Etsy Ad Campaign Boasts Handmade Items When Many Are Made in Production Facilities

I’ve recently had the opportunity to see several Etsy ads on television. If you would like to see some Etsy TV spots, just watch the Magnolia Network and wait for a commercial break, it seems as though an Etsy ad runs in every break. Each ad billed Etsy as the place to go for ‘handmade’ one-of-a-kind products (strangely, none of the shops that produce the products in the advertisements were ever mentioned – essentially Etsy is using products from shops on their website to market “Etsy”. ). After watching these ads, I feel the need to write this blog posting.

Since Etsy went IPO, they have been on a steady pace to make the site much less about handmade and much more about selling mass produced foreign produced (outside of the USA) products. Although Etsy has been working overtime trying to push individual shops to the background and bring the “Etsy” brand to the forefront (as mentioned above by not even showing the name of the stores featured in their ad campaign), Etsy is responsible for this movement to inferior products. They have inspired the move by allowing “production partners” whereby a shop can have their ‘handmade’ items produced in a factory. According to the original announcement (several years ago) all a shop has to do is state in the listing that they have a production partner and name them. That has become a slippery slope. In my experience, most shops don’t bother to identify any production partner, much less identify who that partner is. Case in point, velvet ring boxes. At the time of this writing, of the dozens of shops selling velvet ring boxes, I could only positively identify two that actually make their boxes by hand, Weft and Whimsy ( and The Family Joolz ( Of those, Weft and Whimsy appears to have been on a ‘short break’ since 2020.

Even though the vast majority of velvet ring box ‘makers’ are using a ‘production partner’ in China, few, if any, actually identify the fact that their boxes are mass produced, not handmade. In most cases they outright claim that they are handmade. How do I know that these boxes are made in China? Well, a couple of tell tale signs. Several sellers on Etsy are so lazy, they don’t even take their own photographs (oddly another Etsy ‘requirement’ that is being ignored by the site – a shop must take all their own photos). Many photos are lifted directly from Alibaba or other sources. Actually, I have had my own photos (and product descriptions) stolen from my pages and used in other shop’s listings. Here are some examples, on Etsy, really creative, but, $13? Under the “Details” it says it is a handmade item. But, wait… . Uh oh, same photo! What a beautiful use of fur in the back… wait a sec… , again, same photo. In addition, the fabric used in these boxes is the same (and often no longer referred to as velvet). Nap, color, luster are all the same. It also seems as though several overseas production facilities are outright copying The Family Joolz innovations with respect to shape, ring slots and more.

When I started to realize that there were so many shops not adhering to the Etsy policies, I started looking around for additional examples. Often times I found multiple shops that have the exact same photos. Another red flag that they are just lifting those from the production source. I also found many shops selling products so inexpensively that there is no possible way they are being made by hand, especially in the US. Going back to the velvet ring box example, boxes that are $10 wouldn’t even cover an artisan’s material cost, let alone the time and effort that would have to go in to producing it. Never mind the Etsy fees, taxes and other expenses. No, cheap prices are either unsustainable or a mass production red flag.

As I looked further, I started to notice some of the larger shops, some that had been open less than a year or two and had thousands of sales. What kind of pace would an artist have to work at to fill (in some cases) tens of thousands of orders in that short time? The answer I repeatedly came up with was that they were not making the items by hand. They were buying them and reselling.

There is no doubt that there are hard working artisans on Etsy. The site, in an effort to maximize their bottom line, however, is strong arming those artisans out of the picture. It troubles me that Etsy has now turned back to an advertising campaign that trumpets Etsy’s products as handmade. They are most certainly not all handmade. Some are, many aren’t. It takes a lot of work on a buyer’s end to insure that you are purchasing from an actual handmade artisan.


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Published in: on February 12, 2013 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Etsy Article on

For those of you that have Etsy shops, frequent the site, or are just interested in what is going on on the internet, the Wall Street Journal ran an article a week or two ago about Etsy and how they are cracking down on the ‘handmade’ label in their shops.

The Joys of Etsy vs. Artfire (Part II: Traffic)

Today, we have the second installment of my two part article on the comparison between Etsy and Artfire.  Enjoy! …and thank you for reading!

There is another aspect to the Etsy vs. Artfire debate.  That is exposure.  Truth be told, everything on the internet (as in a store front) is about how many people see your goods.  How many people walk through the door to your virtual shop and take a look at what you have.  On the internet, you want to insure that your shop comes up when someone searches for a product you are offering.  This is one of the places that Etsy and Artfire differ.

Etsy requires buyers and sellers to have accounts on the site and controls purchases quite different than Artfire.  In my experience, the majority of people stopping by your shop on Etsy are other sellers.  In fact, I would hazard a guess that more than 50% of the users on Etsy are store owners on the site (I would even guess higher, like 70%).  There is an art to getting your items to appear high on the results list when someone searches for something you have in your shop.  Etsy is much more keyword based.  Meaning, the description of your product matters very little.  It is all about what keywords you use to describe your product.

If you add the right keywords, your products should start showing up where you intend.  I have found that Etsy isn’t incredibly great at ranking your shop high on web search engines, however.  Since your description doesn’t matter that much (or at all) to Etsy and their search, you are passed over when Google or other engines search your item listings.  Search engines like Google pay attention to the content of the page and don’t care about keywords.  So, while you can have success when Etsy searches your shop, you will not have success unless you optimize your item descriptions with major search engines.

Artfire on the other hand searches as a web search engine would.  It will focus on the page text of each item, not keywords.  While this is a much more universally accepted way to search a web page, it takes a lot of work to phrase your item description correctly.  The payoff, however, should be exposure.  Not only will you rank high in Artfire searches, but, you will also rank higher in web search engine searches.  That should drive additional people to your page.

Since Artfire also does not require buyers to have an account with the site, you may pick up additional sales from people that would be turned off to the idea of signing up for an account.

So, while Etsy has a large community of users (mostly shop owners), Artfire seemingly has a wider range of buyers.  Everyone on the web is one.  That same community on Etsy offers some avenues for exposure, but, at the same time really only exposes your shop to the Etsy community and doesn’t work particularly hard at sending it out to the world at large.

If you have the time to spend learning the ins and outs of internet marketing and you feel your shop will do a significant volume of business, Artfire is the host for you.  If on the other hand you want to open up a shop, want to get quickly on your feet and don’t really expect huge volume (at least to start) then Etsy is probably more to your liking.

Published in: on February 23, 2012 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Joys of Etsy vs. Artfire (Part I: Fees)

For those of you who don’t know, Etsy is a web site designed for crafters and collectors of vintage material to open a shop and sell their goods.  I would say that Etsy and another site called Artfire are your two major players in this market.  They both offer distinctly different seller experiences.

Etsy’s pay structure (and rules of conduct) are much more variable that Artfire.  On Etsy, you are not charged to open a shop.  If you are content to open a shop and never spend any money, you are perfectly welcome to leave your shop blank and not pay a dime.  Etsy starts to make its money when you start listing items for sale in your shop.  The site charges you $0.20 per item listed.  This includes if you list the quantity greater than 1.  In other words, if you list a wiget and have 3 listed in your quantity, you pay $0.60. While that doesn’t sound like much on the surface, consider that your listing only lasts 4 months, then it is removed and you must pay another $0.20 to list for another 4 months.  This can start to add up quickly.  That is especially true if you have trouble finding your market or your pricing is too high.  Items in your shop won’t sell, thereby simply causing your costs to rise and your revenue to remain 0.

In addition to the $0.20 listing free that Etsy charges, they also take 3.5% of the item’s sale price as well.  If you sell a $100 ring, you end up getting $96.50.  Again, not a sum that will break the bank by any means, but, it is something that needs to be considered when evaluating the site to host your shop.

Artfire on the other hand charges shops a flat fee of $12.95 per month.  You may have as many items in your shop as you would like and all the money that you make from a sale is yours to keep.

So, you can see that $12.95 is the break even point.  If you average $12.95 or more on Etsy in fees and charges, it is more beneficial to have your shop on Artfire.  Sort of.

Part II: Traffic later in the week

Published in: on February 21, 2012 at 10:18 am  Comments (3)  
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