If you're in the market for funky trinkets and unique, handmade clothing, you might want to put off your shopping until next week. Starting today, over 14,000 Etsy sellers are going on strike as the platform increases its transaction fees from 5% to 6.5%.
“We're hoping to get Etsy's attention that we are fed up,” said Kristi Cassidy, an organizer of the strike, in an interview with Yahoo! Finance. Cassidy concedes that 14,000 sellers isn't a huge percentage of the marketplace's 5.3 million active sellers, but she says, “It's also quite a bit for just people trying to spread a movement online with no advertising. The amount of support we have gotten when we put this out into the world… people are sharing, it's spreading entirely organically.”
Cassidy started a petition, which now has over 48,000 signatures from buyers and sellers, urging Etsy to “work with sellers, not against us.” The Rhode Island-based seamstress also references an advertising policy that took effect in February 2020, which makes it mandatory for sellers making more than $10,000 a year to allow Etsy to advertise their products on sites like Google, Facebook and Pinterest, taking at least 12% of every sale it refers. While Etsy pitched this as a new revenue stream for sellers, the artisans themselves felt like they were being forced to give up a cut of their sales against their will.
“Thanks to Offsite Ads, Etsy fees are an unpredictable expense that can take more than 20% of each transaction. We have no control over how these ads are administered, or how much of our money is spent,” Cassidy wrote in the petition.
Just a few years ago, Etsy raised its fees from 3.5% to 5% for the first time since its founding in 2005, so this new increase felt like the final straw for a number of independent artists who operate stores on Etsy. Since going public in 2015, Etsy's total revenue has continued to increase, so sellers feel that they are giving up an additional cut of sales just to keep padding Etsy's bottom line. The company also made two major acquisitions in the past year: a $1.6 billion, mostly cash purchase of Depop, and a $217 million acquisition of Elo7, known as the “Etsy of Brazil.”
“Our sellers’ success is a top priority for Etsy. We are always receptive to seller feedback and, in fact, the new fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don't meet our policies. We are committed to providing great value for our 5.3 million sellers so they are able to grow their businesses while keeping Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace,” an Etsy spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch.
Etsy CEO Josh Silverman explained the increase in a message to sellers, saying that this cut of sales will help Etsy invest in marketing, grow its support team by 20% and continue investing in security. He added that Etsy is working on making an app for sellers to help them more easily manage their businesses.
But the sellers participating in the Etsy Strike have other demands. They want Etsy to cancel the fee increase, crack down on resellers who are peddling mass-produced goods and end the star seller program. Finally, these sellers want Etsy to fix what they call an “infamously slow support system,” claiming to have experienced issues with AI bots automatically taking down stores when they don't violate any platform rules.
“Etsy can’t bill itself as a folksy, handmade utopia while AI bots terrorize sellers whose livelihood depends on reaching buyers on the platform,” the petition reads.
These sellers will be on strike through April 18th.