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When Abby Misbin got a request on Etsy to purchase one of her personally crafted cowboy hats from a person who said they were Beyoncé’s stylist, she believed it was a joke. Despite her doubts, in June of 2022, Misbin shipped out a unique Stetson hat decorated with over 5,000 mirrored discs, hoping the order was authentic. However, there was no response afterwards.
After eight months, Beyoncé revealed her Renaissance World Tour through an Instagram post. The promotional image featured the “Break My Soul” singer riding her disco horse, Reneigh, while adorned in a stunning diamond-encrusted leotard, extravagant jewelry, and a hat from Misbin’s brand. Within three hours, Misbin had her friends tag her business account, TrendingByAbby, in the comments, resulting in a flood of orders.
Misbin, speaking from Pennsylvania six weeks after the tour’s last show in Kansas City, remembers thinking that Beyoncé didn’t like the hat because she hadn’t seen it being worn. “I just pictured her saying, ‘I’m not wearing this.'” However, it turns out that Beyoncé did like the hat, and so did many of her fans who wanted to copy her style. As a result, Misbin’s sales increased from around two hats per week to 30. During the peak of the tour, she had to work long hours of 12 to 15 per day just to keep up with the high demand. Every night, she would find small pieces of glass in her hands from gluing thousands of individual mirror discs onto dozens of hats.
Misbin is just one of many Etsy sellers who earned small fortunes making unofficial merchandise for the Renaissance shows. Many of these small business owners spent the six-month duration of that tour at the singer’s whim – their day-to-day lives consumed by the various hues of silver that dominated the tour’s colour pallette – a nod to Beyoncé’s disco-themed album. But it’s been six weeks since the concerts came to an end and Beyoncé rode off into the darkness on Reneigh. The silver bubble has popped, leaving Misbin and her peers wondering: what now?
The proprietor of Everwind Creations in North Carolina, Erin Fritts, had her holographic hand-fans become a popular item among concert-goers. She recalls feeling under the control of Beyoncé during the tour from May to October. The singer had specific requests for her fans, which Fritts and other Etsy sellers had to be knowledgeable about. In September, for her birthday, Beyoncé encouraged her followers to dress up as “sparkling human disco balls” – prompting Fritts to get to work.
Initially, she conducted a study on the most popular keywords searched on Etsy: “Renaissance”, “silver”, and “hand-fan”. This was logical, as it was the height of summer and a crowded concert venue was sure to become hot and humid. Fritts also observed that Beyoncé prominently used a large hand-fan during her performance of the hit song “Heated” on tour. It seemed like the perfect opportunity.
During the duration of the tour, Fritts experienced a significant increase in orders from her fans, going from two per day to over 30. At a price of £26 each, the fans were bringing in over £800 daily. Fritts recalls that her Etsy sales suddenly skyrocketed during this time, prompting her to shift her focus from her digital marketing job to managing her Etsy shop full-time. She admits to working long hours and occasionally receiving help from her mother. She jokes, “I was at the mercy of Beyoncé. I had to keep up with whatever dress codes she posted online because who knows what she’ll tell her fans to wear next?”
After the music ended on October 1st, these Etsy sellers were met with an unwelcome reality. Fritts expressed her concern about a decrease in demand and even hoped for more tour dates to be added. She mourned the end of the tour and missed interacting with the Bey Hive. Her daily orders dropped to an average of three, with five being a good day. Fritts wonders if Beyonce will use hand-fans in her songs and make it a signature once again if she goes on tour again. It remains uncertain.
Anna Ferguson, the proprietor of OneLoveOneAnna on Etsy located in Atlanta, Georgia, has observed a similar decrease in sales for her disco ball earrings following both the Renaissance and Taylor Swift’s massive Eras tours, which is currently on hiatus. In addition to online transactions, Ferguson used to frequent hotel lobbies near arenas to sell her handcrafted jewelry to fans staying there. “I strolled around the hotel in Atlanta with my earrings and a sign, and within five minutes I had earned hundreds of dollars,” she recalls. The following weekend, Ferguson continued her sales at the Nashville tour stop and earned $2,000 in just 24 hours. “The tours were a huge turning point for my sales. I’ve been riding the wave of these crazy world tours ever since.”
Ferguson is currently adjusting to a world after the tour. She notes, “Sales are coming in slowly, but it’s not comparable to what I experienced during the tour.” This weekend, she plans to participate in a Tay-Gate party (unofficial concert events organized for Taylor Swift fans). Additionally, she is anticipating the release of the Renaissance tour movie on December 1st, as she is hopeful for another surge in Beyoncé-related purchases. One example of such an item is her disco ball earrings featuring Queen Bey’s face. She states, “During the tour, I was able to meet everyone’s last-minute accessory needs – I just hope I can do that again.”
According to Misbin, the conclusion of the tour has a mix of emotions. She expresses, “Business is not as prosperous as it used to be. I don’t have as many opportunities, but I am grateful to have had them in the beginning.” During her prime, she was able to sell 30 hats per week. However, now if she sells 10, it is considered a success. Misbin has also observed numerous imitations of her hat being sold online for a lower price. “Fortunately, I am still able to work full-time, but I have noticed other companies copying my design with varying quality,” she reveals. When she was at her busiest, she was advised to outsource to a factory, but she refused to compromise on the quality. “I would not feel right paying someone minimal wages to create what I make,” she explains. “It is unimaginable for someone to be paid less than me.”
After Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour concluded, Live Nation, the company selling tickets, reported earnings of over $500 million ($579m) from 56 concerts attended by approximately 2.7 million fans. Some fans may have turned to Amazon or fast-fashion websites to purchase silver, disco-inspired outfits, but many chose to support independent sellers. Independent seller Misbin is currently keeping a close eye on upcoming trends. With the holiday season approaching and the release of the Renaissance tour movie, she hopes her sales will continue to thrive before the end of the year. Misbin reflects on the possibility of missing out on this opportunity if she had closed her store two years ago. Despite slower sales, she plans to keep her store open and weather the storm.