There’s a new flea market in town — well, on the Internet.
Amazon’s differentiator: the store is open only to artisans making hand-crafted items.
(Unbeknownst to us casual online shoppers with a penchant for screen prints: in 2013, Etsy began allowing sellers to use some outside manufacturers, causing a schism between the DIY-ers and the DI-semi-Y-ers, both on the buying and selling ends.)
Anyhow, now Handmade is here, and the goal is to live up to its namesake and ostensibly get a cut of the organic, artisanal, hand-latticed, metaphorical Etsy crafting-vendor pie.
So, how does Handmade match up with Etsy? In my shopping experience, it’s just completely different. To exemplify the disparate shopping experiences, my editor gave me the (not at all personal or self-serving) mission: “look for items for a 3-year-old boy’s birthday named Linus who likes dump trucks, too.”
First stop: Handmade by Amazon
Search term: “Dump trucks”
Search results: 21 items
OK, there are some cute options. There are stickers, water bottle labels, invitations and table-topper centerpieces, for appropriately handmade (read: steep) prices. Let’s just hope this kid isn’t picky because the selection ain’t great.
But scroll down, and look! Ah, there’s the Amazon we know — 21,984 hits for “dump trucks” in “All Departments.” But these products are from big companies – Caterpillar and Toystate and Tonka and basically the antithesis of Handmade’s mission, all a bit too close for comfort. Amazon makes it very simple for users to leap from artisan products right back to the other big brands it relies on to make revenue. As I was scrolling, I didn’t even notice I wasn’t browsing Handmade anymore.
So say Linus is really into Thomas the Tank Engine, and not dump trucks, is a pretty safe bet considering every 3-year-old I’ve ever encountered loves that talking train. Anyways, Handmade is not the place to find branded stuff. At all. But… Amazon is! When I got no hits within Handmade, I was immediately directed to the broader, factory-generated marketplace again.
Second stop: Etsy
Search term: “Dump trucks”
Search results: 7,688
There are A LOT of options. Many of them look a bit less DIY than the Handmade dump truck party supplies, though. I’d reckon most are manufactured outside a particular artisan’s home or studio. However, these certainly are not big-company fueled. Instead, the top featured stores are “ThePintableOccasion,” “DazzleDesignGraphics” and “zoeysattic.” It’s like the in-between of Handmade and regular Amazon, with a selection worthy of a company that’s been in business for 10 years. Of note: from Etsy’s browsing view, there’s no clear way to tell how or where exactly any of these products were made.
If you’re looking for offbeat, off-brand items, Etsy still seems to be the best destination. However, if you genuinely care that your products were handmade and not manufactured — and are willing to give up selection for that — Handmade may be the place for you.
(And same goes with Thomas the Tank Engine options. There sure are a lot of products here.)
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