Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Hello, there, my name is Sophia.’The Retroscope’ is my third shop on Etsy and I truly love it. It is a Greek shop of vintage goods and curios. I started my vintage Etsy shop after really admiring some lovely vintage shops on Etsy. I had so many treasures accumulated over the years and wished I could find new homes for them. I run my vintage shop with husband Andreas, whose name appears on the shop front. For me, vintage can be a show stopper, a prized collection that we love and come back to, things with so many stories to tell. I have included a few handmade things from our other, Etsy shops in ‘The Retroscope’s collection for variety.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I found out about Etsy on Facebook around the year 2010. I had a lot of selling experience from our local art gallery, but little experience of selling on line. We started our handmade Etsy shops in 2012, ‘ArktosArt’ and ‘Arktos Collectibles’, but both of those sell some vintage as well.
What products do you sell, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
In my vintage shop ‘The Retroscope’ I sell mostly Greek vintage housewares, vintage decorative, pottery, toys, collectibles, accessories, and clothes, a lot of jewelry, too. I have accumulated a lot of books and ephemera too, I would like to include in my shop collection, but have never had the time yet.
How was your experience in learning to craft, are you self-taught or did you have a mentor, how long did it take for you to be satisfied with your creations?
In learning to sell vintage, to curate for vintage items, and present them in a favorable light, I just followed my gut instinct. I also looked at the successful, beautifully presented, Etsy shops for inspiration and guidance. But in selling Greek vintage there is always a particular story to tell about the item sold. I had to make my own way and create my own vintage style.
What was your original goal when you opened up an Etsy shop? What impacted your decision to start selling online? Do you consider online selling as a side-job, full-time job, or extra income to pay for your hobby?
In starting an Etsy vintage shop my primary goal was to find new homes for my accumulated treasures. I had to create some empty space for the coming collections. There are always new items to be had in the local quaint, flee markets. When customers write back about how glad they are with their orders and about how they use my items, I get so moved and nostalgic also. I am so happy that an old thing has traveled so far to find a new loving owner. My vintage selling is still a side job, but I dream of a large local, vintage gallery with all my beautiful things on the shelves and racks. I have it pictured in my mind, one of my favorite daydreaming routines. The income from my vintage shop is not great yet, this small shop is still striving, but its collection is ever-growing and the world vintage trends are very favorable at the moment. I am hoping to do better in the future.
Did you have any fears or reservations before opening up your Etsy shop? Were you worried about profitability or product competitiveness? What are some concerns and questions you had before you got started? How did you overcome them?
On starting my vintage Etsy shop, The Retroscope, I did not have any fears, but a few reservations about having a compatible shop with some of the Etsy vintage giants. I am still ‘worried’ about profitability, but not losing faith either. I still have lots of questions about operating a vintage shop online and would love to get some help. Struggling, but firmly going on.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever think you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was the goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
I got my first vintage sale in a week or two. It was a vintage egg cutter from the eighties. I did not know what to expect about making a lot of sales or not, I just wanted to get started and hoped for the best outcome. Selling vintage from an overseas shop can have a lot of ups and downs. I seriously worry about showing up on search most of the time. Views can be scarce for some weeks and then pick up all of a sudden.
Do you have a job outside Etsy? If not, are you able to commit full-time to online selling? How does your typical day look like? How do you manage time?
Outside my three Etsy shops of handmade and vintage, I run an art gallery with my husband in Thessaloniki, Greece. We both make pottery, jewelry, art objects, accessories, a wide range of artworks and we also collaborate with many other, Greek artists. Time to really make is getting more and more valuable. Running the local shop and e-shops are so time-consuming. We almost always work in our free time, or late nights.
How does your manufacturing process look like for e.g. your best selling product? Do you create products ahead of the orders? Do you customize your products, if so how? What are the tools that you are using in the manufacturing process?
In my vintage collection, my best sellers are collectible, vehicle miniatures, wooden boxes, jewelry, etc. Items that I have a lot of stock in the shop. We can customize a lot of our handmade products. We make things wight clay, pottery items. We design and create our own jewelry and art objects, like clocks, cardholders, worry beads, etc.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Having a wide range of supplies helps make profitable products. Knowing what to buy and stock it too. Being an old shop helps too. In my vintage shop, I get a lot of ‘donations’ from friends. Old housewares and decoratives, unused old clothes, sunglasses, toys, etc. To price my items I usually have a general idea about their value. If not I do some Etsy search and look for some style items.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
When choosing a new item for my vintage collection, I very often see it in the new home it is going to, loved and cherished by its new owner. I also choose from memory. I remember so many things about living in the old days, in my old neighborhood, in my childhood and teenage and readily want to share that experience and memory. A single. an old forgotten thing can trigger a memory in an amazing way, it brings back moments and days of our old lives, I find that fascinating. Of course, nowadays the internet is a great tool, a tremendous experience in getting creative. From the ideas I collect in my head, I make rough sketches about how to create for my vintage collection, then proceed to actually curate my items. I really love this process.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
Almost all of our customers are abroad. Postage pricing is a standard post or express shipping. All customers find it quite satisfactory and competent. We also use free shipping for an array of products, usually small, or light items. Our vintage products arrive within a week or ten days overseas, but really sooner in Europe, where we are based. For packaging, we use recycled paper and bubble wrap, whenever available. We use many boxes, custom made, or recycled. We gift wrap very often and print cute cards with our customers’ messages to be included in the gift wrapping if they so ask.
Are you worried about competitors? Does it impact your business in any way? If there are a lot of similar products, how do you make your own stand out?
Worrying about the competition will not make my shop more successful. I try to do my job in the best way possible. Of course, it does not mean I do not worry about the competition at all and not look at competitors’ shops. There are so many amazing shops around! To make our products stand out we use carefully curating and listing. We stock a few rare things, we tell their unique story. We always strive for the best customer service. We love hearing from our customers. We always try to meet their demand.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
As said above, we invest in careful curating and listing. We stock a few rare things, we tell their unique story. We always strive for the best customer service. We love hearing from our customers. We always try to meet their demand. We bring the customer’s attention to flaws, etc. in used vintage. It is a delicate category anyway. We make sure our customers understand what they are getting. It appears a lot of them have done the research and know what they are looking for. Very careful wrapping and packaging also help tremendously in online selling, a handwritten note, etc.
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever think you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed about dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Selling on Etsy changed my lifestyle so much. I spend half the day in front of the computer now. I have a very clear idea about selling online. I have not gotten very far in my vintage shop, but truly love it and want to go on. I take a few steps at a time and am grateful. I work as hard as I can. I try to meet deadlines and keep customers happy. To send them exactly what they shopped for. Talk about the way they want their item and try to send them exactly that.
How important is social media for your shop? What are some common tactics you use to promote your products? Do you spend money on ads outside of Etsy? How do you generate excitement/hype around your products?
I can’t really say I have made social media work for me so much. That appears to be another round the clock job. I use Instagram a lot, which I love, and have gotten a few sales from posting there. Our shop advertises with Etsy adds too and on ads outside of Etsy. Not a great sum, but a steady one.
What are some things you don’t like about Etsy? If you could talk to the CEO of Etsy what recommendations would you tell him to improve sellers and customer satisfaction?
In my vintage shop getting views is my ongoing, number one problem. Some days are quite dead. Very often we have fewer than 50 views. Our other two, Etsy shops are doing quite well, but my darling vintage shop seems to be dragging its feet some days. I do wonder why and would really like to find some expert knowledgable on selling vintage online and on Etsy. Also, Etsy keeps making changes that make overseas shops unseen, as if the Etsy site is down, or closed.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
It seems I am still learning the hard way. I am still looking for success. It comes maybe with more sales. Sometimes nothing seems to be working, even though ads are running, new things are duly listed, etc. Nothing works. But I just feel I have to keep going. My love of selling vintage is greater than that and urges me to find a way out.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
My piece of advice is to keep working and striving for more success. Keep the shop relevant and beautiful, always stocked. Provide excellent customer service. It is what stays and customers remember at the end of the day. I guess beginner mistakes will be made in the best of shops and the best-prepared ones too. There are always things that pop up that no one had thought to tell you about.
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
I want to thank Etsy for providing such a beautiful environment for an online shop and a user-friendly shop for sellers and customers alike. I wish Etsy will value its vintage sellers more and help them more in the future.