As Amazon’s quest to control every aspect of modern commerce marches forth, the mega retailer has a new target in sight: Etsy.
Early Thursday, Amazon launched Handmade, an online marketplace for artists and craftspeople. A perusal of Handmade showed many of the same arts and crafts you’d find on Etsy: “Namaste, Y’all” prints, $90 mug sets, salvaged horseshoes dipped in paint, driftwood wall-hangings. You know, the essentials.
The new site, Amazon said, will have an entirely different feel from the rest of its empire.
“You can think of it as a factory-free zone, a mass-produced-free zone,” said Peter Faricy, the Amazon vice president who is overseeing Handmade.
“For the first time on Amazon, we’re going to have a picture of the artist, a little icon of what state they’re from, what country they’re from,” he said in an interview. “We’re going to launch with an experience that’s very different. Customers are going to see the difference.”
The only difference I saw was more birds on things, but how scared should Etsy be that Amazon is jumping on the twee train? Pretty damn scared. Despite recent bad press about the company’s less-than-friendly working conditions and corporate culture, Amazon has surpassed Walmart as the world’s largest retailer, and has annual sales of $75 billion. Of course, this comes at the cost of small businesses: Amazon doesn’t just offer deep discounts; it also neglects to charge sales tax in almost 20 states, undercutting brick-and-mortar shops even further.
Despite what would seem like an inherent conflict between handmade and giant-mom-and-pop-murdering-corporate-behemoth, artists themselves may start jumping ship from Etsy — or at least dividing their wares between the two venues. While Amazon’s cut of sales is higher (12 percent to Etsy’s 3.5 percent), its vast customer base could open up whole new markets to artists. “Amazon has all the capabilities they need to make their program a big success. They have all the marketing power in the world, and they’re already so global,” Dani Marie, author of The Handmade Entrepreneur, told the Times.
While the convenience of Amazon is undisputed — who doesn’t want to forgo pants and do all your shopping from the comfort of your phone? — this latest venture is another reminder that Amazon is just too damn big. The “everything store” is becoming literal: The company now provides everything from grocery delivery to original television programming to home services. Need someone to hang that artisanal, handcrafted dream catcher you ordered from Amazon? Well, guess what — Amazon does that too. What’s next — Amazon Healthcare? Amazon College? Amazon Congress? Will we someday be living in the United States of Amazon??? Crazier things have happened. Like, for instance, $500 for a handmade wooden spoon set — direct, of course, from Amazon.