The Problem with Etsy

Ok, I’m trying to sell clothes on Etsy.

The key word here is Trying, because Etsy makes it almost impossible for me to know if I’ll ever make money on a sale or if selling on Etsy is a losing game.

So let’s start with a product, Men’s Swimming Trunks. These have a unique design of my own making. The cost to me for each one is $35 (all prices US$).

Etsy’s going to charge me 20¢ to list each item, including each time an item sells and I want it to remain listed.

Ok, now my total cost per sale is $35.20 (this will change).

Etsy also has a transaction fee, which does make sense, they are after all processing the credit card and in essence taking that risk. But the actual transaction fee is hard to calculate. It may be $3.50 per sale, but as a new operator, it is either $6.50 per sale or $6.50 per sale on top of the $3.50 (they’re very much NOT clear which).

So now my cost is somewhere between $38.70-$45.20 for each item sold.

But wait, there’s more.

As my item’s list price needs to be over $35 (or I lose money), Etsy won’t promote it unless I absorb the shipping cost for US customers (“Free Shipping”). This cost is at a minimum $4. it can be as high as $6.00 per item.

So now each sale of my swimming trunks cost me $42.70-51.20 to sell. If I charge anything less than $51.20, I may lose money.

But wait, there’s more.

Etsy automatically enrolled me in their “offsite ads” program. This allows them to promote my products on Google and Facebook. If any sale comes from one of those ads, Etsy will charge me an addition 15% on the sale. That’s another $7.68 on a sale of $51.20. So the cost to me to sell $35 board shorts could be as high as $58.88 per unit.

That’s with me breaking even, making neither a profit nor taking a loss.

If I want to make even $2 per sale, I have to charge $61.

First, who’s going to buy swimming trunks at $61?

Second, is $2 per sale worth it? Maybe to start. It is a 3.2% profit margin. Retail is supposed to target 7%, which would mean my price would have to be $64. That’s unrealistic.

Possible solutions, cost cutting.

It isn’t easy to get unenrolled from the “offsite ads” program. The link they send you in an email telling you that they’ve enrolled you, doesn’t work. To opt out, you need to find it. It’s not under Marketing, Finances, or Integrations. I found it under Settings. I’m out.

That allows me to get down to a $51.20 break even point.

I’m assuming that they’re charging me $6.50 per sale, not $10. That gets my break even down to $47.70 (and eventually $44.70 if the fee goes down to $3.50).

I’ll also project my shipping cost as $4 (not $6) for now. That brings my cost down to $45.70 ($42.70 eventually). I’m currently listing those swimming trunks at $46.95. I’d love the sticker price to be lower, but then Etsy won’t let me make any money.

Possible solutions, go elsewhere.

My best solution would be “Don’t be on Etsy.” I never intended to be on Etsy.

I built my own store in WordPress, using WooCommerce and Stripe. I connected it to my production partner in California. Things worked. We were about to launch. Then WooCommerce updated their WordPress plugin and (coincidentally?) everything broke. I can’t sell. The link between my partner and my store is broken. No one can tell me if or when it will be fixed (it’s been 10 days). I’m dead in the water.

I explored moving to Shopify. What a nightmare they are. Their “free trial” is only 3 days long and doesn’t fully work until you buy a plan. Even in the exceedingly frustrating and limited ‘actually free’ trial it became obvious that if I wanted my store to look and function as it had in WordPress, I’d have to pay way more than the lowest plan. Losses I’d either have to absorb or pass on in higher prices.

So I’m stuck on Etsy, charging more than I want and making less for it.

Cranberry Wizard Swimming Trunks, only available at Etsy (for now)