Etsy (ETSY) and I go way back. My first purchase from the online crafts marketplace was a set of personalized aprons to give as a gift that I bought back in 2010. Since then I’ve purchased baby blankets, Christmas ornaments, a ton of custom invitations, art prints and more. It has been a great source of unique gifts. I knew the appeal of the site, so I was not surprised when there started to be some buzz about it going public a few years ago.
That buzz turned into a hugely successful public offering on April 16th of this year. Etsy stock debuted at $16 a share, and quickly rose to $31. That was only a couple of months ago, but it seems like ancient history now. As of this morning, Etsy’s stock was trading around $17, boosted the news that the Tiger Global Management had increased its stake in Etsy to 8.9 percent as compared to it previous 7.3 percent. Prior to that, however, it had slumped to under its initial IPO price, and was in the view of this article from Fortune, ‘’the worst performing IPO of 2015’.
So why no love for the site the sells handcrafted-with-love goods? Well, the company’s financial results have been disappointing for sure. True, revenue in the first quarter was up by 44 percent, but that came through selling services to its crafters, rather than through them selling their goods. That does not sound sustainable. As well, Etsy’s expenses were up by 72 percent over the period. As Fortune says, Etsy’s stock is trading at 8 times its sales, which may be overblown particularly since Amazon (which trades at 4 times sales) is launching a site called Amazon Handmade soon.
I’m curious about Amazon Handmade, but I’d also like Etsy to succeed. I still think it’s a great site, but I’m in agreement with those who say that its expanded too much, too fast. A couple of years ago it went from only selling handmade things to basically selling anything at all. You can still get an aqua tulle baby headband made by a lady in Texas for $3.49, but as well you can order a vintage 1950s prom dress (very pretty and a steal at $256) or, most troubling to some, 250 organza bags for $43. Basically if Ebay has it, Etsy probably does too.
Regarding the organza bags (you use them to package wedding or party favors, in case you were wondering), it’s not the price of them that is the trouble to many, it is that they come from a factory in China rather than from someone’s living room and do not represent any kind of cottage industry at all. That is kind of an ethics thing for a site that calls itself a crafters marketplace, but it is also indicative that Etsy is just too crowded these days. You can still find great stuff, but you have to work a lot harder to track it down.
Whether the stock price gets back on an upward trend will depend on a lot of things, including whether they can sell enough cheap favor bags over the next couple of years. Or, they could return to their roots and try to move more headbands. Any strategy will have to be thought out carefully though, given that the both the markets for crafts and the market for stocks are fickle ones.