Etsy: An Affordable Holiday Gift Option

This may come off as a shameless plug for one of our portfolio companies but I hope not because it isn’t intended as such. With the tough economic times we find ourselves in, many people will be tightening the hatches this holiday season and will be looking for a way to buy gifts that are nice but also affordable.

Etsy is well known as a place to find handmade, one of a kind, artistic and "crafty" items. It has great appeal to a certain sensibility but has not really caught on yet with the mainstream user. Etsy’s CEO, Maria Thomas, mentioned in her web 2.0 talk that Etsy is doing about $100mm in annual sales right now. It’s a big business, but not yet a mainstream business. That might change when people find out that you can get lovingly made, beautful, one of a kind gift items for way less than you’ll pay for something equivalent (if that’s even possible) at Wal-Mart.

Here are some examples:

A wood train set for $89.95 that includes six cars. Handmade in the seller’s wood shop.

A cute pinafore dress for a little girl that costs $24.

A plush dog toy for $16.

A necklace for $34

These are just four items I found in about ten minutes of poking around Etsy.

They are one of a kind and if someone buys them between now and when I post this on Monday morning, they might be sold out.

But my point is not to try to sell these four items, it’s to point out that there are wonderful gift items for really great prices on Etsy. I hope that more people learn about Etsy this holiday season because it will help people save some money and put some great gifts under the christmas tree or hanukkah bush at the same time.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Dan Lewis

    If you’re looking for smaller trains, go generic. My son is a big Thomas the Tank Engine fan, and six trains for $85 is cheap compared to an a la carte purchase of Thomas-branded stuff… but a wash compared to BRIO stuff which is Thomas-compatible. And there’s another brand, Kidcraft, which is also compatible and incredibly cheap; see http://www.littlekidstuff.c… for example. We managed to find a five train, 20 track set with a few houses and a helicopter and plane for about $25 on sale at Toys R Us a year ago this week. (I remember because I was watching the Mets eliminate themselves at the hands of the Marlins, and that doesn’t happen too often…. uh…)

  2. andyswan

    Etsy is really cool….especially for gifts. I’m not really sure that price is the selling point…but value certainly is. A gift that generates a question like “where did you find this?” is always more fun than “the receipt’s in the bag”!

  3. Jill Stern

    I’d like to promote NO GIFTING! Why are we so hung up on buying and gifting?

    1. fredwilson

      i’m with you Jill for teens and adults.i don’t enjoy getting gifts anymorebut for little kids, i think its still a wonderful thing

    2. Mike Montano

      What about Kiva?! I’ve been getting my mother and sister Kiva certificates for a few years now and I think they are a great alternative.

      1. fredwilson

        Kiva is greatSo is donors chooseI love both of them as gift ideas

  4. CoSkay

    In the sea of large merchants, Etsy is a great way to support small sellers and individuals by aggregating their products. I am always complimented on the items I’ve purchased. My sister and her fiancee actually purchased their gifts for the wedding party from here as well.

  5. Tony_Alva

    My wife found Etsy through you blog and LOVES it!

    1. fredwilson

      That makes my day

  6. Denise Ferragamo

    I’m a pottery artist with an Etsy shop (…) and I’m really happy to see your post! I love Etsy as a way to expand my customer base while living and working wherever I choose. Giving artists and artisans an outlet for retail sales encourages creativity and opens opportunities to those who might not otherwise feel comfortable selling their wares in person. My customers tell me that they love the idea of buying something with a personal, human connection – and dealing with the artist makes for a more satisfying transaction.

  7. ryanw

    I have to agree, Etsy is pretty amazing. I didn’t think so initially, but my wife started up a site there this summer and I have seen the entrepreneur bug extend further in the family. Earlier attempts with Shopify and such just never took hold, but Etsy has something going for it, to the great benefit of the shops there.

  8. Nancy McNally

    Thank you for recommending Etsy for wonderful hand crafted gifts. I have been selling on Etsy for 2 years and appreciate your review. I live in San Francisco and very few folks in the SF Bay Area have ever heard of Etsy. Amazing !I am a leader of an Etsy Street Team in California and our team has 350 members from all over California, California Crafters Club of Etsy (CCCOE) The community of Etsy artists is what makes Etsy very unique, with ad hoc mutual support freely shared between artists.I sell origami ornaments at

  9. jose

    i couldn’t resist the train set for my 8mo son. 🙂 great find, and it finally converted me to using etsy.

    1. fredwilson

      I am ringing the bell now! So great to hear it

  10. Guest

    I’ve looked at Etsy a couple times as a possible venue for my work. The thing I don’t know how to get around is that most of my work is custom. I don’t know how to use Etsy to sell more of a service than product. I want to display past works that very closely show the quality of future work, but that aren’t actual pieces for sale.Do you know of a way to use Etsy for this?

    1. fredwilson

      Etsy has a service called “alchemy”, not a great name, but it’s a whole service for custom workI can intro you to the cust service people there if you likeSend me an email

    2. Colie

      I have some custom items in my shop, I just post an item like it, or my own and tell people it is a custom listing, well I’ll post the links and if you have any more questions you can just contact me.…hope that helps

  11. endorphin1

    receiving gifts gracefully as an adult is an art–if done well, it honors the gift giver who most likely enjoys the giving! A unique gift that shows insight or a special connection to the givee is even easier to receive.I love receiving gifts from the people who know what I really like..(you can never have too many hand made candles or wooden bangles !)

    1. fredwilson

      But it’s hard to do it well and Etsy can and should make it easier than itcurrently is

  12. DreamWoven

    Nice to see etsy mentioned. What a wonderful alternative to ‘store bought’ items, especially at holiday time.I just absolutely hate to see the name Etsy used in the same sentence as a place like Wal-Mart! It really does an injustice to the Etsy site and its fine artisans to even think about promoting Etsy by using a comparison such as Wal-Mart.!

    1. fredwilson

      dreamwoven – i left a post in the etsy forums explaining why i used wal-mart. i agree it was unfortunate because that company is such a lightning rod. my post is here…

  13. $467591

    Thank you for the article. Most of the artists, of which I am one, on etsy are really not trying to compete with WalMart. We are offering high quality at a good value. We don’t make disposable items. We want our treasures to

  14. RareGemstoneJewelry

    There are thousands of carefully made, high quality, unique items on Etsy. I think you can save money on Etsy by buying products that will last for a long time. While there are some bargains to be found on Etsy, since you are buying directly from the artists and crafters, I’ve been more impressed with my purchases on the site for the high quality and friendly, personal service. You’d never find the same quality or variety at Wal-Mart, that’s for sure. I have an Etsy shop, and I love selling on Etsy as much as I love doing my shopping there.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, the comparison to wal-mart was unfortunate. i explained why i used it in a post in the etsy forums…sorry about the linkage. i’ll be more careful in the future when talking about etsy and its sellers

      1. RareGemstoneJewelry

        Thank you for the clarification. I hope you know that we all really appreciate that you’re getting the word out about Etsy, even if we weren’t exactly thrilled at the comparison to Wal-Mart in this particular post. It looks like it created at least one convert (see Jose’s post), so the post obviously did a lot more than just get a few of us sellers into an uproar.I would also love for the mainstream population to be more aware of Etsy, and to understand what Etsy really is. Too many people I’ve talked to seem to think it’s “like another ebay”, unfortunately. As I mentioned earlier, with mass-produced products getting so much bad press lately, I think that publicizing the high quality, individually hand made products here would be a great way to help Etsy stand apart from the crowd.

        1. fredwilson

          Yeah that was my intention to publicize the amazing things one can find onetsyI just need to do it more carefully next time

          1. RareGemstoneJewelry

            No worries. Like I said, we all appreciate that you’re getting the word out. Thank you very much for talking about Etsy, and all the amazing products there! : D

  15. Pfeiffer Photos

    Hello,As a seller of fine art photography–originals–on Etsy, I have to tell you you’ve stirred up quite a bit of conversation in the forum at the Etsy site. The sellers are discussing your post and the comparision of Etsy to Walmart in terms of value. While you do note that items are handmade, one-of-a-kind, beautiful, and make great gifts, the perception that “handmade = cheap” is not how we, as artists and business people, wish the public to perceive our goods. Etsy is not Craigslist, nor is it a yard sale, it is not eBay or Walmart. To the best of my knowledge, Walmart does not offer fine art (original or otherwise), fine art photography, handmade ceramics, paper goods, handmade clothing (as good as any brick and mortar boutique shop), vintage items (everything from clothing and jewelry to housewares and luggage)…the list just goes on and on.We thank you for the good intention behind what you wrote, however, and appreciate the effort to get the word out about Etsy and all the talented small business owners who sell there.Chris & Tina PfeifferPfeiffer

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Chris and Tina. clearly wal-mart is the third rail in the etsy community. and i do understand why that is. i should not have stepped on it!

  16. stacey

    buying handmade isn’t about finding the least expensive option; its about buying something lovingly created by another human being

    1. fredwilson

      I totally agreeBut in these difficult economic times, it’s so much better to buy directlyfrom the person who makes the product and bypass all the people in themiddle who just add cost

      1. dmollison

        Eh. I saw what you were trying to do with the article. No worries here. Thanks for the mention!

  17. hellome

    Thanks so much for the glowing praise! And no, you won’t find any equivalents of my handmade bags at Wally World lol.PS: Come by anytime. 🙂

  18. Lee

    I’m thrilled whenever anyone publicizes Etsy since I’ve been selling there for nearly two years (http://abeleeshandcrafted.e…) but “….cheaper than Walmart”. Please… it’s hard enough for artisans to make a living wage on what we create from love, hard work, and talent, and as it is, many artisans don’t charge nearly enough. Being compared to the mass-produced, plastic, see-it-on-every-corner stuff you find at Walmart is not exactly a compliment, you know? We’d rather be known for the uniqueness of our art/craft, rather than be known as the cheaper-than-Walmart-website, if you don’t mind. 🙂

  19. Lotta

    Thanks for mentioning Etsy! Though I must admit hearing we’re cheaper than Walmart makes me want to raise my prices 😉

  20. Kittyd

    Hmm…I’ve been on etsy since 2006. There are so many things there that can’t even be found at wal mart. So many amazing artists in so many categories. I love shopping there for unique gifts! I have a store where I sell my artisan jewelry on etsy, as well as having my jewelry in an juried art gallery.