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Etsy Wants to Get More Sellers' Goods in Brick-and-Mortar Stores

Etsy Wholesale, an online matchmaking service for emerging designers and independent boutiques, emerges out of beta on Tuesday.

If you've stopped into a West Elm or the home goods department of Nordstrom sometime in the past two years, you might have stumbled across a smattering of goods from Etsy sellers, the outcome of a wholesale initiative Etsy has been beta-testing for the past two years.

The Etsy Wholesale program, which officially launches out of beta Tuesday, was founded to help some of Etsy's more established sellers take the next step and start selling their creations through third-party retailers, and to help the many independent boutiques that were scouring Etsy for new wares to identify sellers that are willing (and capable) of selling their goods wholesale.

"We knew retailers were already coming to [to find] emerging designers," Vanessa Bertozzi, a senior program manager at Etsy Wholesale, tells Fashionista. "What we heard from retailers is that it was hard to suss out which sellers were able to do wholesale versus which weren't. They might find a seller they like, but then [message] back and forth about whether they could do wholesale, and a lot of sellers had no experience."

Thus Etsy Wholesale was born, a private matchmaking service that both sellers -- there are about 1,500 at present -- and retailers must apply for entry into. Sellers must show that they have wholesale experience and be able to fulfill minimum orders, among other criteria. Tutorials are available for sellers who want to sell wholesale but don't know where to start.

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Nothing much will change with the public launch, except that the service will no longer be free. Going forward, Etsy will charge sellers accepted into the program $100, and take a 3.5 percent cut of sales made -- very fair, if you consider how much other opportunities for interfacing with retailers (like trade shows and sales reps) can cost. 

The opportunity is a good one for designers of fashion accessories and home goods, but apparel designers may have less success landing wholesale accounts via the program. "Because it's online, there are certain categories [that perform better] ... home and living, jewelry, stationary," Bertozzi says. Apparel, she says, can be more challenging because retailers generally want to examine fit, draping and sizing in person.