Amazon takes on Etsy with a new shop featuring handcrafted items for weddings

Amazon this morning staked another claim in the billion-dollar wedding industry with the launch of a new Wedding Shop dedicated to sales of handcrafted items, including décor, invitations, gifts, jewelry, accessories and more. The shop is an offshoot from the retailer’s less than two-year old Etsy competitor, Handmade at Amazon, which aims to offer the same sort of original, artisan-designed products people have come to expect from the rival crafts marketplace.

It’s not surprising to see Amazon doubling down on the $300 billion wedding industry – an area of its business where it’s invested in the past, including with last year’s revamp of its online wedding registry, which now includes gift ideas, gift-giver tracking, an 180-day return policy, and support for adding products from other retailers’ websites.

With Handmade’s new Wedding shop, Amazon is aiming for customers who are in search of more personalized, one-of-kind items – the kind of things they made have otherwise turned to Etsy for, if shopping online.

The move also comes at a time when Etsy itself is coming under pressure to reduce its spending, grow sales, and generally start acting like a conventional, shareholder-focused company, Bloomberg recently reported.

That includes tackling the looming threat that’s Amazon’s foray into the “handmade” business. While some Etsy sellers declined to participate on Amazon’s online shop out of principle, others found that staying with Etsy has limited their growth. Meanwhile, the lines between Etsy and more traditional retail are blurring now that the crafts marketplace has permitted some mass-produced goods on its site. The case to be made to these sellers now is – if you have to share virtual shelf space next to manufactured goods, why not do it on Amazon where you’ll get more traffic and the potential to scale your business?

With the new Wedding Shop, Amazon is breaking out a particular segment of the weddings industry and giving its own destination on its site.

The new storefront features venue and reception décor (like signs, table decorations, candles, confetti, etc.), invitations and other paper products, handmade jewelry, bridal and groom fashion accessories (hair accessories, hats, veils, sashes, handbags, garters, ties, cufflinks, etc.), and gifts and mementos for the wedding party.

A focus on wedding items also make sense in terms of the bottom line. Because they’re emotional purchases, not practical ones, consumers often tolerate spending more. Retailers typically cater to this sentiment by hiking prices on their end, knowing that shoppers will pay. For example, a recent study found that retailers were charging 3.9 times more for items marked as “wedding dresses,” compared with dresses than were comparable in style, but not marketed as bridal attire. Similarly, bridesmaids dresses were marked up 1.8 times.

The same price manipulation could apply to other wedding-related items, and adding “handmade” the equation, could potentially increase prices more. However, a quick browse of Amazon’s shop finds that a number of the items listed are not heavily all that pricey – while you might find a $400 veil, for example, it’s listed alongside a $45 alternative or under $20 headpieces, like barrettes and combs.

In fact, of the tens of thousands of products on the new site, the category with the most items (31,811 items at launch) is the “under $25” grouping.

Amazon says the new Wedding Shop is only available in the U.S. – a country that accounts for $55 billion of the industry’s overall market share – but it can be shopped by customers worldwide, by visiting the U.S. Amazon site.

Shares of Amazon were up 0.4 percent in pre-market trading on Tuesday; Etsy stock was unchanged.