Thousands of Etsy sellers closed their stores this week in protest of increased fees charged by the online marketplace for independent artists, vintage sellers and artisans.
The move is in response to Etsy, which hosts more than 5.3 million businesses, starting Monday, increasing fees charged by sellers from 5% to 6.5% – an increase of 30%.
More than 20,000 sellers on Etsy joined the strike after organizing via Reddit, with many putting their online stores into “holiday mode” all week and others only Monday. Other Etsy sellers keep their stores open but have added photos explaining their opposition to the fee increase for customers.
In a letter sent Monday to Etsy CEO Josh Silverman, the strike’s organizer, Christy Cassidy of Rhode Island, called the move “nothing short of pandemic profiteering.” Etsy has not responded yet.
Speaking to the Guardian, Cassidy said: “We’ve given people multiple options for how to participate, depending on their financial situation.”
Cassidy said more than 22,500 Etsy sellers have joined the protest.
In addition to the anger over the fee increase, Etsy sellers are also opposed to other changes, which they say have reduced the brand and taken away their profits. Sellers with sales of more than $10,000 per year on Etsy are charged an additional mandatory fee for off-site marketing.
Noemie Kenyon, a British seller, said: “I am unhappy about forced marketing – or what they call ‘off-site advertising’. I find this outrageous because the seller has no say in what will be advertised.”
In addition to asking for the fee increase to be cancelled, the strike organizers want sellers to be able to opt out of off-site advertising.
Etsy dropped B-corp certification — a US legal designation under which companies pledge to maintain certain standards related to employee benefits, charitable giving and supply chain practices — in 2017 and continued to report record earnings in 2020 and 2021.
Etsy did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment.
A Marketwatch spokesperson said: “Sellers have consistently told us that they want us to expand our efforts around marketing and customer support and remove listings that don’t comply with our policies. Our revised fee structure will enable us to increase our investment in each of these key areas so we can better serve our community and keep Etsy A well-liked, reliable and thriving market.”
In a blog for Etsy sellers published before the strike, Cassidy wrote: “As individual artisans, makers and small businessmen, it might be easy for a giant company like Etsy to capitalize on them. But as an organized front of people, determined to use our diverse skills and limitless creativity to win a fairer deal. Etsy won’t have such an easy time getting us moving.”
After last week’s historic win for Amazon workers to establish its first union in Staten Island, New York City, Cassidy said she believes this could be the start of a new labor movement for the gig economy.
“This is what we wanted to do from the start,” she said, adding that more than 500 sellers have committed to working together to grow Etsy’s campaign for activists.