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Does Etsy Give Short Shrift to Vintage Sellers? Etsy Responds

Etsy looked into reports of faltering sales in its vintage category but sees nothing to suggest a difference from other categories, a spokesperson told EcommerceBytes. Etsy is best known as a marketplace for handmade goods, but it is also home to vintage items and crafting supplies, and sellers of vintage goods have often complained they get short shrift when it comes to the company’s marketing program.

In November, Etsy sellers began writing to EcommerceBytes saying they were unhappy with the way Etsy promoted vintage goods. One such seller of vintage jewelry, Margie, wrote, “Etsy’s new marketing blitz thoroughly ignores vintage sellers. They have no problem accepting our fees but seem to hide us under the carpet when it comes to their public face.”

The new Etsy marketing campaign referred to has as its centerpiece several videos – all featuring sellers of handmade goods. By December 3rd, the holiday videos had been seen over 5.7 million times in online ads and placements across the web, the company’s CEO Chad Dickerson reported.

“Vintage jewelry sales in particular have gone down across the boards and (the lack of) promotion from Etsy does not help,” Margie wrote. “Even in their daily emails they rarely if ever highlight anything vintage. I know many of my teammates are looking around at Ruby Lane and eBay as a different venue.”

When contacted about these recent reports from sellers, an Etsy spokesperson said, “We have heard from vintage sellers in the Forums lately that they are experiencing dips in sales. We’ve taken a close look based on those reports, but nothing in our data suggests that the category overall is trending differently from the rest of the marketplace. We’ll continue to keep an eye on it.

“We tend to promote the idea of Etsy as a destination for vintage, rather than promoting particular vintage goods, since many vintage items are unique on Etsy.

“We encourage vintage sellers to follow the same tips we give every seller: take great pictures, use relevant tags and titles, and take advantage of holidays, seasonal changes, cultural events, and lifestyle trends in your own marketing.”

Aren’t handmade goods also unique on Etsy, we asked? “The one-of-a-kind, impermanent nature of vintage items does make it harder to promote particular vintage goods, compared to handmade goods which can often be made to order,” the spokesperson replied. She said that while it’s true that Etsy is especially well-known for handmade goods, “that’s not because we don’t value our vintage category. We try to promote the idea that Etsy is a destination for unique goods, whether handmade or vintage – something special, with meaning, that you couldn’t find anywhere else.”

Michele, a seller who has been listing vintage jewelry on Etsy for three years and brings in around $2,000 to $2,500 a year in sales, said she’s generally very happy on the marketplace, but said Etsy does not promote vintage items. “I’ve been generally okay with that because I don’t recall Etsy ever promising me promotion, or anything other than a storefront. If you’re asking me if Etsy should promote vintage items, of course they should. If you talk to enough vintage sellers on Etsy (and I can only assume, sellers of supplies as well), there’s a prevailing attitude that they occupy space on Etsy but that they aren’t given equal visibility on Etsy with sellers of handmade goods.”

Michele, who has also sold various things on eBay and Half.com in the past, said that as a seller, she believes she is largely responsible for the promotion of her own shop. She explained, “I don’t think anyone is asking for half of all promotion that comes out of Etsy, or even 1/3. But it’s reasonable to ask for some improvement from what we have now, which is very little.”

Andrea, a seller who has lists vintage decor, jewelry and watches on Etsy and on her own site for the past one-and-a-half years in which time she generate upwards of $7,000 in sales total, said there’s plenty to like about selling on Etsy – it’s easy to use and has a built-in audience. But she too said Etsy does little to support and promote vintage shops.

“Treasuries are skewed toward “hotness” with very little vintage exposure in them.” In addition, she said, Etsy emails and blog posts “focus on handmade at the exclusion of vintage.” And while Etsy creates hundreds of Pinterest boards devoted to handmade, DIY, crafting, Supplies, etc., Etsy has created only 40 vintage boards on Pinterest, according to Andrea.

Margie said she likes the storefront appeal of Etsy and the many ways sellers can keep a customer in their own shops – “Etsy does help with that,” she said, but she is made to feel as though vintage sellers don’t exist thanks to the lack of focus Etsy places on vintage.

“Etsy needs to include us in emails, include us in all promotions, and promote Christmas sales. In general, Etsy needs to include the vintage sellers in everything they do. We may not be as large a group as the handmade but we are not so small as to be missed in their bottom line if we weren’t there.”

She believes the internal dissatisfaction with Etsy on the part of sellers in the vintage category is the beginning of an opportunity for another enterprising company to fill the void. “I like Etsy. I am proud to be on Etsy. I just want to feel that Etsy is proud of their vintage sellers and is willing to help them succeed.”

“I have grown in sales and followers in the past year, but it feels like it is in spite of, and not because of, any efforts on Etsy’s part,” she continued. “The people who have tried to address this directly with them have gotten canned and condescending answers about improving our listings and nothing at all to address their lack of support.”

When pressed whether Etsy included vintage specifically in its 2013 holiday marketing and promotions, Etsy’s spokesperson said:

“We’ve partnered with brands and bloggers who celebrate vintage gifts on Etsy to their followers. For example, several of our Pages partners promote vintage items (link and link).

“While there are times when we feature exclusively vintage products for niche shoppers, like on our Vintage browse page, our overarching merchandising approach to the marketplace is holistic. We find that when we market both handmade and vintage products together, it provides a context that our shoppers appreciate. We believe that the Etsy customer enjoys bringing both handmade and vintage into the home, so we promote these items together.

“For the holidays, we will promote vintage tree trimmings, holiday decor, serveware and holiday fashion, among others. We have a vintage collectibles section on ourHolidays Browse page as well. We’re also running online ads across the web promoting a variety of vintage items.”

What do you think – does Etsy give short shrift to vintage sellers?

Comment on the EcommerceBytes 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/.