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Etsy Research Shows Marketplace Sellers Are an Economic Force

In order to show the impact Etsy sellers have on the economy, it commissioned research firm GfK to conduct an anonymous online survey of 5,500 active U.S. sellers on topics including sources of start-up capital, motivation for starting a creative business, and how income from Etsy shops is used.

An Etsy spokesperson told EcommerceBytes, “Tomorrow, the October jobs report will be issued and many are expecting it to disappoint. What the numbers will not reflect is a broader shift toward independent, flexible working arrangements.”

Etsy sellers are a serious economic force, often overlooked or misunderstood, whose work is not captured by traditional metrics, according to the company. The online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods said its sellers’ shops are “a new kind of “start-up” that are not run by stereotypical Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who want to quickly grow as big as possible; Etsy sellers are independent, self-sufficient and want to stay that way.”

The majority of respondents were women (88%), were home-based businesses (97%) and were geographically dispersed. Etsy suggested that politicians who focus only on traditional full-time employment “neglect the steadily growing community of micro-business entrepreneurs – like Etsy sellers – right in their backyard.”

Most Etsy sellers (74%) consider their Etsy shops to be businesses, not hobbies, and 91% aspire to grow their sales in the future. 18% sell goods full-time, and only 26% have other full-time traditional jobs. Of the 17% of U.S.-based sellers who do have help, nearly three-quarters recruit an unpaid family member or friend. Just 6% of Etsy sellers hire paid help, significantly lower than the national figure of 13.3% for U.S. home-based businesses.

If Etsy income vanished, the majority of sellers responding to the survey would try to find some way to replace it, whether by “looking for another job” (19%), “reducing spending” (27%), or “trying to supplement my income in another way” (54%). The sellers who would “do nothing” to replace their Etsy income were concentrated mostly among those with low sales volume.

Etsy concluded:

Etsy sellers are part of a burgeoning micro-business sector, typically defined by businesses that employ fewer than five people and require little start-up capital. Individually, their impact on traditional economic measures may be limited, but taken together they are reshaping the U.S. economy. Yet public policy either ignores these entrepreneurs or subjects them to the same rules and regulations as much larger entities. Policymakers must not only acknowledge the economic power of micro-business, but also adapt public policies to support and promote them.

The Etsy Sellers Survey was an online survey, conducted from November 13 -– 27, 2012. The sample was drawn from U.S. sellers with at least one sale in the previous 12 months. 94,000 sellers were randomly selected from this pool and invited by email to participate. The survey was developed by Etsy and conducted by the research firm GfK, Custom Research, LLC. Participation was anonymous and confidential.

The company said it would use the research findings to urge policymakers to acknowledge the economic power of micro-businesses and to adapt public policies to support and promote them.

A link to the report is found on the Etsy blog.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.