“Molly and the Pancakes” (2021), a work by artist Jane Rhoades, who is one of many planning on striking Etsy in protest of increased transaction fees. (image courtesy the artist)

“Etsy made bank over the pandemic,” says a petition by Etsy sellers urging users to boycott the platform. Thanks in part to an unexpected demand for quirky, hand-stitched face masks, the online marketplace better known as a cozy home for independent creators and artisanal goods more than doubled its revenue in 2020; the following year, it acquired two companies, Elo7 and Depop, for a total of more than $1.8 billion.

Despite these gains, on April 11, Etsy plans on increasing seller transaction fees by 30% — a move that striking users are describing as “nothing short of pandemic profiteering.”

“After the planned increase, our fees as sellers will have more than doubled in less than 4 years,” reads the petition authored by Etsy seller Kristi Cassidy, which has more than 33,000 signatures. The last transaction fee increase on the platform was in July 2018, when the total commission charged on sales went up from 3.5% to 5%. 

Cassidy and other Etsy users, including both sellers and buyers, are calling for a weeklong boycott of the platform when the new increase goes into effect. “Etsy Strike” now has its own website, and Mattie Boyd, one of the campaign’s organizers, told Hyperallergic that over 12,500 Etsy sellers have said they will support the boycott by putting their shops on “vacation mode.”

Jane Rhoades, who sells paintings, prints, and hand-sewn works on her Etsy shop and elsewhere, says she’s joining the boycott to protest the overall cost of being an artist on the platform — which also includes payment processing expenses and advertising fees for products sold through Etsy’s “offsite ads” program, which sellers making over $10,000 a year can’t opt out of but receive at a discounted rate (12% versus 15%). Reporting by the Verge cites a host of other issues, including a controversial “Star Seller” program that some say puts too much pressure on merchants and a surge in outsourced, mass-produced goods on the site.

“The recent fee increase feels like the last straw,” Rhoades told Hyperallergic. “There are a dozen other fees, direct and indirect, that you have to pay to be successful on Etsy. You end up paying through the nose and most likely making very little money, which makes Etsy really unsustainable for a lot of people.”

Some Etsy sellers on social media say they can’t afford to participate in the boycott, and those who can acknowledge they will take a loss. In advance of the strike, Rhoades is building her own website, and encourages buyers who find artists on Etsy to check their storefronts for an external site or message them via social media accounts so they can continue to support creators. Other platforms, like Ko-fi, don’t charge seller fees.

Etsy continues to defend the fee increase as a boon for users, arguing that the “incremental revenue” will allow the company to provide better services for its 5.3 million active sellers.

“Sellers have consistently told us they want us to expand our efforts around marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t meet our policies,” a spokesperson for Etsy told Hyperallergic. “Our revised fee structure will enable us to increase our investments in each of these key areas so that we can better serve our community and keep Etsy a beloved, trusted, and thriving marketplace.”

Carla Abraão Shaffer, an e-commerce manager in New York City, says her boss is skeptical about the boycott. But she has witnessed the daily struggles that many Etsy sellers face, from getting enough five-star reviews to drawing enough visitors to their storefront.

“For a lot of Etsy sellers, no matter how awesome your product is, it’s really hard to get any visibility,” she told Hyperallergic. “Increasing the fees only serves to erase many unique creatives and artists and to give visibility to those who pays the most.”

When Etsy was founded in 2005, individuals who have historically been sidelined in traditional retail spaces, including “women, people of color, LGBTQ people, [and] neurodivergent people,” flocked to the platform in search of a more welcoming environment, Etsy Strike’s petition says. Since CEO Josh Silverman took the helm in 2017, the company has seen rapid growth — but not everyone in the community feels they are reaping the rewards.

“Sellers have given Etsy two years in a row of record-breaking profits, and we’ve enabled them to become the massive tech company success they are today,” Boyd, who is now selling their designs on an independent website, told Hyperallergic. “But with the impending fee increase our piece of the pie only continues to shrink. That just isn’t fair.”

“I think Etsy needs to give sellers a seat at the table so that we can help reorient the company back towards its founding ethos of making entrepreneurship more accessible to small-time creators, and making commerce more human,” Boyd said.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is Co-Editor of News at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...