Wednesday, March 23, 2011

to etsy or not to etsy

Last fall, when I was getting ready to open my store in the Catskills, several people casually said (something to the effect of) "you'll have an online store too." Assuming. "Uh, no, I don't think so," was my answer." Because: I know how much work it is. But I've changed my mind. I think. My store is only open weekends and I have a garage full of inventory and the energy to do more with it, but I can't do it in the Catskills right now. Living 240 miles from my store has its challenges. Also, most of my customers are weekenders and tourists. Many of the stores there close for the winter. Some are only open in the summer. Some have Etsy stores too.

Let's skip right over the other E or selling through my store website.***edited to add in response to Anne's comment, and because I was too lazy to think it through when I wrote this: I love the idea of having an online store on my website, but right now I have a very small store in a very small town and I think it would take years to build up enough of a customer base to make an online store successful. I love the way White Flower Farmhouse does it. That would be my dream. But her store has been open for years, she has a very successful blog, and she's located in a much more populated area than my store. All of which translates to more potential customers for her.  With Etsy there are a ton of buyers browsing and I think that gives me a better chance at this stage. ***end of edit

 I adore Etsy and have made friends in Etsyland and sell marvelous things in my store made by Etsyites. Etsians? Etsy people? So what's so hard about an online store (you might ask if you don't have one)? Here's my personal take on that question and the obstacles I've been working through when deciding whether to sell vintage goods on Etsy:

1. Pictures. You have to take good pictures. Really good pictures. I have a little point and shoot I try to remember to take when I go on vacation, but mostly I use my cell phone and I don't understand when people talk about light and shadows when it comes to taking good pictures. I just sort of glaze over.

That's not a good picture.

Does that make you realize you must own a steam gauge? I didn't think so.

2. Shipping. You have to list shipping rates when you post an item. If you sell vintage items, rates vary wildly. You need to learn about priority, parcel post, first class, flat rate, media mail. Possibly UPS and Fed Ex. You need a scale, packing materials and boxes and will they be new or recycled and where to keep all that c--p. Decisions about insurance and delivery confirmation. Shipping international has it's own set of issues. Confusing.

3. The store itself. Oh yeah, that. I want my store to have a personality, an identity, and I think that's hard with vintage and gets into inventory choices and so forth. I won't bore you with my thoughts about this, but I take it seriously.

There's more of course. For me, two stores, two states, which means tax stuff, name decisions. Et cetera. And there's a lot of competition, a lot of damn good stores on Etsy. And I'm sure there's plenty of things I haven't even thought about. So I don't take this lightly. But I think I'm gonna do it.

Good idea? Bad idea?


  1. I love this post - so imformative. You're right, of course, but I hadn't thought of all that work. It's a lot of work to make everything right - but I guess, if you do get things right, then the customers will see that too and come back for more. At least, I think *I* would!!!


  2. Good question Jen... would it be easier just to have an online section to your shop, rather than go through Etsy? That way you keep your shop identity in people's minds. Maybe start out by selling small items, that you can ship in those USPS boxes that are a flat rate. I bet a lot of people (myself included) would love to have access to your shop!

  3. Here's my take.....

    No, you should not have a store website to sell your stuff. Like you said, with Etsy, you will get a much larger audience and the fees are minimal. If you wanted, you could list the items on your Country Weekend website in addition to try to build a clientele, but that should only be a back up.

    Things come with time like starting a blog Jen...hee hee, you know what I mean. Yes, I am sure you are not a pro blogger at this point, but haven't you learned so much since you started?

    The same will happen with Etsy. You will learn to take better photos and you will learn postage rates in no time at all. Invest in a small scale at Staples and print all labels online. Saves so much time. Personally I recommend not shipping internationally. I can give you a ton of reasons why, but won't waste your time here.

    Between ebay and etsy, I have been doing this for about 5 years now. Yes, there is always something still for me to learn, but for the most part, have it down pat. You will screw up sometimes, not charge enough for shipping and have to eat it. Although it is rare, this still happens to me today.

    Bring the stuff you want to put on Etsy to the shop to sell and in addition, list it on Etsy. If it sells, pull the listing. You'll only lose 20 cents.

    Unfortunately in today's economy it is tough for small business owner to succeed, hence needing another avenue. You have amazing stuff that you have to share throughout the US...So, I say go for it!

    Take care,