Taylor Swift friendship bracelet trend has Etsy shop owners cashing in

BySamantha Murphy Kelly
Tuesday, August 8, 2023
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Jamie Tompkins works full-time as an events manager in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but stays up well past midnight to work on her budding side hustle: making friendship bracelets for Taylor Swift concertgoers.

The 46-year-old mother said she sold over 5,000 Taylor Swift-themed friendship bracelets on her Etsy shop this summer, bringing in about $16,000 in sales. "There were weeks that making bracelets paid more than my full time job," Tompkins told CNN.

She is part of a group of Etsy shop owners who are selling Swift-themed bracelets for serious cash. Tompkins said she got the idea to sell them on her store, Pigtails and Pixidust, after she was left with dozens of bracelets she didn't get to give away at the Taylor Swift concert in Arlington, Texas, earlier this year. Her daughter suggested listing them on her Etsy shop, which typically sells hairbows and headbands for babies and toddlers.

"The Eras tour has made my business," said Tompkins, who sells a 5-pack for $15. "I had very minimal sales before Taylor Swift friendship bracelets were a trend."

Now she's saving her earnings to quit her job and focus on running her Etsy shop full time. "I will continue to make them as long as people want them."

Swift will wrap up the first part of her US-based "Eras" leg this week in Los Angeles and head to several more cities this fall, before performing internationally next year.

The tradition of trading friendship bracelets at her concerts is inspired by the lyrics on her song "You're on Your Own, Kid" from her most recent album "Midnights." Swift sings about making friendship bracelets as a way to connect with others on a shared experience: "Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned / Everything you lose is a step you take / So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it / You've got no reason to be afraid."

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Gladys Tamez has always had love for her craft and through "The Eras Tour," she's been able to witness that love be shared with so many young, deserving fans across the country.

Throughout the tour, fans have famously worn and traded personalized friendship bracelets, typically featuring the names of Swift songs and albums. Celebrities including Jennifer Garner, Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban have posed for pictures with dozens of bracelets on their arms. Kansas City chiefs' player Travis Kelce said he even made a play for Swift by attempting to give her a friendship bracelet with his phone number on it during one of her concerts.

The Common Sense Institute estimates the "Eras" tour could generate $4.6 billion in total consumer spending in the US, from ticket sales to hotels and restaurants.

More than just a hobby

One Etsy shop, KimbaSienaCo, is run by four friends who live in Massachusetts and Connecticut and use their business as a way to keep up on each other's lives. They started by making bracelets for the Eras show at Gillette Stadium in Boston that they attended and ended up listing the ones they didn't use on Etsy.

"We posted the listing on a Friday, and by Sunday morning, we already had over 250 bracelets on order," said Taylor Roberts, 28. "At first, we were staying up all night long trying to make sure our inventory kept up with demand and that they'd be shipped out on time. But it became a huge hobby for all of us. We all love Taylor Swift and have so much fun discussing bracelet ideas, song quotes, patterns and new beads."

Since May, she said they have sold 3,200 bracelets in assorted packs, from 5 and 10 up to 30, amounting to about $10,000. "We would tend to see an influx of orders to the cities she was playing in a few days prior to the shows. Now that we're on the final days of the first US leg, we've been expecting sales to slow down, but that hasn't been the case. There's still been orders coming in for birthdays, themed parties and international shows."

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Most recently, the group of four got together to celebrate Roberts' bachelorette party in Block Island, Rhode Island, where they spent hours making bracelets and shipping orders to keep up on demand.

"We each make anywhere between 10 - 30 bracelets a day and try to keep inventory at a minimum of 100 at all times," Roberts said. "When we first started ... I remember thinking back then that there was no way we would each be able to make 10 a day. Now that we're pros, one bracelet takes maybe 3 minutes."

For Aimee Papson, however, selling Taylor Swift friendship bracelets is part necessity: She's using the funds from her new Etsy shop, SunshineyBracelets, to help pay off a $5500 loan taken out to pay for four tickets to Swift's Nashville show. Similar to the other Etsy shop owners, Papson put her leftover friendship bracelets online and has earned about $1800 so far.

"We still have some ways to go to make our money back," said Papon, who said going to Nashville was a dream for herself and her children. "I put a headlamp on at night, listen to Taylor Swift music and can make bracelets for almost 8 hours straight. I don't plan on stopping anytime soon."

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