Etsy Sees Significant Platform Growth for Handmade and Vintage Goods in Canada: Interview

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Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade and vintage goods, sold more than $10 billion in goods in 2020, according to a new report from the company. 

In Canada, it said there are 199,000 active Etsy sellers as the company offers an on-ramp to creative entrepreneurship for many people who might not have otherwise started a business. In Canada, 50 per cent sold their goods for the first time on Etsy; 83 per cent are businesses of one; and 97 per cent operate their businesses from their homes.

“Etsy has long served as an on-ramp to entrepreneurship for creators, designers, and makers all over the world, allowing them the freedom and flexibility to work and build a business on their own terms. The importance of being able to build and grow a small business on Etsy was abundantly clear over the last year, amidst a global pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. Nearly two million new sellers turned to Etsy last year—bringing the total number of active sellers on Etsy at the end of 2020 to 4.4 million—looking for economic opportunity as well as personal fulfillment during challenging times,” said Chelsea Mozen, Etsy’s Director of Impact and Sustainability. 

ETSY Toronto (Image Toronto Etsy Street Team)

“2020 reinforced the notion that creative entrepreneurship can be a powerful force for good, providing income and jobs, driving local economic development, and helping to revitalize and bring hope to communities around the world. During 2021 and beyond, Etsy remains committed to supporting our community around the world.”

Chelsea Mozen

Company research indicates that for 28 per cent of these entrepreneurs, Etsy is their sole occupation. For the rest, it provides an important source of supplemental income –  with their creative business contributing 9.9 per cent of household income, on average. Four in 10 have financial dependents, including 22 per cent who have children at home and 35 per cent use income from their creative business to cover household expenses like bills, rent, and food.

Etsy said these businesses support local communities and the broader economy:

  • The majority (78 per cent) source their vendors and supplies domestically, if not in their own province (64 per cent), then in their own country (14 per cent). 
  • 17 per cent have help (both paid and unpaid), with most hiring fewer than five people; 
  • They contribute to the broader retail ecosystem, with the majority (52 per cent) selling their goods via other channels as well, including other online sales platforms, social media, craft fairs, or through retail stores; and
  • 56 per cent export their goods outside their home country.

“We found that the pandemic drove many to start creative businesses in a time of economic upheaval. Within Canada, 43 per cent of sellers who started their business in the past year did so due to COVID-19, and half cite financial challenges as prompting them to start their creative businesses,” said Mozen.

“Despite the challenges of 2020, Etsy offered stability and even growth for new and existing sellers: 69 per cent of sellers in Canada say their Etsy income has held steady, if not grown, since the start of the pandemic, while nine in 10 say the importance of Etsy income has stayed the same or increased.”

Half of all sellers cite financial challenges as prompting them to start their creative businesses, with loss of employment driving many (10 per cent job loss, 13 per cent unable to find work and seven per cent unable to work to care for a family member). 

The company said 31 per cent of Etsy sellers in Canada experienced income declines during the pandemic, yet only 13 per cent were able to access relief funds, adding that 21 per cent wanted to apply for relief funds, but were either unable to apply for them or unsure if they could.

Approximately 40 per cent of Etsy sellers globally with a sale had double the number of sales in 2020 versus 2019, and nearly three quarters of these sellers had quadruple the number of sales. On average, new sellers in 2020 received over two times more orders in the first 30 days after opening a shop compared to new sellers in 2019.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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