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Etsy Sellers Alarmed At Invasion of Mass Produced Items

The appeal of the Etsy marketplace has been its position as a home for sellers of handmade and vintage items. To the layman, this presents an image of a crafter working on a piece of jewelry or a woven basket with a hands-on, one at a time process.

But artisans of old eventually craved better means of production. Making more items meant earning more income. Advances in technology helped such creators produce their goods on a larger scale.

This is something Etsy took steps to encourage as the company expanded its definition of “handmade” to include sellers with manufacturing partners. With more goods available for sale on the site, Etsy potentially increases its profitability.

The change earned plenty of vocal criticism that continues to echo into this holiday shopping season. Etsy sellers have taken to venting what seem to be legitimate concerns about the downside of broadening the definition of handmade. They also say mass manufacturers are making new items and presenting them as vintage goods on Etsy.

“I feel badly for an unsuspecting buyer who paid $105 for a brooch that was marked as vintage but was actually a mass produced China pin,” one poster listed as Jewelsofnile wrote. “I have repeatedly given Etsy the urls of the mass produced jewelry pins etc to prove that they are mass produced and nothing is being done.”

Another poster expressed concern about having design ideas stolen and reproduced. Said Sara Orr in a later post: “I wonder how long it will be until what I make is mass produced and sold for pennies.”

Meanwhile Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson has touted Etsy’s holiday success in a post containing a banner reading “Where One-of-a-Kind Gifts Come From.”

“Sales from Thursday to Cyber Monday increased 60% year-over-year from the last Thanksgiving weekend, supporting makers and curators around the world,” he wrote, also saying how millions of shoppers were coming to Etsy to find alternatives to “the same old chain stores and online behemoths.”

Some Etsy sellers would obviously take issue with that statement. However, Etsy is working to broaden its audience; Dickerson cited over 5.7 million views of holiday videos in their online ads and other placements. For sellers who embrace the handmade ethos, they may have to accept the presence of mass production in exchange for Etsy expanding the reach of their brand.

Care to weigh in?

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Letter to the Editor blog.

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.