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Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sellers strike as Etsy raises transaction fees amid record revenue

More than 5,000 sellers are going offline, and more than 47,000 people have signed a petition in support.

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In February, Etsy CEO Josh Silverman shared with investors that his company’s sales and revenue had reached an all-time high. Its stock was also quickly climbing. 

Meanwhile, Silverman shared less friendly news with Etsy sellers, delivering an email stating that transaction fees were rising from 5% to 6.5%, a 30% increase, starting on April 11.

For many Etsy sellers, this was the last straw. Shortly after the email was delivered, the Etsy seller subreddit was bombarded with comments about the fee increase.

Kristi Cassidy, an active Etsy seller since 2007, was able to grow her audience through selling hand-made products that are made-to-order and custom. But over the past few years, changes on the platform have hurt sellers, such as rising fees, mandatory marketing programs, and an influx of drop shippers. 

“I wonder what would happen if on April 11, so many sellers put their shops on vacation mode that Etsy starts shitting bricks,” Cassidy wrote on the subreddit. 

Now, Cassidy and other Etsy sellers are officially participating in a week-long strike. They are requesting that shoppers refrain from buying on Etsy, and a petition in support of the strike has already received over 47,000 signatures. 

More than 5,000 sellers have agreed to put their shops on “vacation mode,” and shop owners are encouraged to go offline for the full week or just a day, depending on what they can afford to do. 

Cassidy told The Verge that she hopes the strike will be the start of more internal organizing among seller communities. 

“The strike is just action number one,” she says. “What we want to really do for the future is form a solidarity support movement — peer support, artisans supporting each other,” she said. 

Support for the campaign has been overwhelming from customers as well, many of whom commented on the petition saying that they use Etsy to support independent artists and businesses and would “gladly take their business elsewhere” if sellers can’t make a decent living. 

Changes at the expense of sellers have made many shop owners feel as though their business success on the platform is not longer substantial 

The campaign has a list of several demands, which largely focus on questionable policy shifts Etsy made since 2017, including layoffs and a new CEO. Some of the demands are related to fees, and others focus on longtime concerns sellers have had over the direction the company is headed. 

In 2013, Etsy changed its rules to allow sellers to outsource production, and shop owners have protested this, claiming that the website is now filled with mass-produced, print-on-demand products. Strike participants and allies are asking for an exhaustive plan to “crack down” on resellers. 

Silverman has defended the most recent fee increase as a good thing for Etsy’s 5.3 million sellers, stating in his announcement that the company has shown its ability to “make improvements that directly translate into more sales for our sellers.” 

But veteran Etsy sellers who oppose the recent changes are longing for a version of the company that is long gone. In 2017, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson was fired and replaced by Silverman, who focused on growth and boosting sales. 

But before the company went public in 2015, it had B Corp certification, a designation for companies that meet high social and environmental standards. 

But even as Etsy promotes its successes, sellers are concerned about their future. 

D, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, told The Verge that the recent fee hikes starting on April 11 have made many sellers reevaluate their presence on the platform. 

“My preference would be to get off Etsy completely. And after getting that email from [Etsy CEO Josh Silverman], I gave myself a year to do just that,” D said. 

In addition to transaction fees, sellers like D also have to pay a flat listing fee, payment processing fees, and other services fees, including a 12% advertising commission each time a customer makes a purchase from D’s shop through an ad placed by Etsy. 

According to their data, just this year, D paid more than 16% of their total sales in fees to Etsy. 

Melonia Vincent, an Ohio-based seller taking part in the strike, told WKSU that their intention is not to shut down the platform, but to restore it to its roots of “keeping commerce human.” 

"I think at this point, we’re realizing we don’t really feel like we have much of a voice because Etsy now has…they’re the big company. They get to make these calls and we just want to be able to say, okay but we don’t want to do that,” Vincent said. 

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