A small wholesaler connects with Nordstrom via Etsy
April 13, 2015 02:19 PM
For Sandy Bahrich, an independent designer and wholesaler of greeting cards and items like decorative tins and guitar pick holders, selling to a major retail chain was once only a dream. Then she connected with Nordstrom.
Bahrich typically sells her products to retailers and consumers through her Firefly Notes online business on the retail and wholesale sections of Etsy.com, a marketplace operated by Etsy Inc. for products from artisans and businesses that wholesale products made by artisans. Through Etsy Wholesale, she was able to land a contract with Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc., the upscale retail chain, which is opening several stores in Canada.
Now the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Firefly Notes will soon have its products displayed clear across Canada in a new store Nordstrom recently opened in Ottawa, Ontario.
Selling Firefly Notes products in Nordstrom “is not only a winning situation for me as an artisan and entrepreneur, but I regard it as a victory for all Etsians,” Bahrich says. “To be able to marry a huge and fabulous retailer such as Nordstrom with small, independent designers is truly a testament to possibility.”
In 2013, Nordstrom signed on as a buyer at Etsy Wholesale, which lets retailers buy from select artisan suppliers that sell through the Etsy retail site on Etsy.com. Nordstrom promotes this as the “Etsy & Nordstrom Present” collection, which features Bahrich’s vintage tins, guitar pick holders and greeting cards in the At Home section of Nordstrom Ottawa. The Eastern Canada store is the first Nordstrom in Canada to spotlight Etsy items, a Nordstrom spokesman says. It will also showcase products acquired through Etsy from three other Canadian sellers, says Trisha Lepper, who managers retailer partnerships for Etsy.
“With a large-scale partner like Nordstrom, it gives us the opportunity to really work with them and empower our sellers to grow their business and be a part of wholesale,” Lepper says. “If our sellers succeed then we succeed. The awareness that comes with being stocked in-store at Nordstrom really drives a lot of growth for our sellers.”
Lepper says there are 1.2 million active shops on Etsy.com, and that “quite a few of them” are located in Canada. Etsy charges sellers a one-time fee of $100 to start selling on Etsy.com/wholesale, plus a per-transaction fee of 3.5%. Etsy is No. 24 in the 2015 Internet Retailer Top 500, which ranks companies by their annual web sales.
When Nordstrom Canada first approached Etsy about featuring local artisans’ goods in-store, the online marketplace put together a list of 100 or so Canadian men and women selling such home goods as ceramics, stationery and smaller knick-knacks on Etsy.com/wholesale.
From there, Nordstrom chose the four artists—Sandy Bahrich of Vancouver; Heather Dahl of Vancouver; Steve and Mel Trimble of Ontario; and Brenny Giovis of Toronto. The retailer then negotiated order size and payment directly with the artists. Bahrich declines to disclose the exact details of her contract with Nordstrom, but says the retailer placed a smaller, starter order for her nostalgic gifts.
“Nordstrom’s been a really amazing partner because they mentor these artisans on how to work with a retailer,” Lepper says.
Bahrich signed up for Etsy Wholesale about a year ago, and her first attempts were rejected. Etsy sent her a list of tips for how to improve her online store such as “improve your product photography.” In August 2014, when Etsy Wholesale came out of beta mode, Bahrich re-applied to the marketplace and was accepted. In the first three days Firefly Notes was featured on Etsy Wholesale, Bahrich processed two orders from retailers.
Now orders placed through Etsy Wholesale account for nearly half of all of Bahrich’s business-to-business transactions. The platform has allowed her to come in contact with retailers outside the Vancouver area, and Bahrich says the majority of her online B2B sales are to florists, mom-and-pop gift shops, and stationary stores located in the United States. Since signing up for Etsy Wholesale, Bahrich says her total revenue has doubled. The extra income has allowed the stay-at-home mom to contribute to the household expenses, while giving her the flexible schedule she needs to raise her 8-year-old son Kiefer and 10-year-old boy Finn.
“I’m driven by creativity and I like success,” Bahrich says. “Growing my Etsy shop, that drives me. And when people buy from me? That drives me further.”
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