Retail

'Personalized gifts' is the No. 1 search term on Etsy this year, CEO says


The most-searched term on e-commerce site Etsy this year is “personalized gifts,” CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC on Monday.

It is even more popular than queries for masks, a category that was virtually nonexistent on Etsy this year before the coronavirus pandemic caused a boom in sales, Silverman said in a “Closing Bell” interview. In the second and third quarters alone, Etsy sold more than $600 million in face masks, he added.

Even so, interest in personalized gifts on the marketplace of independent sellers superseded all else in 2020, as the global health crisis moved birthday celebrations to Zoom and upended traditional holiday gatherings. The pandemic-fueled interest in meaningful gifts is showing up elsewhere, too, such as on Pinterest.

“Large [online retailers] like Amazon are great to buy things that are very cheap and arrive very fast, and you use them and you’ve forgotten about them two seconds later and then they’re in a landfill,” Silverman said. “I think there’s always a need for things that are going to be cheap and arrive fast, but more and more I think people want an alternative to that, when they want that product to mean something to them, when they want it to feel special, and those occasions happen all the time.”

Etsy has had a big year in general, part of a broader surge in e-commerce spending as people stayed at home during the Covid-19 crisis. Gross merchandise sales on Etsy grew 101% in the first nine months of the year compared with the same time period in 2019. And on Monday, the stock posted another all-time high, hitting $164.64 apiece during the session. Shares are up about 260% year to date.

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There have been questions raised about the sustainability of Etsy’s increased popularity, but Silverman expressed confidence that shoppers who discovered the company during the pandemic will stick around. He pointed to the strength in sales for items such as jewelry and home furnishings “and, of course, things like personalized gifts for the holidays.”

“These are things you’re going to need every year, in a pandemic, not in a pandemic, and I think what people are discovering is there’s just a better way to shop,” said Silverman, a former executive at eBay and CEO of Skype. “Connecting with the actual person who made the product and having it sent just to you is just a better way to shop.”



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