For the past year, the online handmade marketplace Etsy has been developing a way to help its sellers get their products into retail stores. And not just indie boutiques; Etsy's now helping them put their wares in sizable shops like Nordstrom and West Elm.
Etsy Wholesale launched in beta last year and will officially throw open its doors in August as a new retail-facing portal for the site which connects its makers to buyers from stores and corporations. The idea is to help the sellers who can now produce their products on a slightly larger scale find a market for their wares, but also to help bring the Etsy aesthetic to the masses, thus increasing demand for more handmade goods. Plus it's incredibly profitable: Etsy charges sellers $100 to join the wholesale community and then gets a 3.5 percent transaction fee on all wholesale orders (the same it charges on regular orders).
This is the latest move by the company to expand the definition of "handmade." Last year Etsy changed many of its policies, allowing its sellers to hire staff and fulfillment companies, as well as sell items made with manufacturers. That means something that's made in a factory could be sold on Etsy, as long as the authorship originates with the maker.
Both of these moves blur the "handmade" lines a bit, but I think you could safely argue that a crocheted squid and a giant metal table were both "designed" and "made" by a person, even if a bunch of other people helped out by putting all of the elements together on their behalf: from crochet hooks, yarn, and cotton batting, to metal forging, stamping, and powder coating. Very few things are free from the factory touch these days.
Some might worry that big retail could potentially ruin the quaint culture around these smaller sellers, but in actuality, this is very good news for both the sellers and places like Nordstrom and West Elm, which are looking for this kind of authenticity but sometimes end up buying knockoffs instead. Having a company like Etsy vet the authorship of its products saves them plenty of time—and potential legal snafus—and makes everyone feel good for buying directly from the maker. [The Next Web via Engadget]
Top image, hand-painted planters by Bearfruit Succulents