Would you believe me if I told you that Etsy’s most successful seller buys wholesale goods from Alibaba?
Like many other Etsy browsers, you likely associate the marketplace with all things handmade, vintage, and entirely unordinary. After all it is (probably) the only marketplace where shoppers can find handmade soaps shaped like a Popsicle, pills filled with glitter, and a prayer candle with none other than Bill Murray as the featured saint. However, with Etsy’s loosened restrictions regarding manufactured items, the market has been opened up to shop owners who wish to sell items they didn’t hand stitch themselves.
Alicia Shaffer of Three Bird Nest opened her Etsy shop after the recession forced her to close the San Francisco Bay boutique she and her husband owned. Initially, Shaffer would have been content to make a couple hundred bucks a month, just enough to pay for her daughter’s dance lessons. She supplied her store both with handcrafted items she made herself, and products she would buy wholesale from Alibaba’s eBay-esque AliExpress.
Say what you want about Alibaba and its recent controversy surrounding counterfeits, Shaffer had a plan, and it was a great one. Ordering items wholesale from India, stitching some personalization on them or even keeping them as-is, and then listing them on Etsy at marked-up prices created huge profit margins. To date, the mother of three makes just under a million per year on Etsy, and brings in roughly $65,000 a month from her Etsy shop and website combined.
Not everyone is a big fan of Etsy’s move to support sellers who sometimes outsource their goods. Some think allowing wholesale, manufactured goods on the marketplace shifts Etsy too far from the indie craft fair vibe it began with. However, not all Etsy sellers consider their shop to be their full-time job. Only 18% of surveyed sellers lean on their shop as their sole source of income. If you’re in that 18%, you may be more open to bargaining some of the creative process for pre-made products with swollen profit margins.
As a frequent Etsy shopper, I take no issue in the small amount of shop owners who wholesale some of their inventory. For me, it feels like they’ve done the hard work – sought out reputable sellers, inspected the item and already have it waiting for me in the US. Sure, I could save a couple bucks buying from AliExpress myself, but Etsy shop owners have already proven their credibility in past transactions, and I trust that no matter where that pair of crochet socks originally came from, the quality is good enough for me.
Which camp are you in – are you an Etsy purist or totally cool with a little bit of wholesale? For tips on how to rock your Etsy site (whether or not your products are all handmade or have some manufactured goodies), check out these Etsy seller tips.