One site shows how web shopping need not be the death of Main Street
The growth of e-commerce websites is usually perceived as a threat to local businesses. But that’s not always the case. Take Etsy.com, a social buying and selling site specializing in handmade and vintage arts, crafts and clothing. Several Saugerties business owners say the site brings customers from around the world they’d never reach otherwise, providing a valuable supplement to brick-and-mortar sales while fostering local relationships and sales.
For Rayann Fatizzi, who has done costuming and sold vintage clothing for more than two decades, Etsy wasn’t the start of her career: it was her comeback. In 2006, while recovering from a brain aneurysm, friends brought her craft-making supplies to help her pass the time. When they saw the results, they urged her to sell them online using Etsy. Her internet sales ultimately led her to open a new storefront, as well as selling and consigning her products to other stores.
Alicia Stang opened her Etsy store in Dec. 2010. She says the positive response gave her the “ little push” she needed to open her brick-and-mortar store, SteamShip Alice, in 2012. The Etsy shop also led to a gig doing trunk shows at Happy Paws thrift store. (A portion of the proceeds benefit the Ulster County SPCA.)
Saugerties High School graduate Stephanie Marks (nee Manfredi) and her husband, Adam Marks, opened their Etsy shop, WoodstockNYC, in 2008. For the Marks family, Etsy was the perfect place to showcase their handmade precious and semi-precious jewelry. “The store set-up was extremely easy, as is the listing process for each item,” said Adam. “ Also, the cost of maintaining the store is relatively small: twenty cents per listing, plus a small percentage (around three percent) of each sale made.”
In 2009, the couple began selling their jewelry under the name Marks Designs, through Paul Labreque salon in Manhattan (where Stephanie Marks is currently a manager on maternity leave). The buyer at Paul Labrecque first saw the Marks couple’s handmade jewelry on Stephanie when she came to work one day. After reviewing her Etsy shop, the buyer agreed to set up an official meeting to discuss consigning some pieces.
In 2009, Juda Leah Selkowitz, proprietor of Juda Leah Atelier & Boutique, introduced her hair and neck accessories on the site. At the same time, her wholesale business was already taking off, completely unrelated to her Etsy shop. Selkowitz says the brick-and-mortar store came together with little help from Etsy, though she continues to sell select bridal accessories in her Etsy store today.
Though their Etsy shop sales are a fraction of what the full-time Etsy sellers bring in, these micro-shops continue to fuel the larger-operation businesses they first inspired — often in unexpected ways.
Connecting with Saugerties customers and out-of-towners
Alicia Stang said her loyal customers check her Etsy shop weekly. Oftentimes customers will see something they like online and visit the shop to check it out in person. Tourists who visit the shop sometimes buy from the Etsy store when they return home.
For Selkowitz, Etsy has brought in some local traffic, and in-store customers have later found themselves on Etsy. But, she says, for custom orders she encourages shoppers to private-message her, instead of using Etsy as a catalogue or point-of-sale.
The Marks couple says most of their sales have been in-store, at Paul Labrecque salon in Manhattan (under the brand Marks Designs), as well as the now defunct Sugartown Vintage Boutique, formerly of Partition St. in Saugerties. For them, Etsy hasn’t particularly encouraged their in-store sales, but rather the reverse – Hudson Valley friends have helped promote their Etsy store. Notes Adam Marks, “word-of-mouth is invaluable to us. Our friends and family in the Saugerties area hand out business cards, show off our jewelry, and talk to their friends and customers about what we do.” Another thing the Marks couple does to help promote their brand locally is the use of “Woodstock” in WoodstockNYC, which has helped attract web-users searching for the nearby tourist town.
Similarly, Rayann Fatizzi notes that Etsy is high in Google ranking, meaning that Etsy pages show up nearest the top of Google search results. For that reason, she uses her name in the title of her Etsy shop (Rayann’s Vintage, formerly Rayann’s Creative Instinct). She says that it helps that there aren’t many Rayann’s. Moreover, she hopes this helps past business contacts, folks she has worked with at some time during her impressive 25-plus-year career in vintage, reach out to her again with ease.