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How to Shop Small: where to buy to truly support independent retailers

I’m delighted by the growing movement towards shopping small and local – both as a small business owner myself and as someone who likes to shop with other independent businesses whenever possible. I love gifting handmade and carefully selected items for birthdays, Christmas and celebratory moments. It feels especially important now, whilst lockdown is preventing us from sharing those moments in person.



Line the right pockets


With more and more options for selling handmade items online, it’s easier than ever to buy and sell unique products at a competitive price. But it wasn’t until I set up CressidaCards that I had to think about how much of this sale price actually ends up in the pocket of the artist. As I found out, each sales platform has its own set of fees that reduce the amount the seller receives when a customer purchases an item.


So which platform is best for buying handmade products? Where should you shop to ensure the most money goes to the artist? And how do you ensure you get a competitive price as a buyer?


I’ve put together this comprehensive list of the top UK sites for buying and selling handmade products and artwork, so that you can truly support independent retailers when you choose to shop small.


Worked Example


£3.00 card + £1.10 postage = £4.10 total transaction amount


I’m using the example of a greetings card (as that’s one of my specialties!) priced at £3.00 plus standard UK postage priced at £1.10 to include postage and packaging.


For each platform below I’ve worked out both the total amount and the percentage profit left for the seller to cover the cost of production, postage and packaging after platform fees. And at the bottom of this post there's also a handy table with a side-by-side comparison if you prefer a picture!


Etsy


Etsy is widely regarded as the market leader for selling handmade and vintage items online. As of 2020, there are over 60 million shoppers using the online marketplace, purchasing from over 2.5 million sellers. For most people, it’s the go-to place for handmade products.


Search results:

When you conduct a search on Etsy, its algorithm returns what it considers to be the ‘most relevant’ results. The algorithm changes regularly, but at the time of writing, this is a combination of:

  1. title and tag relevancy (which you might expect)

  2. what Etsy terms ‘listing quality’ which relates to how much the item or shop has been clicked, favourited or purchased

  3. customer experience, which includes positive reviews, having a complete storefront and regularly listing new items


Cost to the seller:


£0.14 Etsy has no fee to become a seller, but it charges a flat rate of $0.20 (£0.14) to list your item. For a listing where multiple items are available (such as listing 10 cards) it will charge this for each one.


£0.15 When the card sells, Etsy commission is 5% on the sale price of them item.


£0.36 If the seller also accepts the payment through Etsy’s Payment System (which most people will do, unless they want to build their own one!) there is a further charge of 4% + £0.20 on the full payment amount, which includes the postage cost.


Total sale price for the customer: £4.10

Total Etsy Fees: £0.65 (16%)

Total amount to the artist: £3.45 (84%)


In short: Minimal up-front investment for the seller, with a good percentage profit on each sale.



Thortful


Thortful is the UK’s first online greetings card market, offering designers worldwide a place to sell their art without the cost of production: thortful produces and ships the cards to their standard specifications when they’re bought, so once the design has been uploaded, all that’s left for the artist to do is sit back and let the royalties roll in… right?


Search results:


When you search on thortful you’ll only see the cards that thortful’s moderators have deemed worthy of their catalogue. Designs that don’t make the cut will still be listed on the designer’s profile, but will only be seen if users go there directly. Those that do become part of the catalogue appear based on thortful’s algorithm that considers:

  1. sales, highlighting cards that have a high volume of sales and a high conversion rate

  2. views

  3. recency (how long the card has been on the site).

It’s also worth noting that at first artists can only have a total of 4 live designs. If these start to do well, thorful will unlock a greater capacity.


Cost to the seller:


£0. It’s completely free to upload a design, and there are no overheads as thorftul deals with production and shipping. Instead, when a card sells, they pay the artist £0.30 commission, which they say is a competitive rate in the design industry. It’s also worth adding that the artist only receives a pay-out of their royalties when the total amount exceeds £5.00.


Total sale price to the customer: £4.10 = £3.29 (card) + £0.81 (p&p)

Total thortful fees: £0 or £3.80, whichever way you look at it!

Amount to the artist: £0.30 (7%)


In short: The artist doesn’t bear the cost of production, but the amount of money they receive per card is far lower than any other platform.

Folksy


First launched in 2008, Folksy is the largest UK marketplace for handmade items. The company prides itself on 10 years’ worth of experience, and with over 50,000 subscribers to their newsletter. A great point to note for sellers is that as a UK-based company they pay tax in the UK, so fees contribute directly to the health of the UK economy.


Search results:

Search results on Folksy use a points system to show relevant items based on title, tags, category, subcategory, description, section and shop name. Where items score the same number of points, the algorithm prioritises the item that was listed more recently.


Cost to the seller:

£0.18 Folksy charges a £0.15 listing fee + VAT for Folksy Basic listing. Alternatively, sellers can sign up to Folksy Plus for a flat fee of £5 per month, which makes all listings free.


£0.22 When the card sells, Folksy takes a commission of 6% + VAT on the cost of the item.


£0.34 Folksy doesn’t hold payments or offer its own payment processing service, instead directing funds straight to the seller’s Paypal or Stripe account. Paypal commission is 3.4% of the total amount coming to the seller + £0.20.


Total sale price for the customer: £4.10

Total Folksy/Paypal Fees: £0.74 (18%)

Total amount to the artist: £3.46 (82%)


In short: Options for both a large or small up-front cost, and a reasonable percentage profit for sellers.



Amazon Handmade


Amazon Handmade offers sellers a customer base of hundreds of millions of people using Amazon every day. It’s more exclusive than some of the other platforms, requiring an ‘artisan application and audit process’ prior to listing, which it says is to ensure goods are genuinely handcrafted.


Search results:

Just like its large-scale competitors, Amazon uses a combination of keywords and sales conversions to determine which results to show you, prioritising results that have sold the most. This means that it can be hard for Amazon Handmade items to be seen if they're produced in smaller quantities in comparison to the off-the-shelf results they're in competition with.


Cost to the seller:


£0.50 It’s completely free to sign up and list items with Amazon Handmade. The only charge is when an item sells, at which point there is a 12.24% referral fee to Amazon. Also note that this fee is set to increase to 15.3% in 2022.


Total sale price for the customer: £4.10

Total Amazon Fees: £0.50 (12%)

Total amount to the artist: £3.60 (88%)


In short: With no hidden start-up fees, Amazon Handmade gives sellers a good rate on their work – for now at least!

Not on the High Street


Showcasing over 5,000 partners, carefully curated through an application process, Not On The High Street has sold products to over 3 million customers since it launched in 2006. It’s increasingly well known to UK lovers of handmade and personalised items, growing by more than 50% in 2020.


Search results:

Much like other platforms, a search via Not On The High Street will return results based on keywords found in the titles, materials and image names of the listing. They also provide sellers with some handy tips on how to optimise this for external search engines like Google.


Cost to the seller:


£199 Not On The High Street charges a one-off joining fee when applicants are accepted as sellers. It’s a flat rate, whether you’re selling £300 chairs or £3 cards.


£0.75 It also charges a 25% commission on the sale of items.


Total sale price for the customer: £4.10

Total NotOnTheHighStreet Fees: £199.75 (4772%)

Total amount to the artist before joining fee recouped: -£195.65

Total amount to the artist after joining fee recouped: £3.08 (75%)


In short: A high joining fee and the highest rate of commission mean an artist would need to sell a lot of cards for a good return.


NuMonday


Founded in 2016, NuMonday is an online marketplace for UK-based artists and makers. Their ethos is to offer UK sellers a simple and affordable platform to showcase their wares. The site itself is my winner for the most attractive of all the platforms, and makes for a chic shopping experience.


Search results:

I couldn't find any info about how NuMonday organises your search results, but it's probably safe to assume that like other sites, it's predominantly based on keywords in your search.


Cost to the seller:


£7.00 To sell on NuMonday artists must subscribe as members, at £7 per month, £35 for 6 months or £65 annually.

£0.26 NuMonday uses Stripe as its payment processor, which charges 1.4% plus £0.20 on the total transaction


Total sale price for the customer: £4.10

Total NuMonday Fees: £7.26 (177%)

Total amount to the artist: -£3.16

Total amount to the artist after membership recouped: £3.84 (94%)


In short: The only platform not to take commission, card sellers can recoup with just a few sales and benefit from the highest percentage profit.



The Artist’s Website


As well as hosting on marketplace platforms, many artists can take sales directly through their website. With so many online marketplaces available, it's not essential to have a dedicated website, but it is currently the only way to enable shopping through Instagram and Facebook without being redirected. It also means that as a customer you can get a better sense of the person behind the work and even make the most of special offers for direct subscribers.


Cost to the seller:


£0.29 Sellers will typically use a payment processing plugin to take payments, and mine charges 2.1% of the transaction amount + £0.20.


£? There’s a huge variety in price when it comes to website hosting. You can build a site for free if you’re happy to have ads, upgrade to get extra features, or if you’re comfortable with code then build the whole thing from scratch and pay no more than the cost of the domain name. So it’s hard to put a price on these sunk costs of website hosting, and apportion the correct percentage to our £3 card.


So I'd simply add that (from experience!) if the artist has gone to the effort of getting their own shop set up, then a sale through this route will support the recoupment of these costs whatever they may be, supporting the artist’s business as a whole. It also feels so much more special when someone orders direct and gives me a great boost!


Summary: Shop direct with the artist to give them the greatest level of your support.


The Stats:


#shopsmall #shoplocal #supportsmallbusiness #handmade #handmaderevolution #supportindependentartists



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