Etsy is helping its most popular artisans reach a bigger pool of shoppers.
The online selling platform last week announced new retail partnerships with major companies including Whole Foods and Macy's.
Etsy introduced an initiative back in September to help its fast-growing sellers expand their businesses by connecting them with manufacturers. With these new partnerships, Etsy further aims to help its sellers find their footing at scale.
Retailers that agree to the partnerships would give certain preferential treatment to Etsy's sellers -- basically the big companies agree to help ease the Etsy sellers into what is normally a fairly complicated process and defray some of the costs of partnering with a big chain.
According to Etsy's blog post on the initiative:
For example, an independent designer is likely to be operating without a staff to oversee logistics, making it difficult for her to adhere to complex vendor compliance restrictions. Therefore, we’re asking our Retail Partners to provide a personal point of contact for questions that sellers may have as they get up-to-speed.
Since going public in April, Etsy has struggled a bit with the tensions between its roots as a platform for small, independent sellers hand-making goods, and the growth and scale that shareholders want to see out of a public company. It stuck to its guns in the initial public offering process, making a big effort to offer shares to retail investors based on the company's "commitments to running a values-led company and a business that focuses on shared success."
But since April, things have been tough. Etsy's share price is about $8.75, down significantly from its $16-a-share offering price (which soared to $30 a share the day of the IPO).
Back in June, Fortune writer Stephen Gandel noted the company seemed to be having some issues with its revenue model based on its first quarter results. Revenue grew by 44 percent (to $59 million), but the growth of revenue from actually selling stuff on Etsy.com slowed down.
"The big jump in revenue for Etsy came from selling services to people and small businesses who sell their stuff on Etsy’s website," writes Gandel. "But if sales of stuff on Etsy’s website are slowing, you would expect merchants would quickly see little benefit in paying for additional services from Etsy."
This specific critique makes Etsy's retail partnerships really interesting: Basically Gandel is saying that Etsy doesn't seem to be offering enough to its sellers to make them want to stick around -- or at least to keep new sellers flocking to the site.
The partnership plan offers a much bigger carrot for sellers. The site won't just make it easier to get your handmade goods into a local boutique, but some of the biggest retailers in the country.
That might just be enough to keep sellers interested.