Etsy has historically been known as a platform that supports crafters, makers and artisans with a digital space to sell their goods and wares. The Etsy platform has never been free, but they don't charge a monthly platform fee like many ecommerce stores, and so they are often the first choice for new businesses or artists. Merchants pay a fee based on the order made for that business, so if you don’t make many sales you don’t pay many fees.
Where the tension started
The relationship between Etsy and their merchants started to get a bit bumpy when the platform decided to allow sellers that do not make their own goods, such as drop shipping companies, to join the platform. This became a problem for merchants because the Etsy market was suddenly flooded with stores that looked cute and handmade but were selling goods that would be shipped from other countries - even though the ‘store’ was in Canada.
The second knife in the back for many Etsy sellers was the Etsy Star Seller Program introduced in 2021. Etsy describes the program as “a way to recognize and reward Etsy sellers who consistently provide an excellent customer experience.” While in theory this program is beneficial, it creates a lot of stress and unrealistic demands for many sellers. The requirements are based on message response rates, shipping times, consistent 5-star rating, and advertising spending.
Many sellers have found that the requirements to remain a Star Seller aren’t achievable, for example if you sell a custom table that takes an agreed upon weeks to complete, you lose the Star Seller rating because the order is not shipped right away. Sellers that do not meet the Star Seller requirements are not pushed to the top by Etsy which can be devastating for sales.
The final nail in the coffin for many sellers is when Etsy reported a new change to their fees. Etsy had recently experienced a boom in sales and profits, the company reported their gross market share had reached a record US$4.2 billion in 2021. In light of these impressive profits, the sellers who make up Etsy’s community were shocked to learn of a planned increase to their sales transaction fee from 5 per cent to 6.5 per cent, a jump of 30 per cent.
A strike was born
In response to the recent fee increase, Kristi Cassidy, a seller who has been on the Etsy platform since 2007, started a petition after floating the idea of a strike in a subreddit. The petition is called “Etsy: Cancel the fee increase. Work with sellers, not against us!” and the petition is addressed to Etsy CEO, Josh Silverman. Thousands of Etsy sellers have signed the petition and agreed to boycott the site from April 11-18th. The petition states that “increasing seller fees by 30% after two years of record sales is nothing short of pandemic profiteering.”
Strike leader Kristi Cassidy has called it “the final straw” for sellers on Etsy who have been dealing with years of changes to the platform that have impacted their profit making ability. Etsy sellers see these changes not just as policy or financial decisions but as shifts in the overall tone and culture of the company.
In reaction, they are demanding more accountability and transparency from Etsy. Cassidy is optimistic about the uniting potential of the movement she has started, and hopes it will just be the beginning of peer support among Etsy artisans.
The demands of the strike
There are five main demands listed on the strike website and petition, which has now been signed by more than 50,000 people.
- The first demand is to cancel the planned 30% increase in transaction fees, which the petition states has “more than doubled in less than 4 years.”
- The next demand is to provide a plan for tackling resellers on the platform. Resellers are sellers that are selling mass produced goods or dropshipping products.) The strike wants to see a transparent plan so Etsy can be held accountable.
- Another demand is for a better support system for sellers, who say that “ Etsy’s infamously slow support system” can prevent sellers from accessing their earnings or running their business.
- The Star Seller program is the target of demand number 4, the petition states that this program is a passive aggressive effort to influence seller behaviour but it only makes the customer and business experience worse.
- The last demand is to allow all sellers to be able to opt out of Offsite Ads. Etsy can take any product and create an ad for it, and if that ad gets a sale (up to 30 days after the click) then Etsy takes a large percentage. Sellers that make $10,000 in the last year are automatically opted in for this without an option to opt out.
Etsy’s Side of the Story
When announcing the planned increase in fees in February, Josh Silverman, the CEO for Etsy, explained that they had “demonstrated our ability to make improvements that directly translate into more sales for our sellers, as evidenced by record sales per seller in 2021.”
In justification of the fee increase specifically, Silverman argued that it would allow for investment in the platform which would result in benefits for sellers, saying “our new transaction fee will enable us to invest in key areas like marketing and support to further extend our strong momentum.”