As one maker friend put it: People were saying for months that a shift was going to happen with Etsy Wholesale. And, well…
As you’re probably well aware by now, Etsy Wholesale is closed its doors: July 31, 2018 was the last day of the platform. While few people are surprised -- since Etsy Wholesale had been quietly withdrawing for months -- many makers are understandably frustrated, freaked out, or just… tired.
So I wanted to put together tips and tools for moving forward and continuing to grow your handmade wholesale business, now that Etsy Wholesale is closed.
The Big Picture
Let’s talk “big picture” for a second. As recently as 10 years ago, trade shows were pretty much the only way to grow wholesale for makers -- period. It was a very unified, monolithic, systematic market. And when we started Wholesale In a Box 3 years ago, Etsy Wholesale was just starting and there were very few other options.
The last year or two has seen a boom in platforms for wholesale, and the speed at which new folks are popping up is only increasing. So the overall trend is that handmade wholesale is becoming increasingly fractured.
Platforms and marketplaces come and go and their algorithms evolve and change. It’s hard to find solid footing in that landscape -- you’re left not knowing how to grow your business in a sustainable way. But I don’t believe you need to accept this level of volatility and risk -- there are concrete things you can do to make your business strong and resilient, despite the changes.
Ultimately, whatever tool makers use, you need to take the work of marketing and connecting with stores into your own hands. That will be useful to you 50 years from now, regardless of what happens with the platforms, just as it was 50 years ago.
What to actually DO
That’s all helpful context, but I know that most importantly, makers are looking for a way forward in these last weeks of Etsy Wholesale.
First: You know what’s best for your business and there is no one answer about what you should do, now that Etsy Wholesale is closing. The way you’ll move forward is a strategic decision that probably should be pretty strongly guided by your gut and plans.
That said, we’ve helped over 400 makers grow their wholesale business, so I do have some opinions about what Etsy Wholesale sellers should be thinking about in coming weeks, to make this a time of growth in your business, rather than a time of crisis.
10 Crucial Things to Do Now That Etsy Wholesale Is Closing:
1. Pause and reflect.
I know this change feels urgent, and there are aspects of it that are. But I honestly think that the first step you should take is to pause and reflect. Not post on Instagram. Not email every stockist you have. But reflect and make a plan. You have 4-8 weeks to put your plan into action, and a good plan, executed more slowly, is better than a poor plan executed quickly.
2. Divide your plan into immediate action and strategic changes.
Don’t confuse your immediate actions with your strategic plan around this. There are a couple of things that you’ll want to do in the next week or so -- but all the rest will benefit from a thoughtful plan, carried out over the next 4-8 weeks. If you mush the two categories together, you’ll be more stressed and end up with worse results.
The main thing that you’ll want to do immediately is…
3. Get all of the information on your Etsy Wholesale stockists.
As soon as possible, you’ll want to capture all of the information (particularly names, websites, and emails) of your Etsy Wholesale stockists and keep it somewhere that you can access after the platform closes.
There isn’t a way to download all of that directly, so Natalie Jacob from Etymology suggests taking screenshots of each purchase order. Try to save them in an organized way or even turn that data into a spreadsheet or similar list so that it’s easy to access later.
4. Forge new connections with your Etsy Wholesale Stockists.
If you have current stockists who buy through Etsy Wholesale, communicate with them, and actively support them in transitioning to a new method of ordering, paying, and staying up to date on your line. This might take several touchpoints, so be persistent.
A few specific tips here:
Touch base with each store individually.
This is a big transition and it’s very much worth contacting each store personally. That way, you can use the opportunity to let them know about new products they might be interested in, check in with them on how things are going, give them your new ordering information, and answer any questions. So although I’ve been seeing makers use Instagram posts for this purpose, I think that misses the opportunity to connect more personally.
Don’t just reach out once.
Store owners are busy and are handling this transition with all of their Etsy Wholesale vendors. So certainly don’t harass them, but plan to contact them a few times over the next few months, to make sure they have your info and know you’re there for them.
Make the new system very simple.
We’ll talk about how to devise a new ordering system (#8) and a new system for sharing your products (#6). But whatever systems you choose, be sure that when you share the specifics of the new approach, you make it as simple, straightforward, and clear as possible.
Try to send them to the “final” ordering system, even if it’s not perfect yet.
One maker we work with is creating a new website but it won’t be done until late August. She does have a website that stockists could order from now, but she’s not thrilled with it, so is considering sending store owners to an intermediate solution for the next couple of months. My recommendation? Send stockists to that website now, anyway. It’s better than having the stockists change systems twice.
“I honestly think that Etsy Wholesale closing down is a great thing for small businesses. I hope it allows for makers to find wholesale relationships with companies that they can build a deeper and longer relationship with. This is yet another sign of the potential disadvantages of depending on a platform for your business's success and sustainability.” - Joey Vitale, Indie Law
5. Don’t necessarily just swap Etsy Wholesale with something else.
I’ve been hearing makers ask, “Any suggestions for what to replace Etsy Wholesale with, now that they’re closing?” But in all honesty, I think that is the wrong question.
Etsy Wholesale combined a few different functions into one platform, but you don’t necessarily need to replace all of them with the same tool. The functions are:
Presenting your products online
Finding new stockists
Payment / invoicing
Depending on the stage and unique characteristics of your business, you might want a different system for each of these functions, even though Etsy Wholesale used to do them all for you. In fact, you might consider brainstorming options for each before ultimately deciding what you’ll choose. In #6, #7, and #8, below, we’ll talk about options for each.
6. Create a new system for presenting your products online.
This transition away from Etsy Wholesale is a huge hassle for many makers. But it may actually end up having a positive effect on your business in the end:
“If Etsy's announcement was a big shakeup for you, now is a great time to begin planning to build a stronger foundation for your business. When you own your own website, wholesale ordering solution, and mailing list, you don't rely entirely on third parties, and it's easier to bounce back when they make big changes to their services.” - Arianne Foulks, Aeolidia
One of the key things that Etsy Wholesale did was make an easy, attractive method for makers to share their wholesale product offerings with stockists. Some makers even used their Etsy Wholesale line sheet as a way to show retailers not on Etsy Wholesale their product set. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is figure out how to share your products with retailers moving forward...
Consider creating or improving your own website.
Probably the ideal option for sharing your products with retailers is via your own website. If you already have a retail website, that can certainly serve as the place that store owners go to look at your products. They can even shop your website with a 50% off coupon code if your markup and shipping will allow for that. Alternatively, they can view your products on the retail site and just place their order via email or phone.
If you don’t have a personal website yet, you can get something simple and effective going fairly quickly with services like Shopify and Squarespace. You can always plan to improve it or make more complicated later, but even a few days invested in setting something like this up could get you pretty far.
Your other option is to create a true wholesale website. We teamed up with our friends at Aeolidia on the things to keep in mind if you’re going this direction -- and also discussed how to decide if you need a wholesale website. You can find that article here: Whether You Need a Wholesale Website (And How to Do It Right)
Or, create a simple line sheet.
A more low-tech way of presenting your products is through a PDF line sheet. We recommend making this document a bit of a hybrid between a lookbook and a traditional line sheet -- including an “about” page, gorgeous photos of the line, all the specifics (including price) on each product, and Wholesale Terms. You can have this on hand for stores to peruse your products as well as order from.
7. Create a new system for finding new stockists.
If you were on Etsy Wholesale, that may have been a primary way that stockists were finding your line. (Or, perhaps more accurately, a way you were hoping stockists would find your line.)
That means that it’s a good time to consider creating a system for yourself to start proactively connecting with stores that you think will be a great fit for you.
Of course, we’re really passionate about direct, thoughtful, individual outreach to shops that you think could be a great fit for what you sell. That’s what we support makers in doing at Wholesale In a Box. But you can also start a practice like this on your own -- and we have some good training resources in our Training Center and in our beloved free email course, Grow Your Wholesale.
There are also platforms like Indigo Fair, Hubba, Stockabl, IndieMe, or even new models like Handheld Handmade so those could be good to check out as one piece of your strategy.
8. Create a new system for payment and invoicing.
Depending on what you choose for the way that stockists will review your products, you may have already covered a payment/invoicing system.
But, many approaches will still need a separate payment and invoicing system. For instance, if you create a PDF line sheet, you’ll still need a way for store owners to place orders.
A simple Paypal or Square invoice will work just fine -- and of course, store owners don’t need these services to pay these invoices. They can pay with a regular credit or debit card -- you just need to get set up on your end.
9. Be sure that you have Wholesale Terms.
Although technically you should have already thought through your wholesale terms if you were operating in Etsy Wholesale, it’s possible that you didn’t think them through in much detail.
If that is the case, now is the time to make sure that you have established Wholesale Terms and that you’re sharing them with store owners in a consistent place (whether that’s a page on your website or a page in your line sheet.) It’s really important to make sure you have clear terms on at least the following:
Payment and ordering. How will you accept orders? What forms of payment do you accept.
When do you need payment (on ordering, on shipping, or some combo)?
Minimums. Your minimum for your first order and for subsequent orders.
Shipping and insurance. Who pays for shipping, how are things shipped, who pays for insurance if any, etc.
Sizing, materials, etc.
Anything else. If you have other things they should know before they order, now is the time.
10. Use your resources.
There are a lot of great resources that can support you during this transition. Here are a few of our favorites…
Other resources to check out:
Wholesale In a Box's free Training Center and in-depth Grow Your Wholesale email course as well as our service to help you get your work into more stores.
Aeolidia's support for makers who are creating new wholesale sites, including how to set up wholesale ordering on Shopify, how to decide whether you need a wholesale site, and their paid design services.
An in-depth article on cultivating reorders with current stockists.
A lawyer's take on why Etsy has some unique challenges for handmade businesses anyway.
Your wholesale strategy is going to evolve and change -- so don't panic and do something expensive (like signing up for a trade show that you can't afford) just because Etsy Wholesale is changing. Take some time to experiment, explore alternatives, and reflect on what you really envision a sustainable wholesale strategy being for you.
And, never hesitate to reach out to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions along the way!