Shoppers come to Etsy to find something special, according to the company's CEO Josh Silverman. It's what sets them apart from Amazon and other online retailers that only sell lots of "stuff." Etsy shoppers come for handmade, original and often customizable items described and photographed by the people who make them. You can "meet" the shop owners on their About pages and hear how their Etsy shop came to be. Silverman plans to make Etsy even more special in the future. So, if you're looking to sell on the site, keep in mind that what sells best are items that you can't find everywhere else.
Craft and Jewelry Supplies
Etsy keeps a running list, called Etsy Rank, of the 100 most popular global shops on its site by sales. This list can be accessed on a number of websites. Of the top 10 stores listed in May 2018, all but two sold craft supplies. This broad category can include anything a person might use to make something. Eight of the stores in the top 10 sold jewelry supplies; primarily charms, beads, crystals and semi-precious stones. Some also sold gold chains and clasps for necklaces and bracelets, and tools like small pliers for assembling jewelry.
The top-rated store, Bohemian Findings, has nearly 1.5 million sales. The #2 store, Clbeads, had over 500,000 sales while the #3 store, Nicole de Bruin Charms, has nearly 500,000. All of these jewelry supply shops have been on Etsy for 7-to-10 years. Buyers, including professional jewelry designers and artists, are on the hunt for beads, gems and charms to make into saleable jewelry, as well as jewelry-making novices who make jewelry for themselves and gifts for family and friends.
One common denominator of all the high-ranking Etsy stores is their inexpensive products. For example, Bohemian Findings sells charms including 38 different marine specimens from dolphins to seahorses and shells at prices ranging from $1-to-$8.95. At these prices, jewelry makers can afford to load up on beads and charms.
Etsy stores sell supplies for knitting, crocheting, embroidery, quilting, printing, calligraphy, sewing, pottery, metal working, carving and specialty papers for anything from scrapbooking to origami and invitations.
Diverse Vintage Items
Etsy's customers enjoy items with a history. Etsy stores sell vintage clothing, accessories, furniture and jewelry. There’s a search feature for finding stores with “vintage” in their name, or you can click on the category you’re interested in and browse that way.
Just what qualifies as vintage merchandise? Well, it's from another time or era. Something made in 2010 wouldn't be vintage, but something from the 1950s would be. Even items from the 1980s and '90s are considered vintage. For example, a recent search using "vintage" on Etsy found a pair of high-waisted, mustard-colored 1980 shorts from Female Revolution Mood, a 1970s green vine vase from Michelletreasures6, assorted jewelry from the 1950s and '60s and a wide range of figurines priced from $5 to $95.
Like craft supplies, the vintage category contains items offered by resellers. Only craft supplies and vintage items can be resold on the site, according to Etsy's "House Rules." For example, you can resell vintage jewelry and the supplies to make jewelry, but you cannot resell current, non-vintage jewelry that you didn't make or design yourself. You cannot purchase premade jewelry or clothing from a wholesale source and resell it on Etsy unless it's vintage.
Handmade and Designed Items
Whether you knit baby bonnets or make hand-carved furniture, you can sell it on Etsy. You can also sell items that you design and have someone else make for you. But you must identify who does what in the About section on your shop's site. Etsy defines its seller's roles in its policy: a "maker" makes the item by hand; a "designer" creates an original pattern or prototype for the item; a "production partner" doesn't work at your store but makes your items in their facility. If it's your shop, you have to be either the maker or designer or both.
Some handmade items are also in other categories. The top-selling stickers in craft supplies are hand-drawn, and some are available for download. Items are grouped more for the shoppers' convenience. For example, if you're looking for stickers, you may care more about what they look like than whether they're handmade or designed by the shop owner, so you'll find them in craft supplies.
Available Digital Downloads
Another big seller on Etsy are items that you can download. Among the top 10 sellers, the only store that wasn't selling jewelry supplies is "prettygrafikdesigns" which sells digital clipart, digital stamps and digital papers, which has been selling on Etsy since 2012. They have sales over 400,000. Other stores sell hard copy items with the option of a downloadable version. The advantage of downloads is that a customer can buy a product and be using it a few minutes later, rather than waiting for it to arrive by mail. Downloads are also typically less expensive than hard copy products because there are no manufacturing/printing or shipping costs. The advantage for sellers is that one product can be digitally delivered to an infinite number of customers.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.