Confirmed: Etsy Buys Artisanal Goods Seller Trunkt, Moves Into Wholesale

Etsy has become the go-to site for people looking for home-made crafts and vintage items from independent artisans — and for artisans wanting to sell them, and it now counts some 39 million monthly unique visitors, 13 million items and 800,000 storefronts within its virtual walls.

Now it looks like Etsy wants to expand into serving a new class of buyers and sellers: the company has bought Trunkt, which specializes in selling artisanal goods wholesale.

The announcement came in a very indirect way: Adam Brown, Etsy’s head of PR, noted it in a comment at the bottom of a post about Etsy on the Pando Daily blog.

He notes that Trunkt is effectively a one-person operation, and that the acquisition is “an investment in a really talented person who has a deep understanding of an area of business that impacts a number of our sellers.” Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This is not Etsy’s first acquisition but it is one of very few. In 2009, the company bought a digital advertising company Adtuitive, also for an undisclosed sum, and it also bought Etsy Lovers in 2011 but never seemed to have made that public. “Both were talent acquisitions at heart,” a spokesperson told me.

To date Etsy has raised some $51.7 million in funding, and most recently reported $62.8 million in sales for the month of March.

No official word yet on how Etsy will be leveraging Trunkt (“we have more details coming up about that soon,” Brown notes), but if you go to Trunkt, you’ll see that Etsy is already using it as a platform for its members who do offer wholesale products to sell them there. (Update below details more plans…)

The idea of offering wholesale, which presupposes the idea of mass production, hits a current bone of contention among Etsy sellers. Some of them have been getting increasingly upset over how the site is letting in more “artisanal” creators, who are in reality larger manufacturers rather than independents who make hand-made crafts. As Pando Daily points out, as the site continues to grow, it’s not surprising that the lines between homemade/independent and manufactured/made by machine are getting blurred and possibly harder to police.

So it comes as no surprise that one thing Etsy seems to want to make clear already is that buying Trunkt is not about Etsy selling out or becoming a platform for the kinds of big manufacturers that upset the business model for the independents who have become the lifeblood of Etsy’s existing marketplace.

“If and when we do pursue wholesale tools on Etsy, it will be in service of bringing new channels to existing Etsy sellers to meet their needs, not working with large manufacturers,” Brown says. Indeed, for some long-time Etsy sellers who do have the bandwidth to create items in quantity — even if it’s not Costco or Walmart quantities — the Trunkt move could be a great opening.

While Etsy has yet to comment officially — and we have reached out ourselves now, too, in case this is an elaborate hoax — some Etsy users have picked up on the Pando story and have started their own discussion thread on the Etsy site — with many a colorful response in the growing list of comments.

Update: Etsy’s official response, confirming the move into more wholesale services for its members, and that the Trunkt founder has started at Etsy as of today. Still no details about financial terms of the deal.

“Our acquisition of Trunkt is about exploring how we can better support the thousands of Etsy sellers (and buyers) already doing wholesale business on Etsy — and enabling many more who aspire to it. We’re really excited to start to deliver on a long-time request from our community. Wholesale does not presuppose mass production. Take a look at our Quit Your Day Job series or the sellers currently on the Trunkt platform, and you’ll see it that these are independent, creative artisans. It’s our mission to support those businesses and empower them to change the economy. Trunkt is built off our API and 95% of its sellers are on Etsy already, so it’s a logical fit. Dev Tandon [founder] has a really deep knowledge base and can start to lay out a roadmap for us. We’re really happy that he’s here for his first day at Etsy today, and we’ll be communicating more about it to our sellers soon.”