Why I’m Closing my Etsy Store

Over the years I’ve come close to closing my Etsy store numerous times. In fact, this is actually my second Etsy store – I opened my first when I used to sell finished knitted Hats, not the patterns to make them, but closed it down due to privacy issues (which Etsy later back-tracked on). It wasn’t until Etsy offered an automated digital download system that I went back, as the thought of emailing PDFs to every customer filled me fill dread – that’s a ridiculous amount of work.

Etsy is a lot of work to maintain, but it has it’s upsides, so I’ve pushed on with it. Now that my new webiste is live, many of the reasons I maintained an Etsy store are no longer needed, or valid or viable, and I’ve decided it’s time to let it slowly close.

 

The Upsides

The reasons I maintained the store were several, including:

  1. The ability to take card payments. Not everyone has a Paypal account, nor wants one. And Paypal doesn’t work in every country, either. Being able to take card payments can be tricky for a nano business, so having the option offered by a large platform is a big incentive to stay. I can now take card payments on my website, in a way that works nicely with my accountant and their software system.
  2. As an alternative to Ravelry. Granted, I’ve had my Etsy store for a lot longer than Ravelry have had their accessibility issues, but when I considered closing my Etsy store before, it was the need for an alternative to Ravelry that was the primary reason for keeping it open.
  3. From a stock and fees perspective, selling intangibles on as many platforms as you can makes sense, as long as you have the time and energy to maintain them, because they’re not taking a sale away from somewhere or someone else. I always considered them extra sales, a bonus, and figured it was worth putting the work in to reach their in-built marketplace – my early research showed that folks shopping for knitting patterns on Etsy were mostly a completely different demographic to those shopping on Ravelry or elsewhere.
  4. It’s in-built marketplace. It used to be the place where everyone would shop for hand-made goods and indie designed patterns. But the prolifertaion of cheap knitting/crochet patterns, and the many shops selling stolen ones, only serves to reduce the value of our work which is already woefully undervalued as it is. As someone who is making a living at this, and who has a family to support, it’s a struggle to compete and make my work stand out. There are Etsy customers who are willing to pay more for a professional pattern, but in my experience they’re a minority. Which always makes me feel sad. And now that Etsy is flooded with AI produced patterns, mass-produced and/or drop-shipped products, that marketplace has become meaningless.

 

The Downsides

It’s hard to know where to start with this!

  1. The fees. All platforms have fees, and everyone moans about them. It’s tough to find the balance of a fair price that covers your costs, skills and time *and* one that customers are willing pay. When a platform not only charges you listing fees every 4 months but also takes a pretty hefty slice of the sale, it gets challenging trying to break even let alone make a profit.
  2. The app. The app has been the biggest source of customer service, and the only reason I’ve had one-star reviews. Why? Because customers can’t download their digital purchases within the app. Even Etsy download emails take them back to the app, which is nonsensical, and it drives both customers and sellers alike to distraction. No amount of effort by digital sellers has made any difference, Etsy clearly doesn’t care about us. The culture now on Etsy is to email the PDF to a customer if they can’t download it, which not only creates extra work for the seller, but is rather counter-productive to having an automated delivery system in the first place.
  3. The lack of update options for digital sellers. There isn’t an easy way to let my Etsy customers know that an ePattern or eBook has been updated, let alone get them the latest version. Sure, customers of print books wouldn’t expect to get updates; the culture with digital goods is different, and I like to offer my customers the best versions I have available. But not even being able to let customers know there’s any errata without individually messaging every customer is problematic.
  4. The internal messaging system. As someone with numerous disabilities, one of which impacts my ability to communicate in ways that are hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t share the same disability, I learnt long ago to switch all messaging options off on every platform, and manage customer support via forums and select places where my time can be best spent helping several people at once. Or where trusted friends can help knitters with any concerns that come up, or even where knitters help each other. These options ensure knitters get the help they need *and* it helps build community. It’s not me being “lazy” (such an ableist word!) or disinterested in my customers, far from it. It’s me knowing my own limitations and putting systems in place to ensure my knitters get the help they need, and promptly. But Etsy is the one place I can’t do this. Even when I reply with details of where help is available, messages continue because the system encourages it – like most big platforms, Etsy want to keep you on Etsy, which isn’t always the best solution for seller or customer. And it’s been bad for my health.
  5. The ‘Star Seller’ system. I’ve managed to maintain Star Seller status for the majority of months that it’s been running. But that’s meant having to answer messages when I’m ill or trying to take time off – because if you don’t reply within 24hrs, Etsy penalises you. And whilst yes, you can set up automated messages, I’ve not found them to have been very effective. The only one-star reviews I’ve had are due to the inability to download digital purchases within the app, so sellers get penalised for an issue that’s Etsy’s fault, but Etsy aren’t interested in removing those reviews (because they’d have to acknowledge the problem is theirs?) So while being a Star Seller has worked in my favour at times, by being featured more on Etsy, that hasn’t necessarily resulted in more sales and I’ve put my health as risk to maintain it.
  6. VAT. When VATmoss was introduced, many platforms treated it like sales tax, as most of the larger platforms are US based or owned; they failed to understand the culture of VAT from a British or European perspective, where VAT is always part of the price, never added on top. Etsy ignored requests from EU sellers to allow us to offer VAT-inclusive pricing or manage the VAT ourselves. Furthermore, they have no way of discerning the different types of digital products available – mine all have ISBNs meaning they’re either zero-rated or the lowest rate – yet Etsy charges the highest rate on every digital purchase. My EU customers are unnecessairly being charged anything up to 27% on top of my listing price. Many nano digital busnesses prefer platforms to manage the VAT, I totally get that, but not having a system in place that allows VAT registered businesses to manage it themselves, or at the very least to check the current rates on digital goods, is pretty poor practice.

 

And so…

The other evening, after trying to help a few more Etsy customers access their downloads, I sat and looked at my figures and realised that Etsy sales make up somewhere around 1.5% of my turnover. It used to be higher. Once I realised how little it was bringing in compared to the amount of work it was taking, it became crystal clear that now, finally, it was time to let my shop go.

My new website is a far better alternative to Ravelry than Etsy. I can take card payments. Have full control over updates and messages. No more listing fees. No unnecessary VAT charges. The relief at this decision was greater than I expected, if I’m honest! I hadn’t realised how much managing my Etsy store had impacted me.

I will add a notice to my store, so that people know where to find me. Rather than close the store outright, I’ve turned off automatic re-listing, so that as each listing expires, or sells, the store will slowly get smaller until there are no listings left. I’ve paid for each listing to be there, so I may as well let it run it’s course and get my money’s worth.

If any of my Etsy customers wish for updates then I am more than happy to honour those, I only ask that you add your details to this form, provide as much information as possible (your name, Etsy username, and products purchased if possible) and I will get the updates out to you when I’m able.

https://forms.gle/vRFsYLjfDbcFiwPGA

It does feel like the end of an era, but at the same time, a fresh start. It’s going to be better for me to have less to manage and maintain, and better for my knitters as I’ll be able to put my limited energy into more productive and creative things. Onwards and upwards!

Woolly Wormhead

Woolly Wormhead is an internationally reknowned knit designer, specialising in Hats, technique and construction. Their patterns and techniques have been used by thousands of knitters worldwide. Join The Woolly Hat Society to be the first to learn of their latest projects and special offers!

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