Etsy strike organizer Kristi Cassidy joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss why Etsy sellers are going on strike.
AKIKO FUJITA: E-commerce platform Etsy is bracing for disruptions to its platform as around 14,000 Etsy sellers prepare to go on strike on Monday. Small businesses that rely on the platform to sell their products say higher fees and service charges eat away at their profits as the business focuses on increasing its own sales.
Let’s bring in Kristi Cassidy, who is organizing this strike, which is due to start on Monday. Kristi, it’s good to talk to you today. I was looking at the numbers on the platform – 14,000 sellers, roughly, out of five million active sellers, doesn’t seem like a lot. But what do you hope to accomplish with this strike on Monday?
Kristi Cassidy: We hope to draw Etsy’s attention to the fact that we are fed up. And you’re right, it’s not much. It’s also a lot for people trying to spread a movement online without advertising. The level of support we got when we released this to the world – people share, it spreads completely organically. So that’s our situation.
BRIAN CHUNG: Hey, Kristi, this is Brian Cheung here. I want to ask…I mean, have you engaged with Etsy? Did you have conversations with them? Because I imagine they would kind of want to bridge the gap with you here as they try to figure out their fee structure, among other things, like it is with the market. What have you heard from them?
Kristi Cassidy: We’ve heard — what we’ve heard is what they’ve been communicating to the media so far. And that’s basically what they’re – the same thing they told us in the email they sent, that they’re making these changes to improve things in three key areas. And we asked for very specific things in those three key areas – there’s more to it, actually.
But they don’t really respond to our requests, that’s what happens. Talking about business.
AKIKO FUJITA: Kristi, let’s recall this statement that Etsy released. They specifically said that the success of our sellers is a top priority for Etsy. We are always receptive to feedback from sellers. And, in fact, the new fee structure will allow us to increase our investments in the areas outlined in the petition, including marketing, customer support, and removal of ads that violate our policies.
We are committed to providing great value to our 5.3 million sellers so they can grow their business while making Etsy a popular, trusted, and thriving marketplace. And, Kristi, you say none of that happened, at least now. Let’s say you go on strike on Monday and you don’t get a response… I mean, what are the main sticking points? And if so, where do you take your business?
Kristi Cassidy: So for me personally, I do a lot of custom dresses. And off-site ads that made my business completely unsustainable. It is not possible to run a business based on custom commissions if there is a chance that advertising costs will be charged to one of your custom orders. So running a bespoke business when you don’t know how much you’re going to earn for each order just doesn’t work. So for me personally, I have to leave if they don’t listen to us with this petition.
BRIAN CHUNG: And, Kristi, of course, you’re not alone. A number of other people in the market are also joining you in this movement. But the cool thing about Etsy is that it’s so independent. Often a single person operates a store.
So how do you organize this? I mean, how to reach them? You just send them a cold email, say, like, hey, you start with two people, then four, then eight… I mean, how does that go?
Kristi Cassidy: We started on Reddit, and then we kind of grew that in a way where we have – we have people coming to help us. And so what we have right now is probably thousands of people working together to spread the word on social media. So that’s how we’re expanding on this by asking everyone at Etsy who cares so much about making these changes to help us spread the word.
AKIKO FUJITA: I wonder if you think about where the trade-off might be. Clearly, you and others considering going on strike have pointed to the fact that the culture has changed over the past few years at Etsy. The focus was more on increasing the company’s sales and bottom line, without necessarily highlighting the small businesses that have truly made Etsy the go-to for many shoppers. Do you see common ground?
Kristi Cassidy: I don’t really think there is anything unreasonable in our demands. I mean, there’s the first… cancel the fee increase. I understand that they say they need it to deliver the things they have been promising us for years and have not delivered. The others, however – finish the star seller program, it does nothing for the platform.
It’s not about showing buyers the quality of the people selling there. We want guaranteed support for people whose stores are being shut down by AI. Seems like a no-brainer anyway, the ability to disable offsite ads. If it worked for everyone, why do they require us to be part of it?
Every request we made is very reasonable. And if Etsy refuses to work with us on these, that doesn’t give me much hope for the future of the platform.