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Sat Feb 21, 2015, 01:40 PM

 

Etsy success story not all that: cheap imported goods marked up = "success"

Here's the original feel-good story:

California Mom Says She Grosses at Least $70K a Month on Etsy

Alicia Shaffer started her site on Etsy, selling homemade headbands and socks, in November 2011 just hoping to make a few bucks...Shaffer told "Good Morning America" special correspondent Becky Worley.

Now, nearly four years later, Shaffer's site, "Three Bird Nest," is one of the top five-grossing stores on Etsy, grossing anywhere from $70,000 to $80,000 per month.

https://gma.yahoo.com/california-mom-says-she-grosses-least-70k-month-152400291--abc-news-personal-finance.html



Here's the rebuttal:

How to make a million dollars on Etsy — buy from Alibaba and run your store like eBay

Shaffer claims her store, ThreeBirdNest, earns her just shy of a million dollars a year. The second-most successful store on the entire site, Shaffer's store sells clothing and accessories — socks, headbands, boot cuffs, and T-shirts with slogans such as "Feed me and tell me I'm pretty." ThreeBirdNest advertises its products as "handmade boutique" fashion, but Shaffer...employs a team of 15 women who help sew some of the items in her store, and controversially, a number of the other products are bought wholesale from retailers in India.

The resale of wholesale items is common for sellers on eBay, Amazon, and other e-commerce sites, but Shaffer's business model has attracted criticism from other Etsy sellers and shoppers who argue that the site, with its focus on homemade crafts, is not the place for such tactics. The site's struggle is one of handcrafted idealism versus cut-throat capitalism...

ThreeBirdNest might not follow Etsy's projected philosophy, but it does make money — profit margins for such items, Shaffer told Fast Co. Design, are around 65 percent. There are examples with even higher markups: a pair of lace socks appear in her store for $28. The same socks are also available from Chinese retail giant Alibaba's eBay-esque marketplace Aliexpress for around $6 a pair.

...By buying cheap wholesale items... wholesale goods are turned from cheap socks into boutique must-haves. Certainly it's a commercial approach that has allowed Shaffer to climb to the top of the table while others have a trickier time.

Etsy made $895 million in 2012 alone, but the spread of that wealth was uneven... Etsy said 65 percent of its sellers reported making less than $100 a year from their stores....

http://www.theverge.com/2015/2/18/8059835/how-to-make-money-on-etsy-buy-wholesale

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Reply Etsy success story not all that: cheap imported goods marked up = "success" (Original post)
ND-Dem Feb 2015 OP
abelenkpe Feb 2015 #1
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #4
abelenkpe Feb 2015 #13
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #15
abelenkpe Feb 2015 #16
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #17
hatrack Feb 2015 #20
Tsiyu Feb 2015 #2
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #3
ScreamingMeemie Feb 2015 #5
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #7
IDemo Feb 2015 #6
edhopper Feb 2015 #18
A Little Weird Feb 2015 #8
tammywammy Feb 2015 #9
Liberal_in_LA Feb 2015 #10
JonLP24 Feb 2015 #24
madfloridian Feb 2015 #28
laundry_queen Feb 2015 #11
pnwest Feb 2015 #12
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #14
pamjoyful Feb 2015 #19
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #21
madfloridian Feb 2015 #27
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #30
madfloridian Feb 2015 #31
ND-Dem Feb 2015 #32
MisterP Feb 2015 #22
JonLP24 Feb 2015 #23
XemaSab Feb 2015 #34
JonLP24 Feb 2015 #35
madfloridian Feb 2015 #25
truegrit44 Feb 2015 #26
blogslut Feb 2015 #29
7wo7rees Feb 2015 #33

Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:05 PM

1. Cheap imported goods equals success?

Doesn't that describe pretty much every retailer in the US?


It is lame that that is on etsy

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Response to abelenkpe (Reply #1)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:21 PM

4. looks like a lot of retail has smaller mark-ups than this woman's 'handmade boutique' though.

 

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Response to ND-Dem (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:29 PM

13. True

Should be interesting to see how much success she has after this report.

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Response to abelenkpe (Reply #13)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:30 PM

15. it's mean, but i hope it hurts her sales. she's been on national tv and national print media

 

and apparently didn't say anything in those venues about buying from cheap indian slave labor.

she knows what she's doing and where her profit comes from.

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Response to ND-Dem (Reply #15)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:43 PM

16. How she can honestly live with herself profiting from such labor?

Is it even possible to do honest business in this world when there are others willing to take such advantage of others? Now I'm going to be wary of products found on Etsy.

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Response to abelenkpe (Reply #16)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:44 PM

17. I guess it's easier when you're making money hand over fist; it assuages the moral pain.

 

or so I've noticed in my 65-some years of living.

$70K a month = 5 will get you 10 she has some connections; she's not just your average little crafter from the burbs.

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Response to ND-Dem (Reply #17)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 11:10 PM

20. True, the Green Poultice is a remarkable substance . . . .

.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:13 PM

2. I started to read that story

and stopped when I get to the 'Indian import' part.

So somebody imported goods made by impoverished labor, marked the price up into the stratosphere and made lots of dough?

Real "homegrown" business?: NOT.

Exploiting a loophole, just like WalMart?: YES.

What a BS story someone tried to sell.





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Response to Tsiyu (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:20 PM

3. yeah, i hadn't realized that was even possible if you sold at etsy. i thought they specifically

 

required hand-made by the sellers.

guess there's some loophole.

figures.

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Response to ND-Dem (Reply #3)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:24 PM

5. The comments on the Yahoo page are telling.

Lots of original Etsy sellers/artists there, saying their sales all of a sudden dried up once the site relaxed the ban on imported goods.

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Response to ScreamingMeemie (Reply #5)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:34 PM

7. that *is* interesting. when did this ban get "relaxed" and what does that mean?

 

I have an acquaintance who does 'ok' on etsy, maybe makes a few thousand a year for all handmade stuff. she's the one who told me the story about the top seller wasn't what it was cracked up to be, but didn't tell me why.

I was curious so I tracked down the counter-narrative.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:31 PM

6. I had actually looked at selling original pencil drawings on Etsy

Until I saw several listings for supposedly original pieces of quite good quality selling for $35-50 US. No possible way I can hope to compete with that.

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Response to IDemo (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:48 PM

18. I noticed the same thing

I think the only way it makes sense is if you sell prints.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 02:53 PM

8. Wow I will think twice about buying from Etsy again

I thought everything on there was either handmade or vintage and the location of the seller indicated where it was handmade. I didn't know they could import cheap goods from abroad and mark them up.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:03 PM

9. I've bought some photographs off Etsy

And I highly recommend them for that kind of thing.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:06 PM

10. interesting. i thought etsy was handmade stuff

 

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:15 AM

24. Handmade & vintage

or according to a very active seller from last year that did it about 2-3 years after she was laid off.

I actually have no idea but quite a few people bought her "Bakelite" listed items. She put a lot of research into it, she could talk for hours on "Art Deco".

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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:59 AM

28. You have options to choose handmade.

I did that at Christmas for several items, and it turned out well.They were just beautiful.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:13 PM

11. I think this is a case of buyer beware

although I'm kinda pissed at Etsy for allowing such a thing...

But if you look at pictures, for the most part you can tell if the product is wholesale or actually handmade. Some of the pictures of threebirdnest look like the same photos for the same products on zulily (which sells cheap mass made stuff) so I would probably figure it out quickly. I usually stay away from large sellers for that very reason. Or sellers from suspect countries that have hundreds of listings. But again, this shouldn't be allowed. Of course, though, it means more money for Etsy, so they are going to allow it, legitimate crafters be damned. Just like eBay. Barf.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:26 PM

12. Etsy was originally all handmade, all items were

supposed to be 100% handmade by the artist selling. Then a couple years ago, they relaxed that to allow items to be sold that were made by the seller's "team" or "employees". That's how the import crap cane in, thru that loophole, because buying wholesale from someone is basically like hiring them to make it for you. Etsy really, really sold out. Ruined a great thing for artists, by going 100% against the direction of their original concept.

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Response to pnwest (Reply #12)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 03:29 PM

14. thanks for the information. seems all the hyped 'revolutions' eventually come down to cold

 

hard cash and cheap labor.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 11:05 PM

19. Reselling on Etsy is common and very profitable for the clever and able!

I remember when the Etsy site first started. They began with people that really made things hoping to sell their wares. My grandmother was making quilts by hand and I made baby blankets for a hobby. There are a lot of artists in the world that are very dedicated to their crafts, and many of them are just getting by, but happy with what they are doing. I never thought the site would go anywhere trying to help artists make a living. Since most artists make one item at a time, they cannot really make enough items to get to the point of really making a good living, even if they are going craft shows on the weekends. Everybody likes a good success story, but it is also annoying when you know that people are not doing what they say they are doing. The ThreeBirdNest could not possibly be making or even designing all the stuff they sell. You have to ask yourself what kind of skill combined with what kind of luck would allow such an project.

A few years ago there was some company promoted by Etsy that was making painted wooden furniture in Indonesia. That was in the news. Etsy in fact protects sellers like this and uses it to exploit the common desire of people that want to create, get acknowledged, and make money doing what they like. I don't want this to be another "lets beat up etsy" link, but its not easy to ignore and be happy about reading this stuff. A normal average buyer can look through pages and pages of ETSY offerings and see that very little is made by the people selling it. Now etsy claims that people have to prove they are making what they say they make. But what you actually see is people standing by a machine with a ring in their hand, or holding material to make a dress. This proves nothing. And the stories people write are often very contrived.

There are a few available sites that document the truth about what is going on with Etsy. Such as Callin' Out on Etsy, RUSEtsy (This much-deserved call out will soon be swept aside by Etsy), Etsy Bitch - Biting The Hand That Feeds Us, RESELLONETSY, and even Etsy itself has tried to do damage control over all the complaints it has been getting. People in fact just got tired of trying to clean up Etsy. Half of the sites that allow people to offer opinions and call out resellers have had no activity since 2012. Etsy in fact has the ability to silence most of these sites!

You also see a lot of people complaining about workers in 3rd world countries, like Thailand, or Indonesia, where many skilled and non-skilled workers are working for food and a tent to sleep in. Who is really making out? Big business? The fact is that if people realized they just spent $125 on a brand name shirt that was made and labeled in Cambodia, but they bought it at a department store, but it cost $1 to make, they would probably rethink their shopping stratagy. Etsy is full of this kind of thing.

Check out Tribaystyle on Etsy. They sell 1000s of earrings handmade in Bali. The average cost per pair of earrings is $1.50 to $4 and they get up to $35 for a pair of earrings they didn't make. Trybalstyle is in fact a corporation owned by a man in Ohio who makes even more money selling at music shows across the USA. They have been on Etsy for years selling $200,000 a year just on Etsy. This was before Etsy changed their rules. How about people making stainless steel on Etsy. Do you know what kind of money and machines it takes to make stainless steel products? How about Thaisaket on Etsy, a site that sells Korean style jeans (Baggy Yoga pants costing $5 - $8 wholesale) one after another, who also own CottonCulture and a host of other stores. They are all under different names, different credit cards, different computers, and even different cameras. Read their stories and you will see how ridiculous they are. Like this story from Thaisaket. Read the sroty about what one Thai girl claims she does and is in contol of almost everything? (Check the English, could she even have written that story?) This is common on Etsy, and the stories are fantastic! This story is laughable. And they are laughting all the way to the bank. If you read the feedbacks, you will see they sell poor quality items and get away with it!

"It all started as a child. My Mom always was either sewing or making something. I naturally developed a serious interest following her around when I was a little girl. As I got old enough she began to teach me all she knew. I later moved on to working in a large Thai company sewing as a job learning all the types of machines used and the tricks to everything. Wanting more I began studies in fashion, and design. I knew right away this was what I wanted. I then went on to complete studies earning a certificate. After finishing I started my business. I have been sewing and making clothes for 20 years now. I then heard about online selling and was convinced to try it. Finding Etsy was an amazing thing for me. I found that others can love and purchase my clothes easily. What fun! I soon realized I would need help, and turned to my family as most of the women sew, and even some of the men also. My Aunt Jok and I began the planning and finally she came on board. She and I work together to produce the clothes now and her husband Precha helps out when we are real busy. This has blossomed into a complete family business. Even my two boys help out making envelopes ready. My childhood best friend Apple does our modeling as needed. I have learned to take, and edit photo's, and all computer work is also in my hands. I am the main packaging person as I want to QC and look after all our customer orders personally. As for our styles they are a blend of traditional Thai with a very modern flair. I want to create comfortable yet affordable things that anyone can easily have. We specialize in large to plus size as this is really an area where comfort and style are needed in my feeling.. I am constantly looking everywhere at fashion and always quick to try something new if I feel it goes well with our line. Join us on our clothing adventure and journey to fashion with flair! Should you have any clothing need please do let us know. I will try to answer as fast as I can. Thanks so much for reading our story and we hope to see you soon."

Of course there is the reality that if you told the people the truth, Etsy would not be able to rake in the money that they do, along with their protected, high profile vendors. Since Etsy and similar companies could care less about what their vendors are selling you, it is your responsibility to police your own shopping experience. And you might want to exercise the word "NO" more frequently during your shopping sprees.

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Response to pamjoyful (Reply #19)

Sat Feb 21, 2015, 11:24 PM

21. thanks for the information.

 

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Response to pamjoyful (Reply #19)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:56 AM

27. On Etsy if you want handmade, you can choose that option.

You have options.

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Response to madfloridian (Reply #27)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 12:16 PM

30. people can choose charter schools too. they have options. aren't options great? we can

 

choose democracy, or slave labor and corporate thralldom. but only for a moment, then the choice is done.

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Response to ND-Dem (Reply #30)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 12:21 PM

31. A very simple view of a very complicated world.

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Response to madfloridian (Reply #31)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 12:22 PM

32. analogous to your own, it seems.

 

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 01:27 AM

22. anyone remember "Ecologica Malibu"? April Winchell went nuts

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:08 AM

23. You need a large inventory

A relative made about $100 sometimes more, sometimes less a month active. This was going to thrift stores, listing, taking photos, shipping, etc.

She has an eye for vintage, knowledge of what materials or markings dates the item. If it was something notably rare & valuable she just list it on Ebay but for the majority of her items she sold through Etsy. I'm not familiar with the set-up and its been awhile but I believe buying from Whole-sellers through Etsy is against the rules. They may have relaxed the rules but the price-setting, listing was more favorable to Ebay with so many sellers.

She says Australia is where she received the most business, especially jewelry but China wasn't often but when they did buy--it was big sales. Meaning her higher price listed items sold

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #23)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 07:20 PM

34. $100 a month isn't much at all

What does that come down to per hour?

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Response to XemaSab (Reply #34)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 11:37 PM

35. No it wasn't

She was able to maintain a little bit & she was really active given that she had know other income, probably about a year after she was laid off she was foreclosed on.

On edit - she always claimed that she needed a larger inventory than what she had. She invested in items & thrift stores--yard sales, listing, shipped if sold so she never really had the funds for that large inventory.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:24 AM

25. First Amazon, now Etsy.

You really spend a lot of time attacking them.

I use both, have had great luck.

No company is perfect, maybe let's talk about Sears. I bought a new dishwasher from them,same brand I had for decades. It was worthless. They keep sending repair people who seemed clueless. One even told me my dishes weren't dirty enough. Finally I reached another support level and they had to practically rebuild it.

Many other companies I could mention.

Why are you so centered on these? You attacked me recently for saying I liked Amazon.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 02:32 AM

26. I have bought and sold on Etsy

for quite a few years. I buy some really unique items and I know all of the items I buy are handmade. I always have a few of my dog crate pads listed on there, but mostly get orders for them. I make maybe $50 a month! Yipee! I mostly use Ebay only because I get lots of sales off of there, I have a love/hate relationship with Ebay and they charge so much anymore to sell, but again I get lots of private orders from my listings.
Too bad about Etsy and I know I see tons of things that come from China that are obviously not handmade.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 03:18 AM

29. Most etsy sellers don't make a living from their stores.

They make pocket money.

Yes, Etsy opened themselves up to allow mass-manufactured goods and resellers. I'm not thrilled with that but whatever. Most of the time I buy vintage items and jewelry/craft supplies from Etsy.

The handmade items I have purchased were lovely and I was perfectly capable of determining what was and what was not handmade because I am an adult.

If you don't like Etsy then try Artfire.

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Response to ND-Dem (Original post)

Sun Feb 22, 2015, 06:29 PM

33. caveat emptor

“It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck,” Malcolm X said.

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