What is a Reseller on Etsy?
The term “reseller” has been widely publicized recently and I have received numerous questions about them. Here is what you need to know about resellers.
What is a Reseller? – A reseller sells items that are not handmade by them personally or by someone that is a part of their shop. Many sell mass produced items and pass them off as either authentic handmade or vintage items.
Are resellers just an Etsy thing? – Absolutely not. Etsy just happens to be in the news. You find resellers everywhere, from craft shows, to Ebay, retail stores, boutiques, gift shops, all over the place. Most every brick and mortar store you purchase from is a reseller. More than likely the majority of items you own came from a reseller. But you are aware of that though. You were not under the impression that your new couch was handmade in the back of the furniture store, or that your new car was welded together in a shop behind the dealership.
Who doesn’t like resellers – Aside from Etsy themselves, a lot of people. People who hand make everything they sell do not like having to compete with others selling mass produced items being passed off as handmade. Mass produced items sell at lower prices which can drive the prices down for a category of items, whether they are handmade or not. They also affect prices because they over saturate certain markets. These items are usually of a lower quality and can also deceive customers. A customer searching online may not be able to tell what is actually handmade and may be weary of paying for your handmade item for fear it is a cheap mass produced piece.
The same goes for vintage items. There are so many reproduced non-vintage items out there that it not only confuses the consumer but makes them weary of purchasing something for a decent price fearing it may not be original. People who deal in vintage items also make mistakes by purchasing reproduced items and they lose money.
Are sellers unaware that they are resellers? In most cases people know what they are doing and where their items came from. The issue is really not so much with the person that may have a single item in their store that was mass produced, but rather the sellers who focus on that type of item. There are honest mistakes and then there is blatant disregard for terms of service.
You may be a reseller if – You import items and then just sell them. You purchase kits or unassembled items, put them together, paint and decorate them, then sell them. You purchase complete items, change the color, add some decoration, then sell them. You sell items that are mass produced and call them handmade.
Starting with raw materials is not necessary – You can start with a kit or a vintage item of some kind and still call it handmade. The key though is you have to significantly alter it. You would be using the pre-made item as the base for your creation and the finished product ends up being totally different than what you started with. If you do that then you can consider the item handmade.
What if you have YOUR designs manufactured by someone else and then sell them? In this case you would be a designer rather than the person making your handmade items. The key issue here is that YOU are not making your items personally.
What Etsy is doing to resellers – They are gradually removing them from their site. Often the resellers will get reported by other sellers. The process of actually removing a reseller can take time and require a lot of documentation but they are working on it. They have something labeled “SCRAM,” systems for catching resellers and abusers of the marketplace. It is an automated system used to identify potential resellers and it uses algorithms. SCRAM is also working on the flagging system so people can more easily flag and report resellers that they come across. They have to differentiate between the sellers who mistakenly have one or two items that can be considered mass produced versus the entire shops that specifically resell items. Not every seller is consciously breaking the rules and many will take action and resolve their issues if given the opportunity.
What Etsy would rather you be – A seller of your own handmade items. This means you start with raw materials, rolls of fabric, sheets of paper, sheets of metal, blocks of wood, rolls of yarn, a blank canvas, or a ball of clay. You take these raw materials and cut them, form them, sew, glue, staple, or weld them together to create something from scratch. You are starting with materials that you do not make, but they are raw materials that are meant to be a component of a product.
What is a collective? – This is a shop that is made up of more than one person. If you call your items handmade then they must be made by hand by someone that is a member of your shop.
What about vintage items? – Vintage items are a little different in the sense that they are not currently being mass produced. By definition, vintage is not new and is at least 20 years old. There is a limited supply. Just like with selling handmade items, if you say it is vintage then it needs to actually be vintage. Don’t just weather or do a faux finish on a newer item and pass it of a being vintage.
What about reproductions? – They have been around for a long time. We have all seen reproduction vintage signs or Coca-Cola items. They have been around seemingly forever. They have been around so long in fact that many are now, by definition, vintage. Isn’t that crazy. I collect Coca-Cola items and have some originals and some reproductions. In most cases you know which is which and each has its own value. There are many guides that make it very clear which is which. It is really not a big deal that both types exist if you know what you are looking at.
Are resellers evil? Of course not. The main problem is with inferior and knock-off reproduction items being sold side by side actual handmade or authentic pieces. As long as a potential customer knows the difference, let them decide what they want to buy.
How to set yourself apart – If you do sell handmade items and you are making them yourself that is fantastic. You just have to make sure that your customers are aware of that. A good place to start is by personalizing your website or store. Post a photo of yourself and put up a statement about what you create, what you are inspired by, and how you got started doing what you do. You can take that a step further by doing a couple action shots of you at your workbench or in your studio making your items. You don’t have to put a tutorial on how you actually do everything, just show enough to validate who you are. You can also start a Facebook Page or blog so you can connect and interact with your customers. This also shows that there is a real person behind your items.
Ultimately so much of the issue with resellers has to do with dishonesty. The marketplace is large enough for sellers of authentic handmade items and resellers to do well. If items were clearly and honestly labeled for what they are there wouldn’t be so many issues.