orders is easy without having to search through emails saves her loads of time.
Natalie Jacobs of Etymology Jewelry, also of Brooklyn, NY, has similar sentiments. Jacobs’ brand (the name of which comes from her days of creating jewelry from Scrabble tiles) has also been with Etsy since the early days and was a beta tester of Wholesale in 2014. Before joining, Jacobs had no experience with wholesaling and together with the support provided by the Etsy Wholesale team, she too grew her business, which she hopes to take full-time this summer.
She said retailers found her organically—a common theme—on Etsy Wholesale. When asked what Jacobs would say to Etsy, she replied, “I would tell them wholesale is a way to have long-term profitability. It’s because of us sellers that Etsy went public in the first place, so why are you going to essentially smack us away?”
From the Buyer’s Eye
Briana Cornelissen prefers to stock the non-vintage portion of her store, Chipped & Chiseled in Rice Lake, WI, with goods from makers she finds on Etsy Wholesale.
“I don’t want to have the same things that 5 or 6 shops, or Hobby Lobby or whatever, have. Etsy Wholesale really gives you an opportunity to find the things that no one else has. Everyone is selling the same things if they go to those [trade] shows. People say my store is one-of-a kind, and that’s why,” Cornelissen explains. Finding the selection of artisans the platform affords her would be impossible if Etsy Wholesale were to close.
Natalie Jacobs of Etymology Jewelry.
Photo courtesy of Natalie Jacobs
A similar thought was echoed by Alison Mastain of St. Croix Retail in St. Paul, MN. Her company has two concept stores, one in Minnesota and one in Texas, that stock goods made in the state the store resides in. She sources a sizeable portion of those goods from Etsy Wholesale. In the past, sourcing artisans involved many weekend outings to local craft fairs. This worked okay when they were supplying the store in Minnesota, but wasn’t an option for the store in Texas.
“I also really think Etsy Wholesale was an important part of pushing the maker movement forward,” Mastain said.
Amara Felice Designs and Amara Felice Retro Swim by Amara Felice.
Photo courtesy of Amara Felice Designs
Not all buyers are happy though. “We work with a lot of artists in our shop”, says Liz Tillman of Lizzy G’s Fine Gifts (www.lizzygsfinegifts.com) in Spring, TX, “but they are artists who have established a wholesale process.” Tillman tried to feature smaller artists from Etsy Wholesale, but ultimately felt like these lines were less equipped to keep up with the product schedule, demand, and quality requirements of Lizzy G’s. “Don’t get me wrong,” Tillman told me, “The people we worked with were super nice and had fun products, just not the right fit for our environment.”
Tillman isn’t wrong in her assessment that many Etsy Wholesale shops are one-person operations and often haven’t been through the rigor of a trade show or being juried. Perhaps this lack of perceived professionalism is a byproduct of the loss of the vision of former Etsy CEO, Chad Dickerson. Etsy Wholesale seemed to be positioning itself as a professional development tool as well as a selling platform before Dickerson was ousted.
Preparing For A Post-Etsy Wholesale Future
Etsy has been pretty tight-lipped, but an increase in bugs that go un-patched and GM of Seller Services, Kruti Patel Goyal’s, non-answer answer to the question of the future of the platform in the Q4 Community Update, has many makers understandably nervous that Etsy Wholesale is going the same way as Etsy Studio and Etsy Manufacturing. So what’s a proactive artisan to do? Here are some options to get you started:
- Set Up Your Own Website – Shopify or WordPress have several apps or plugins to add wholesale functionality (I personally prefer WordPress with the free WooCommerce Wholesale Pricing plugin by Rymera).
- Step Up Your Outreach – services like Wholesale in a Box provide you with 20 curated contacts a month and a calendar tool to keep track of outreach. You’ll need a PDF line sheet—here’s a good tutorial on building one in Canva.
- Other Wholesale Marketplaces – Stockabl, IndieMe, and Indigo Fair are all alternative wholesale marketplaces to consider.
- Consider a Trade Show – NY NOW, POOL, and other trade shows are a big investment but might be worth it. The site Wholesale Central has a list of more shows. Also, large craft show like Renegade can give you access to local store owners.
Adrianne is a jewelry maker, business strategy consultant, and scientist from Houston, Texas. In need of a creative diversion from graduate school, she took up jewelry making and quickly discovered a love of entrepreneurship. She applies her analytical skills honed from years of scientific training toward the business of the craft industry, and loves helping other artisans identify their own opportunity areas for growth. She also developed a free interactive pricing calculator for to help makers set wholesale and retail prices for handmade goods. You can find her and the calculator at adrianneelayne.com.