I’ve been with Etsy for 6 years and the most inspiring story I hear from sellers is the “Etsy changed my life” story. It could be because you’ve found online a group of peers who are just as obsessed with lampwork beads as you are. Or it could be you’re someone like Christine from FawnOverMe who volunteered with me at a local Etsy event and we just connected in a really human way. It could also be because Etsy has enabled you to take your business to the next level. For some of you, selling wholesale to boutiques represents that next level and allows you to scale up your business and get brand exposure through brick-and-mortars. I’m going to talk to you here about why we are launching an Etsy Wholesale marketplace and what we’re planning.
For quite some time, we’ve observed wholesale happening in an ad hoc way on Etsy: maybe you’ve gotten a convo from a boutique owner or other retailer inquiring whether you do wholesale. There’s a whole lot of searching on the part of the buyer, and there’s no targeted way for you to market this part of your business. And then there’s a whole lot of inefficient back-and-forth.
While it’s not every Etsy seller’s goal to quit your day job or do wholesale (nor should it be), those stories of growth speak to me personally and (pardon my French) light a fire under the ass of Etsy. I’ve seen those little shops grow on Etsy over the years, and on some bittersweet occasions, graduate from Etsy. As a company, we need to provide more tools for sellers whose businesses have expanded. Trunkt, the site Etsy acquired this spring, speaks to that need, and we want to build upon that foundation. Etsy can’t move forward as a one-size-fits-all platform.
Over the years, I’ve also seen Etsy gain in popularity, and yet, when I’m doing outreach, I often hear from business owners that Etsy isn’t right for them. Their businesses are already selling to boutiques and museum stores. Some of them already do (very expensive) trade shows. At the same time, buyers for boutiques — or even major retailers, like West Elm — tell me they love Etsy, but it’s too difficult to find sellers who are able to deliver at the scale and price model they need. Both are operating with like-minded goals and a shared vision, and this signals to me how Etsy is just one part of the larger movement towards sustainable, independent, and, in many cases, local businesses. Our mission as a company is to change the way the economy works, so we should help them gather online and connect with each other. Etsy Wholesale will be a way to initiate businesses, and connect them with a set of qualified retailers, so they can experience the power of the Etsy community, even if a traditional Etsy shop remains outside their scope.
Prior to the launch of Etsy Wholesale, we worked hands-on with West Elm to source Etsy sellers who were able to do wholesale orders. These sellers are local to new West Elm locations opening throughout the rest of 2012. It’s an experiment in co-co-co-branding with each “Etsy for West Elm” hang-tag crediting the individual Etsy shop. Vancouver has already opened. Look for the other locations opening in Palo Alto, Costa Mesa, Salt Lake City, and Indianapolis.
Etsy is evolving. Change can be scary but there’s always one thing I keep in mind: Etsy is special because it gives our sellers choices. You can put your shop in vacay mode if your elderly parent is ill. You can take down your old listings and put up your new line — whenever you want. You can stand at the crossroads and choose to keep your shop a hobby, a side-business, or step it up. Everyone needs to choose their own path. That’s what is so revolutionary about Etsy — we give independent creative businesses the flexibility to not just make business decisions but also lifestyle choices.
I’m excited for those of you who are wholesalers to apply soon. Those of you who are Trunkt lifetime members will be the first to have a new wholesale homebase on Etsy. Add your email for updates at etsy.com/wholesale. And for those of you not interested in wholesale at all, I, along with all those other Etsy shoppers, will continue to buy from your Etsy shops!
What exactly is wholesale?
A bit about the basics of wholesale, for those of you who are new to it: Wholesale means selling larger quantities of your goods at a discount to “members of the trade” (boutique owners, buyers for major retailers like West Elm, museum gift shops, etc.). The industry standard is around 50%. I’m working on a series of online lessons called Wholesale 101 for those of you who want to learn more.
What happened with Trunkt? What happened with Dev?
As many of you heard, in spring 2012, Etsy acquired Trunkt, a company built on the Etsy API, which, in a nutshell, served as a proto-Etsy Wholesale site. Dev Tandon, Trunkt’s founder and sole employee, came with it. Because Dev is a multi-talented guy with an extensive professional background, he’s been promoted to lead the charge with Marketing at Etsy, and he’s working with Vanessa, who is Wholesale Program Lead. If you had a lifetime membership on Trunkt, that will be honored on Etsy, and we will contact you when we’re ready to bring you over. Trunkt will stay up until we’re operational on the new Etsy site.
How do I apply?
Because of the Trunkt acquisition, we’re first migrating over those vendors who have bought Trunkt lifetime memberships. There will then be an invitation-only beta to seed the marketplace with qualified buyers and vendors. Sign up to learn more at etsy.com/wholesale
How will Etsy Wholesale work?
Etsy Wholesale will be a private place where wholesale buyers can connect with vetted vendors, view their online line sheets, and submit orders. Wholesale buyers will need to enter their resale tax ID number and prove they’re a legitimate retailer. Vendors (to use Etsy-speak, the sellers) will have to apply to the wholesale marketplace and talk about their prior experience wholesaling, whether they have business insurance, and if they do samples, among other questions.
Will Etsy Wholesale have different rules?
Yes, Etsy Wholesale will have its own policies, distinct from the general Etsy marketplace. We know the nature of wholesale is different from the direct-to-shopper setup of the general marketplace, and the rules for Etsy Wholesale aim to accommodate those particular needs. For example, an Etsy Wholesale vendor might need to utilize third-party production of their designs and/or third-party order fulfillment in ways that are not allowed for shops in the general Etsy marketplace.
Vendors will undergo a detailed application and approval process in order to participate in the Wholesale marketplace. It’s possible that an Etsy Wholesale vendor may not be eligible to sell in the general Etsy marketplace, or at least not offer the same product lines in both. The value the Etsy Wholesale marketplace presents is providing a destination full of unique items that have been hard to find elsewhere.
How much will it cost?
There will be no cost to buyers to get access to the wholesale marketplace. We are still finalizing how much we will charge vendors. Know that the pricing will be appropriate for the costs of bringing this new marketplace into existence and the level of service it provides, and yet, not prohibitive for independent creative businesses.
When will Etsy Wholesale launch?
Because this is all so new, and reputation is everything in the wholesale business, we’re not going to make any promises with timeline. Sorry.