The temperature may be in the triple digits, but it’s already time to start holiday shopping on Etsy. July 12 marks the start of the handmade community’s annual Christmas in July sale.

For 10 consecutive days after Independence Day, thousands of Etsy sellers band together to clear inventory and offer customers larger-than-usual discounts during the slow summer months—thanks to the sale’s founder, 51-year-old Lucinda “Cindy” Boardman.

“Christmas In July was a retail marketing strategy ever since I started working retail in NYC in the '70s,” said Boardman, who specializes in sterling silver jewelry. “I just applied the sale idea to my Etsy shop.”

Other sellers adapted Boardman’s technique, and the result was the community’s first Christmas in July sale in 2007. In 2010, Etsy staff made it official, inviting Boardman to promote the voluntary sale site-wide on the Etsy blog. It quickly caught on. Today there are tens of thousands of items tagged for the sale.

“Sellers move product in a sleepy sales month; buyers get savings that can be fairly large. Etsy gains commissions—everyone is happy.”

—Lucinda Boardman

Not everyone, exactly.

On Feb. 3, 2011, tragedy struck Boardman. Her life was turned upside down when her 11-year-old son was killed in a horrific fire. She quit Etsy to try to piece together her life.

The Etsy community, brought together by her annual volunteer sale, wouldn’t let her go.  

An Etsy team, For Dear Lucinda, was founded to commemorate Boardman’s status as a pillar of the community and to help her in any way they could—through cash, gifts, and something else altogether.

“After my life was hit with tragedy, the Etsy Community overwhelmed me with support,” she said.

“The sellers helped me get through the worst patch of my life and supported me to consider re-opening again; they believed in me and that helped me believe a bit in myself. I was so wonderfully graced with the support of my several online communities, and I love each and every one at those places.”

Boardman’s Etsy shop is closed again this year, but it’s for a far more positive reason: She’s putting all her resources into opening up her own brick-and-mortar shop in her hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

She is still spearheading Christmas in July, though. It’s just her way of giving back to the community that gave back so much to her.

“I love organizing ways to join us all together and share our hearts,” she said.

“I give back to Etsy because I totally adore the peeps here. We are mostly reasonable folk just wanting to sell our wares to peeps who enjoy our efforts.”

If you’re a buyer interested in participating in the sale, simply type “cij” or “christmasinjuly” before your desired search term in the search bar in order to view sale items. (Alternately, you may also use Etsy on Sale or look for sales on the Christmas in July Facebook page.)

Oh, and merry Christmas!

Photo by FDcraftsnquilts