SEATTLE: Amazon has launched a new marketplace for handcrafted goods, in a move that positions the ecommerce giant to meet growing US demand for artisan products.

Its "Handmade at Amazon" website has six categories – home, jewellery, artwork, stationery and party supplies, kitchen and dining, baby products – and the company's venture into the niche market is seen as a direct challenge to Etsy. Amazon will offer more than 80,000 items from 60 countries.

New York-based Etsy has specialised in artisan wares for the past decade, but it has struggled with mounting costs and its 22m active customer base is just a fraction of Amazon's 285m, the New York Times reported.

In addition to its large customer base, Amazon is offering logistical support for vendors, allowing them to ship their products to one of the company's many fulfilment centres around the country.

These handmade products will then be eligible for shipping under Amazon's Prime service, which offers subscribers unlimited free shipping as part of their fee.

Amazon is not currently planning on charging a listing fee, but will take 12% of sales. By comparison, Etsy's business model involves a listings fee of 20 cents per item and 3.5% of sales.

"You can think of it as a factory-free zone, a mass produced-free zone," said Peter Faricy, the Amazon vice president in charge of Handmade.

"For the first time on Amazon, we're going to have a picture of the artist, a little icon of what state they're from, what country they're from," he added. "We're going to launch with an experience that's very different. Customers are going to see the difference."

Amazon's entry into the growing handmade goods market in the US has certainly enthused at least one leading industry practitioner, who said sellers will gain more traffic as a result of the move.

Commenting on the initiative, Dani Marie, chief executive of Handmade Seller magazine, said: "Amazon has all the capabilities they need to make their program a big success. They have all the marketing power in the world and they're already so global."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff