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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. rece