The Marketplace Boom   //   December 13, 2023

Challenger artisan platforms are trying to encroach on Etsy’s dominance

As Etsy sellers grapple with rising fees and pressure to advertise on the platform, a slew of new platforms have launched to lure them. 

In October Artisans Cooperative — a group of artists, Etsy sellers and makers who met through last year’s strike — launched its own alternative platform. This “co-op alternative to Etsy” is currently in its second beta phase, with over 70 shops and 1,200 listed items. In November, was launched by parent company Novica, a fair trade platform founded in 1999 that caters to artisans working in remote regions around the world. In November, retailer Michaels also launched its own e-commerce platform artisans, MakerPlace, promising free listings, discounts on bulk purchases and 6% cash back on supplies purchased at Michaels. 

Competing with Etsy is nothing new, even Amazon launched its own artisan marketplace back in 2015. But strict seller requirements and high fees prevented Amazon Handmade to grow as quickly as Etsy.

Despite all the changes Etsy has made to the platform in recent years, sellers acknowledge its vast audience and marketing tools are still unmatched. As of 2023, Etsy has over six million active sellers, with over 100 million active buyers worldwide. Much of the company’s revenue growth is being fueled by its ad business, which grew 16% over last year according to its latest quarterly report.  

Even though Etsy clearly remains the dominant player, a new class of marketplaces remain optimistic that offering sellers more ethical sales models will help lure them away. 

Handmade founder and CEO Roberto Milk told Modern Retail the platform was built specifically for artisans selling handmade goods, and prohibits mass-produced products and listings by dropshippers. “We’re not anti-machine, we’re anti-factory,” he said. Handmade currently has 3,000 sellers, mostly located around international Novica artisan hubs in regions like The Andes, Armenia and India. The marketplace debuted with 50,000 handmade items. “We’re starting to onboard U.S. sellers around the world.” 

While the definition of “handmade” can be subjective, it will be qualified by the Handmade Corps and “village council,” a 15-person U.N.-like body made up of elected master artisans, along with two representatives from and one representative from an international museum organization. According to the company, sellers can also volunteer or be nominated for election. The idea behind the council, Milk said, is to give sellers more say in how Handmade operates and help guide future policies. 

Milk said the current exodus from Etsy is akin to when eBay began losing sellers to other platforms following its peak in the early 2000s. According to news reports over the years, some of this exodus in the past has been attributed to a mix of bad management, spinoffs of segments like its enterprise business and, finally, the eventual rise of Amazon.

But mainly, Milk said “they were so corporate and weren’t listening to the sellers, and that feels like the vibe right now on Etsy.”  

Handmade’s application process will also rely heavily on referrals from, with sellers able to invite five other sellers each month. The company looks at sellers reviews on their other marketplace storefronts and merchandising strategy.’s fee structure, unlike Michaels MakerPlace, is not trying to undercut Etsy’s rates. Currently Handmade takes 9.9% of the total sale plus $1.95, along with a credit card fee of 3% plus $0.49. The monthly store fee is $3 per month following a year-long free trial. Listing is free for the seller’s first 50 items, and $.15 per product after that. (Etsy’s current listing fee is $0.20 per item, and transaction fees are 6.5% per sale.)

Milk said the higher fee structure is intentional, as it’s “higher than Etsy’s but lower than Amazon’s.” But the platform has plans to reduce the rates as it grows. When artisan-generated sales hit $1 billion, Handmade is reducing fees by 10%. Currently, sales made by artisans sit at $130 million. The platform also offers share-and-earn, a kickback program similar to Etsy’s recently-launched Share & Save – which earns sellers cash back from sales generated through their social media traffic.  

As for the marketing strategy, Milk said that’s the biggest challenge for sellers trying new platforms. “A lot of people are trying to create their own stores, like Shopify stores and realize it’s hard to get traffic to it,” he said. “We’ve already done that with Novica and are at $30 million sales a year,” Milk said. “So we know how to do it, and with we’re going to ramp it up really fast.” 

Handmade, however, isn’t the only upstart platform trying to compete with Etsy.

At the time of its launch, an Artisans Cooperative spokesperson told Modern Retail the co-op has “one simple sales commission,” no listing fees, regulatory fees, or offsite ad fees. “We’re a member-owned cooperative building a better online handmade marketplace. We’ve raised $50,000 from memberships, have 200 members, and a waitlist of hundreds. We’ll have no listing fees and a simple transparent sales commission,” the spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, crafts retailer Michaels is approaching the model from the opposite end of the spectrum. When launching MakerPlace, the company announced its transaction fees will be as low as 0% on Professional account holders and 4% for Basic members. Michaels also offers sellers the ability to earn revenue by teaching classes and perks like discounts at Michaels stores.

With frustrations mounting, some sellers are opting to test other platforms. One current Etsy seller, who asked to remain anonymous, said she’s planning to try new marketplaces in the coming months — such as the one launched by Michaels — to see whether it’s worth investing in long term. The trial is relatively low-risk, given the free intro trials the retailer is offering to new merchants. “Since there isn’t a listing fee, I will give it a try when I launch,” the seller said.

So far, the Etsy merchant said, “I only see sellers being active on there, not customers,” she said, noting that the platform still doesn’t have enough ratings and reviews to judge how customers are responding. “But since there isn’t a listing fee, I will give it a try.”

Still, Etsy’s history and overall audience give it an advantage over these newly-launched players. 

Brandon Timothy, an owner of multiple Etsy shops, recently began teaching an online course to train Etsy merchants on store strategy and marketing through his Digital Freedom Academy course. Timothy explained that if a seller has their robust audience, they’re better off testing a platform with cheaper transaction fees and driving their own traffic there. “But if you don’t have that and want to apply SEO and other tools in the marketplace, then Etsy is the best place to do it,” he said. “Because that’s where the traffic is.”   

“I don’t know what the future will bring, someone could very well build a big competing platform,” Timothy said, but it will be difficult to catch up to nearly two decades of Etsy’s growth and brand recognition. 

Handmade’s Milk said that in order to compete with Etsy, the platform has to offer unique artisan-created merchandise geared at a strong customer base that understands its value. For Milk, there has yet to be a big enough marketplace that offers those value propositions. “That’s probably why a real Etsy competitor hasn’t been created yet, and we’re probably one of the biggest because we have the logistics and technology already.” 

This story has been updated to clarify a quote from Roberto Milk.