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Head of the Vancouver Etsy Collective talks about how we can support local makers through the strike

There are ways to find local artisans, crafters, and makers outside of Etsy
How are Etsy sellers in Vancouver reacting to the recent boycott by some sellers? Pictured: A 2019 Vancouver Etsy Co Pop-up event.

Over 18,000 Etsy sellers worldwide have set their online storefronts to vacation mode in protest this week. The strike, which began Monday and is led by Rhode Island-based wedding dress maker Kristi Cassidy, was spurred by Etsy charging sellers 6.5 per cent of a total order, up 30 per cent from last year and  almost double the 3.5 per cent fee introduced in 2018 despite Etsy reporting a 23 per cent increase in sales between 2019 and 2021 and increased profits during the pandemic.

Disgruntled sellers also cite offsite ad fees, payment processing fees, and a host of other issues that make it difficult for them to run a small business on the platform. Anyone who uses Etsy regularly has most likely experienced the disappointment of receiving a package that you thought was handmade in Canada only for it to be covered in dropshipping labels from China.

Resellers are a point of contention for many makers on Etsy because they are competing with mass-produced items that are described as handmade which is contrary to Etsy’s reselling policy.

Etsy has responded to the strike with a statement that posits the fee increases will be used for investment in more support for sellers, including marketing, customer support, and removing listings that don’t follow policy. But sellers are demanding a cancellation of the fee increase altogether.

How does the strike impact Vancouver Etsy sellers?

According to Valerie Braacx, Vancouver sellers have a varied response to the strike action. The team captain of the Vancouver Etsy Collective (VEC) says that the strike doesn’t necessarily directly affect local sellers if they don’t want it to. A quick click-through of the vendors on the VEC site suggests that only a fraction of the 80+ members have put their shops on vacation mode and some of them have migrated their shops off the Etsy platform entirely.

VEC is part of a worldwide network of collectives that works independently from Etsy and is run by sellers in a volunteer capacity to support each other.  “Each group kind of comes together for different reasons,” says Braacx. “The reason why the Vancouver Etsy Co came together in 2017 was to put on a national pop-up initiative by Etsy in each respective city. There are Etsy teams across the whole country–across the world really–but there are Etsy Canada teams and each is run by a captain who’s also a seller.”

“We all volunteer for this role because this is an opportunity to provide people who live in our area with resources and opportunities like the Etsy Made-in-Canada Market,” explains Braacx, which was last held in Vancouver back in September 2019 but has plans to return this fall. “Our goal is strictly to run great markets or events and support makers in the area.”

Braacx opened her Etsy shop, Veespoke in 2013 and has since diversified her methods of selling to include a shopify website, in-person markets, consignment through local brick and mortar stores, and wholesale.

She says diversifying where you sell isn't uncommon. "I think it's actually quite smart to have a few different channels,” she says depending on the size of your business.

How can people support local makers outside of Etsy?

Since so many Vancouver creatives sell through other platforms in addition to Etsy, there are a few ways to support them both online and in-person. The easiest is to look up an Etsy shop on Instagram or see if they have their own website. A sellet's Instagram and website are linked on their vendor pages through VEC.

In addition, easing pandemic restrictions in B.C. means that in-person craft fairs are also an option which, according to Braacx, is the best way to support local artisans. “Going to Got Craft, going to Portobello West, going to Make It–all of those places where you can find huge groups of these amazing sellers and support them and see their stuff.”

One of the requirements of being a vendor at the Vancouver Etsy Co Fall Pop Up is that you have to have designed and/or made the item which has the added benefit of weeding out the quality of workmanship in a way that you can’t online.

“It's probably my favourite thing about being at craft shows because you can actually meet the person who made your stuff, and you can cultivate relationships,” says Braacx. And it goes both ways, she adds: “I'm so thrilled to reconnect with people that have bought my scarves and that I've seen regularly at markets, it’s a really exciting thing.”