Etsy Wholesale Gives Crafters a New Way to Expand Their Businesses

Etsy's success is already legendary, but the company isn't content to rest on its laurels. August 5 marks an important day for anyone who aspires to make their living peddling screen printed tees, handmade jewelry, printable scrapbook supplies, custom home decor, or other types of handmade goods. Now, independent craftspeople will have a chance to get their work picked up in brick-and-mortar stores through Etsy Wholesale.

This innovative program, which has been in the beta stage for the past two years, has already managed to place top Etsy sellers' items at stores like West Elm and Nordstrom. You can see a sneak peek of some of the offerings via the Etsy Wholesale Tumblr, which also offers an inside look at the success strategies of those who were chosen to participate.

Although the beta test was limited to just 1,500 Etsy sellers, anyone interested in participating will be able to apply to join Etsy Wholesale come August 5. The company is introducing a pricing model where independent shop owners will be charged a $100 one-time membership fee and pay a 3.5% transaction fee on each purchase order. Those who were lucky enough to get in on the beta phase of the program will not be asked to pay either fee, but experienced craftspeople know that these charges are often less than what they'd pay to travel to trade shows or craft fairs.

Etsy representatives have stated that Etsy Wholesale is a vital part of their long term business strategy, since 90% of retailing still happens offline. Some speculate that the Etsy Wholesale platform is just a way to test interest in standalone Etsy stores, although company officials have not confirmed plans to open brick-and-mortar Etsy stores in the near future.

For creative types who rely on Etsy to hawk their wares, Etsy Wholesale may serve another purpose entirely. In recent years, several major retailers have been accused of plagiarizing the work of Etsy sellers when creating mass merchandise for their own stores. For example, Urban Outfitters received heavy criticism in 2011 when Chicago-based jewelry designer Stevie Koerner accused the company of stealing her original necklace design, which featured a sterling silver state pendant with a cut out heart representing a specific city. The company eventually removed the design from its website due to public outcry, but artists still remain vulnerable to this misuse of their ideas due to the cost and time involved in litigating such disputes. With Etsy Wholesale, craftspeople will hopefully have a chance to distribute their products nationally before their ideas can be ripped off.

If you're a current Etsy seller, what do you think of the Etsy Wholesale concept? Will you be applying to participate in the program?

Photo courtesy of Etsy seller Moira K. Lime.