A Wild Ride for Etsy in 2017: Success and Sacrifice

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Investors are breathing a sigh of relief as Etsy (NASDAQ: ETSY) stock has surged over 60% year to date, clawing back roughly half of its share price losses since its IPO in the spring of 2015.

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In this segment, our Motley Fool Industry Focus: Consumer Goods team takes a look at the company's turnaround. Find out why Etsy is performing better, and what it's had to give up in order to do so.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Dec. 5, 2017.

Vincent Shen: Asit, last time that we spoke about Etsy, it was in the context of increasing consumer customization and that trend in the industry. Listeners, if you've never shopped with Etsy, if you're not as familiar with the name, this is an online marketplace that pairs the company's 1.9 million sellers of handmade and artisan style goods with more than 30 million buyers. The company makes money by charging sellers transaction fees on items that they sell in the marketplace, as well as additional fees for services like payment processing, shipping, and promotion. Revenue in the last year came in at $415 million. The stock has only been trading publicly for about 2.5 years. For most of that period, returns were poor, and the stock traded below its initial offering price. But year-to-date, the stock is now up over 50%. If we work our way from the beginning of the year, there's been some big changes at Etsy that I think contributed to the very bullish rally. That included some leadership changes, some layoffs and changes in terms of the organizational structure. What happened, Asit?

Asit Sharma: In May of this year, a board member, Josh Silverman, was appointed CEO. The current CEO who had shepherded the company through its IPO process, and who was the former CTO, chief technical officer, Chad Dickerson, had to resign. At the same time, on the same day, the company laid off over 100 employees, and has had at least one round since then. Chad Dickerson represented the best aspirations of Etsy. The company was a certified B Corp, business corp, which is a really hard certification that points to a sustainable business ethos. Patagoniahas the same certification. It was known to be an extremely accommodating work environment, and it was a company that proposed to change the world.

When Etsy went public, they wanted to both make money on the bottom line but push for social justice and sustainable goods and sustainable trade. The problem was, the company was spending a lot of money on marketing to increase its gross merchandise sales, the volume of business that Etsy takes a slice off of each transaction. Silverman, who was the board member I mentioned, was one of the people who was consistently questioning Etsy's business practices and its viability as an ongoing concern if you look over long-term horizons.

He was appointed in May, and since then, just look at the most recent quarter, the company has increased the gross merchandise sales 13% to $766 million. Revenue was up 22% to $106 million this quarter vs. the prior year. Etsy had a net income of $26 million in its most recent quarter vs. a prior year loss of $2 million. So it's had positive change out of the gates since May. The question for some investors who wanted to both profit from the stock and participate in this feel-good story is, has the original mission of Etsy been lost, and is it now more of a corporate-style entity.

Asit Sharma has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Vincent Shen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Etsy. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.