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Etsy: An Online Marketplace for Handmade Crafts
The usual flurry of summer wedding invitations reminds me of how much I dislike gift registries. I much prefer to purchase something unique and handmade. But shopping options are limited to craft fairs, or a favorite crafts store or gallery. Finding the right handcrafted gift for birthdays, holidays, and weddings is hit-or-miss.
Etsy, an online market for handcrafted and vintage gifts, makes buying the unique gift much easier. Its mantra is “buy handmade.” Its founders saw Etsy as the antidote to the impersonal and mass produced goods sold at Walmarts and other chains.
With Etsy, they wanted to create a community of crafts buyers and sellers. Today it’s a portal for hundreds of thousands of artisans in more than 150 countries.
Buying on Etsy
The good news is that Etsy offers thousands of handmade crafts, from wood to wool. The bad news is that it can be overwhelming to sort through so many choices. Since anyone who produces handmade items can sell on Etsy, the quality ranges from amateur to exquisite.
It helps to have a specific idea of what you’re looking for. You can do a keyword search (wooden bowl) and search by price ($50-100). If you find something you like, add it to your Etsy favorites. But don’t wait too long to buy. An adorable one-of-a-kind crocheted hat sold before I got around to buying it.
One of the pleasures of purchasing crafts is the personal experience of seeing and feeling the object and perhaps chatting with the craftsperson. You can’t see and touch the item on Etsy. But most merchants provide several photos for each item.
It’s easy to ask questions about a potential purchase by emailing the craftsperson. I’ve found that I get instant answers to my email queries.
If you feel that buying crafts online is dicey, you can check out the ratings and reviews of previous buyers. Etsy merchants take customer satisfaction seriously. I was impressed by the number of merchants receiving a 100% positive rating from buyers.
Most vendors specify their return policy. But if you are buying the crafts for a gift, be sure to clarify how the recipient can return a gift.
Selling on Etsy
If you produce crafts, Etsy offers the opportunity to have an online storefront at a fraction of the cost of building a website. You pay 20 cents per listed item and 3.55% of the purchase price. You can choose to sell one item or hundreds. As part of the Etsy community, you get exposure to millions of Etsy shoppers. Whether you’re just getting started or already have a successful crafts business and want to broaden your reach, Etsy is the place to be.
Ten years from now, will the couple for whom you bought china place settings from Crate and Barrel remember what you gave them? Probably not. But they’re sure to remember—and think of you—when they use your one-of-a-kind gift from Etsy.
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