Etsy salespeople keep an eye on forming a union after a strike

Illustrator Alex Kittle puts his Etsy store in “holiday mode” as part of a week-long strike that has received support from thousands of sellers.

Alex Kittle

In late February, Kristi Cassidy logged on to Reddit and made a call to action for people selling their wares on Etsy.

A day earlier, Etsy had announced that it was 30% travel fees. For Cassidy, a seller of gothic wedding dresses on the e-commerce platform since 2006, the decision felt like an insult to small businesses that kept the site humming throughout the pandemic by selling their wares.

“I’m wondering what would happen if so many salespeople put their stores on holiday on April 11 that Etsy starts [freaking out]”Cassidy wrote.” And then they have no choice but to negotiate U.S. “

Cassidy’s Reddit post started a week-long Etsy sales strike that began Monday. Thousands of Etsy sellers put their digital stores in “holiday mode” to protest the increase in fees. An online signature collection describing their claims had well over 77,000 signatures Thursday night.

Etsy has 5.3 million active sellers on its platform, according to the company’s website.

The fee increase comes on the heels of a huge growth period for Etsy. The company was a big winner during the Covid pandemic, as consumers cut trips to the store and flocked to online retailers. Etsy sales generated $ 12.2 billion in merchandise gross sales in 2021 compared to $ 5 billion in 2019.

Known for its handmade and personalized goods, Etsy initially saw an influx of shoppers looking for face masks. Now Etsy is trying to get them to return to the site while competing with other e-commerce players like Amazon and eBay.

Etsy told investors in February that additional revenue from the fee increase will be reinvested in various initiatives in the company.

Raina Moskowitz, Etsys’ CEO, said the company is “committed” to supporting salespeople and helping them grow their business.

“We are always receptive to feedback from salespeople, and in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investment in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support and removal of listings that do not comply with our policies.” Moskowitz said in a statement.

Investors and analysts tracking the company welcomed the fee increase and other recent changes. Guggenheim analyst Seth Sigman acknowledged that salespeople are likely to bear the bulk of higher costs, but that the changes would ultimately benefit “everyone on the platform” in the long run.

“We appreciate the sellers’ concerns. This is their livelihood,” said Sigman, who recommends buying Etsy shares. “But the equation is that the company is using this as a lever to reinvest back into the business. Our view is that it should ultimately lead to stronger market shares.”

Rising fees and dealers

Cassidy and other Etsy sellers interviewed by CNBC said they remain skeptical about whether the fee increase will translate into improvements on the platform. The company last raised transaction fees in 2018 from 3.5% to 5%, and dividends have been minimal, Cassidy said.

In addition to transaction fees, Etsy sellers must also pay listing fees, payment processing fees and shipping fees. As part of the company’s Offsite Ads program, Etsy sellers are also charged an additional fee of between 12% and 15% each time customers make a purchase after clicking on an ad for their product.

“The recent increase in the transaction fee along with [other fees]has made it harder for smaller creators to make money and make their business sustainable, “said Marie Hart, who sells needles, charms and art in her Etsy store.

As part of the week-long strike, Etsy sellers are urging the company to cancel the fee increase, allow them to opt out of offsite ads and end a newly launched program called Star Seller, which they say puts unnecessary pressure on sellers.

Soudabeh Rouhandeh, an Etsy seller since

Soudabeh Rouhandeh

“As a small indie creator who designs and handcrafts my goods and clothes, I lose hours of work and money by using Etsy,” said Soudabeh Rouhandeh, who runs the art and apparel store Sudibear.

Some veterans of Etsy sellers are also urging the company to crack down on retailers who they say have polluted the marketplace.

Since Alex Kittle became an Etsy salesperson in 2010, she said she has noticed an influx of mass market goods and dropshippers. The shift feels separate from Etsy’s origins as a platform for showcasing handmade, unique items that are often made to order, she said.

“For the most part, I have found it a fun and eclectic community with both friendly sellers and buyers and a great place to reach out to my kind of customers (who are often a bit nerdy or alternative in their tastes),” Kittle said in an email. “In the last few years, it has expanded to include larger companies, dropshippers, retailers and even scammers.”

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman told salespeople in February that the company expects to dedicate more resources this year to removing listings that violate its policies. In 2021, Etsy spent $ 40 million on expanding teams and technology with a focus on marketplace security, the company said.

Nicole Lewis, who has been selling handmade crayons on Etsy for 15 years, said she does not agree with the premise of the strike. Etsy linked CNBC with sellers not participating in the strike.

Lewis said she does not blame Etsy for raising transaction fees and that many of the recent changes are a necessary part of marketplace growth.

“I think a lot of the AND sellers who are bored of Etsy still see it as Etsy from 2004, 2005, 2006,” Lewis said. “It’s not anymore, and it can not be. Not in the world we live in today where there are so many people out there who want to sell their work and we’re competing with Amazon.”

Etsy seller’s union

Cassidy said she did not expect the sales strike to pick up speed as it did.

But after contacting salespeople through the strike and realizing that they shared many similar concerns, she and other Etsy salespeople began to consider whether to form a union.

“The crazy thing is, I did not even realize how many people were out there who agreed with me,” Cassidy said. “It’s been this huge, eye-opening experience just to see how much all the other people who are on this platform and trying to earn a living with me agree and how much my customers support me.”

Etsy salespeople are not employees of the company, but they hope that by joining forces they can better advocate for changes in the online marketplace. A number of Etsy vendors have joined a Discord server where they intend to map out organization plans, Cassidy said.

While Lewis did not take part in the strike, she said she supported the idea of ​​a sales association. “I honestly think it’s a smart idea because people just want to be heard and recognized,” she said.

Representatives from Etsy did not respond to a request for comment on sellers’ plans to organize.

Cassidy said she was inspired to organize Etsy salespeople after seeing the recent union victories among Starbucks baristas and at an Amazon store.

Labor activism has risen across the country since the beginning of the pandemic. The tightening labor market in the United States further increased union support, and workers have seized the time to demand higher wages and better benefits from their employers.

Since the strike began, Cassidy said she has been contacted by working groups that have raised the issue of organizing salespeople. Every next step will boil down to what the sales community wants, she added.

“We have not been sure what to call it,” Cassidy said. “Is it association? Is it handmade slash vintage solidarity? What do we call this thing? What it looks like, we do not really know, because in a way we are navigating in unknown territory.”

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