How StampSupplies got started
Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?
My shop is StampSupplies, which specializes in selling British postage stamps and a few other related items to collectors. I sell mint and used Great Britain stamps from the 1840 Penny Black (no, they are not worth a fortune) right through to recent issues, first day covers, and Channel Island stamps. I also sell paper ephemera (basically items produced to be used for a short while then discarded, like newspapers or bus tickets). The ephemera I sell is mostly Victorian letters, envelopes, and documents, which people find very interesting.
I have always collected British stamps and have bought and sold them for many years, both full-time and part-time. After I retired, I decided to start selling again. I thought Ebay was too crowded, so I tried Amazon for three months and sold hardly any; then someone recommended Etsy, and I am still here five years later.
My basic line of mint commemorative stamps I buy at a trade discount from a large stamp dealer. The rest—older used stamps, first-day covers, ephemera, etc.—I buy from stamp auctions. There are no such auctions near me, so I cannot view the lots and have to rely on catalog descriptions. So it is quite exciting when the boxes arrive to see what I have actually bought. I know what the main items are that I have bid on, but there are often extras included that someone wanted to get rid of, which can be very interesting. One such lot I had was 30 sheets of legal documents, all printed and written in Arabic and signed with an inked thumb print. I split them into three lots for selling. One of the purchasers, a lady in the United States, sent me a message to say how delighted she was with them. I messaged back to ask her what the documents were about, as I couldn’t read Arabic. She said, "Ha, ha, neither can I, but they look great."
What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?
One of my favorite stamps and my best seller is the single stamp commemorating the London 1980 stamp exhibition. Everywhere else it is described as "London 1980," but I describe it as "Britain’s largest ever postage stamp," and I am sure that is why I sell so many. Other popular stamps are the pair for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and the Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip silver wedding stamps. British royalty is always a steady seller, as are the many sets of Christmas stamps.
Getting sales on Etsy
How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?
It took two weeks before I got my first sale, and then the orders only trickled in, with just a few each month. I opened my shop with just 26 different items for sale. Later, I saw on the forum that someone was suggesting that sellers need about 150 items on offer in order to start getting reasonable sales. So I got a move on and started listing all the stock I had until I had over 200 items; then the sales started to increase. I now keep between 300 and 400 different items in stock. For me, the sales have always increased slowly and steadily. There have only been two occasions when I have suddenly been swamped with orders: the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the death of Queen Elizabeth in September 2022.
I don't work on the business all day every day because I'm supposed to be retired, so I don't do much to attract new customers. I don’t do any advertising or use social media. I am sure that would help if I did. I do try to keep my customers happy by only selling items in the finest condition, offering plenty of variety, dispatching orders the same day or next day, replying to messages the same day, and including a small free item with every order. Happy customers are returning customers.
How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?
I run the shop entirely on my own from home. As I am supposed to be retired, I didn’t have to work elsewhere for income while building up the shop's sales. I am fortunate that my shop is very easy to run. I have many thousands of items in stock, all sorted into different categories, yet it only takes up a few shelves in my bookcase and a few boxes of envelopes piled up under my desk. The only equipment I use is lots of stock books to store the stamps, first-day covers, and ephemera. I use several stamp catalogues for identifying and valuing difficult stamps, as well as magnifying glasses and various other philatelic tools. I like to be sure I have described every item correctly because most of my customers rely on that.
Everything I sell fits into an envelope; there are no parcels to pack; just pop it into the post box across the road. Because I am selling mostly to stamp collectors, they expect to see nice commemorative stamps on the envelope, not a printed label, so I don’t buy postage from Etsy; I bulk buy commemorative stamps for cheap postage. Because stamps are so small and light, I only make one small postage charge, so customers can order as many items as they like at no additional cost.
The future of StampSupplies
What goals do you have for your shop in the future?
I am happy to let it carry on the same way, just growing slowly and steadily.
Advice for new sellers
What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?
Make sure that you have filled in all the shop information on what you sell, about you, shop policies, contact details, etc. New customers don’t know you, so if they can read about you, they may feel reassured about buying from a stranger.
Open the shop with as much variety of stock as you can. It depends on what you are selling as to how many different items you need to have on offer to start getting reasonable sales, but I would say for most, they need over 100 different items. I have seen some start with only six items and then complain that they have not sold anything. The customers need more choice. If you do not have a lot of stock to start with, build it up as quickly as you can.
Don’t expect sales to take off straight away; it may take days or weeks to get your first sale.
Once you've started selling, be prepared to make changes to suit your customers' needs: focus on the lines that are selling well and drop or change those that aren't.
Make sure that every item you sell is fully described, has all the technical details listed, has as many clear photographs as are necessary to show every detail, and has all the tags. Then the customer knows exactly what they are getting, and you don’t get complaints.
Make sure your pricing is right. You don’t want to sell at a loss just to undercut your competitors. Remember to include the cost of the goods or materials, Etsy fees that are on your selling price, the shipping, the listing fee, the payment processing fee, the packaging materials to send the goods, and your time. My Etsy fees work out at 14% plus the 20 cent listing fee, not just the advertised rate of 6.5%