ThemeForest Authors Report 50-70% Drop in Theme Sales

down-and-downIt appears some ThemeForest authors are hurting financially at the moment with many sellers reporting a massive decline in theme sales over the last couple of months.

In the Envato ThemeForest discussion forums authors have started numerous threads about the substantial drop in sales they’ve experienced recently, asking Envato for answers and the reason/s for the sudden and drastic decline. The posts have generated hundreds of replies with loads of other ThemeForest authors saying their sales are way down also, generating lots of discussion and speculation about the reasons why.

A recent post in the ThemeForest forum by Chris Robinson of Contempo – an Elite Author with 50 themes who’s been selling on ThemeForest since 2008 highlights the problem. He explains “for myself sales have declined over 70% starting from May with each passing day getting worse, I’ve also spoken with other elite authors explaining the same thing. One example going from $1500/day to $700. This isn’t just one or maybe twenty authors, its marketplace wide affecting everyone. A marketplace wide decline in sales of this magnitude doesn’t just happen due to vacations, or other buyer factors. Going through the years of sales data (since 2008) this has never happened, I’ve personally gone from $2-3000/week to less than $700/week…that’s insane!”

Many other authors are experiencing similar declines in theme sales and wondering why. For example:

LoveishkalsiI noticed a huge drop in my sales. I see a lot of other members are shouting about low sales in the June 2015 Sales thread. What might be the reason for this huge drop down in sales?

AligatorstudioI don’t think it’s the matter of simple fluctuations … We had very stable sales with normal decreasing after certain time period, until new year (2015). After new year, huge drop … For all our items.

designnovaFrom last April the sales are dropping dramatically and these days it is becoming worst. This sudden drop is happening for the first time since our 3 years here.

TheemonSeriously we got almost zero sales this week. This is hurting us here

themevaI’ve been an Author for nearly 5 years, I’ve received sales ups and downs which is completely normal. But this new sales pattern which started early 2015, is very strange! I’ve increased traffic, yet the conversions have been poor.

dedalxAs many other Elite authors we get drop in sales from 15-20 sales per day to 0-3. Our month profit drop from 100% to 10% from usual.

Some of the reasons being suggested for the decreasing sales many authors are experiencing include:

  • The huge number of themes now available on ThemeForest combined with the ever increasing number of authors and themes popping up every day resulting in a decreasing market share amongst authors
  • Recent changes made to the back end, front end and UI of the ThemeForest website
  • EU VAT Tax regulations
  • Price additions on checkout discouraging potential customers
  • Growing competition from other marketplaces and theme shops
  • Envato spending less money on advertising
  • Saturated theme market
  • The increasing dominance of multi-purpose, feature packed, 100-in-1 type WordPress themes
  • The unfair pricing advantage of these complex, multi-purpose WordPress themes
  • Seasonal factors
  • New support time limitations
  • Google mobile friendly update impact
  • ThemeForest dropping in Google rankings and decrease in traffic?
  • Changes to the ThemeForest search algorithm
  • Lots of poor quality themes on ThemeForest giving the marketplace a bad reputation (not a new problem) with buyers turning to other shops

Despite frequent requests by theme authors for Envato to comment on the huge drop in sales there has been no official response from Envato management so far. The only reply in the forums has been from an Envato “Community Officer” stating “we don’t really give sales updates over the forums other than to say your sales can go up and down for a multitude of reasons. Try not to assume the sky is falling every time the USA has a long weekend. We have fast and slow periods throughout the year same as any business, and your portfolio will no doubt have peaks and valleys as well.”

Many full time theme authors depend on ThemeForest for their primary source of image and the massive decrease in sales is deeply concerning for them. So while no one can identify the exact reason(s) their sales have dropped so dramatically on ThemeForest, most authors seem to agree that something isn’t quite right and they’d like answers from Envato.

Chris Robinson probably sums it up best in a recent forum thread post stating: “I completely understand the marketplace is growing exponentially that’s fine, however that doesn’t account for a SEVERE drop in sales over a period of a couple months like this. Trust me I’ve talked with other top authors that have been here for years, doing massive sales and they’re all experiencing the same thing and agree this isn’t normal.


The Envato Community Manager has provided a comment in the ThemeForest forums to try and addresses some of the questions and concerns theme authors have about their dropping sales. She states:

I’m sorry some of you have recently experienced a drop in sales. I imagine this has caused you quite a bit of worry and frustration. While I don’t have answers to all of your questions, I’d like to try to provide some background info and reassurance.

As many of you know and have already mentioned here, Envato Market (like any market) is ever-changing and rapidly evolving. New trends, authors, buyer preferences, discovery tools, etc. can all have an impact on the popularity of a particular item and cause its author’s sales to fluctuate from one day, month or year to the next.

For this reason, we tend not to weigh in on sales threads — there are so many factors at play, making it really tricky to analyze variations in an individual author’s sales patterns.

What we can say, though, is that Market continues to experience year on year growth and authors at all levels and across all marketplaces continue to see increases in earnings.

That said, with growth comes increased competition. There’s no denying that we have more authors and items on Market than ever before. This is a natural next step in maturity for our market and our community, and with that (as Gareth and others have pointed out) comes an increased need for making your items stand out.

Obox, developers of SalesGenius, the advanced sales tracking software for Envato sellers, have also commented on the issue stating:

“With the benefit of (we do sales tracking for over 1000 authors) we can see a broad based overview of the total amount of transactions the app has tracked and based on that data we see no “massive” dip in sales. Year on year it seems pretty equal.”

So is the drastic decrease in sales some ThemeForest authors are experiencing just a result of increasing competition and choice meaning sales are getting spread more thinly amongst authors? Or is something else going on?

Are you an author on ThemeForest experiencing a significant decrease in sales? What do you think are the reason/s for the decline? What are you planning to do about it?


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31 replies to ThemeForest Authors Report 50-70% Drop in Theme Sales

  1. I’ve been thinking all morning about what the main causes of this drop in sales for Envato marketplace sellers has to do with, and I think it just points to a greater trend of software moving to its own independent distribution/selling points, for example on independent websites like we have a

    I think it’s becoming increasingly clear in 2015 that the tight margins a marketplace offers to WordPress software creators are dying off in terms of favorability for entrepreneurs. Hence the recent proliferation of more independent websites vs. marketplace setups that plugin & theme creators are building today.

    The Envato marketplace just really doesn’t add a lot of value to a product’s long-term outlook because it’s such an insular selling system. This quality is distinctly different than an App platform like the Apple App store, where the buying and brand experience is much more streamlined, and clearly focuses on constantly generating new revenue opportunities for creators in a much more transparent way that what seem’s to be Envato’s current strategy.

    Great post! Looking forward to watching these developments closely.

  2. Ooops… I meant to include the text with the link!

    There are a bunch of free Genesis child themes out there but we’ve never used any. We like premium themes because we know good code from not-so-good code and a lot of free themes are simply badly written.

    One thing going against the individual premium theme developer is having to compete against a Studio Press who offers the web design shop like us an excellent deal.

    For example I used to buy many themes a year, at least 3/4 of them from an array of non-Studio Press vendors.

    In the “old days” when we got unlimited support and upgrades from vendors, no problem.

    But now with vendors offering one-year licenses and expensive support/update yearly fees, we don’t want to deal with a zillion different vendors and the administrative mess of renewing licenses each year, to say nothing about the cost.

    (Yes we could pass this on to our customer, but that’s also an administrative hassle… and customers don’t want vendor lock-in any more than we do. It makes our sale in our market (authors and publishers) harder.)

    In our experience, customers keep their theme 3.5 years on average. So that means our customer will pay for the theme FOUR times (if they want updates and support which most do.)

    This is where Studio Press offers a ‘better deal’ than most other vendors.

    We have a ‘developer’ license with Studio Press which gives us unlimited use of all their products including the framework. These days we are always going to buy from them before we even consider an outside source. It makes economic sense for us and our customers.

    That said, what I see a lot of shops like ours starting to do is ‘rolling their own.’

    We have a developer license for a Genesis child theme by CobaltApps called Dynamik Web Builder. This basically lets us design our own layouts without a huge learning curve and without (much) PHP code, nor much CSS. Yes, it is a bit more work, but when we can’t find a Studio Press theme that ‘works’ for the client, we see if we can build one ourselves.

    Sure, when necessary (i.e. like for a special market like a restaurant or a biz directory) we will buy a non-Studio Press (and/or non-Genesis) offering, but the economics of our business have changed since theme vendors started charging recurring fees… such that shops like ours (who have the ability to use a theme-builder products like Cobalt’s Dynamik or Elegant’s Divi or Headway, or Pagelines, etc.) are exploring an option that frees us and our clients from a constant outflow of money, sometimes without much in the way of value received beyond security updates.

    I agree with her that the best way to survive competition is to offer me something I can’t find anywhere else. But if I or my customer has to pay 4X for a theme, you can bet we will be looking for an alternative.

    It’s just good business.

  3. That suggested list of reasons is pretty much accurate from what I can see happening over the last several months. Sales on new theme releases no longer seem to break 100. Just check the first 10 pages of WordPress theme results and you will find most are actually below 80; only a few have gone past. An author needs to make at least 300 to reinvest the 2-3 months of development time spent. I used to be an exclusive theme author there but focus on my own theme site now.

  4. I’m curious if this is only a ThemeForest issue or if this is more widespread. It’s always difficult to know what’s happening behind closed doors in other businesses.

    I know we’ve had a drop in sales compared to last year starting in April/May as well. Until this post, I assumed at least part of it was sales at Envato. Curious indeed.

  5. @ Bill I’m curious also if this decline in sales is something independent theme shops are experiencing also. I have a feeling it might be to varying extents, but it would certainly be interesting to hear from other shops.

  6. Sales are low because Themeforest lowered the bar when it comes to quality, so now new WordPress templates pop up by the minute. Some are good, most are crap.

  7. Im not a ThemeForest developer, I am a ThemeForest purchaser. Over the past 6 years I have been a member and made many purchases, but one thing I have noticed of late is the increase in theme costs. That has been an impact on my purchases.

    The one other thing that shits me about ThemeForest is the requirement to deposit funds, more than what is required to purchase something. Yes, I know I can pay more for a direct purchase instead, but why?

    Just my 2 cents…..

  8. Reason might be the good competition and the flexible themes. Don’t really want to link them here because it might feel like advertising. But searching for “flexible free” and so on with “wordpress” is showing very convincing results that are not Themeforest based.

  9. @PremiumWP it would be great to hear from some other independent shop owners to see how systemic this decline is. To me it feels like the start of a recession in the industry.

  10. I pretty much have to agree with @Mazda comment above. Sure, the “Marketplace” has become over-saturated, and the WP “Community” is increasing year-over-year, but the quality of themes in the TF marketplace are mediocre at best. I’m not the first to say this and not the last. Avada was at the right place, right time. Have you looked at the code? It’s lousy. Avada also has a required plugin called “Fusion Core” or whatever that just bloats the theme. TF makes a lot of money from Avada and Avada doesn’t seem to improve. The “X” theme I can’t take seriously. Their logo is a ripoff of Mac OS X 😉 When X was first released, it was another right place, right time. They made heavy use of the “Customizer” but the X theme was still lousy and “trying too hard.” But hey, Consumers ate it up! So X began to profit. They did actually improve their X theme with later iterations — but they took a big step backwards with their ridiculous page builder in v4.0. Haha, OMG WHYYYY??? Lets face it: if you’re serious about WP and serious about theme development, you’ll adhere to code standards and work in parallel with the Core Dev Team. But no. X theme chose to do some whacky page builder to try to be “unique” or “1337” or “ultimate” whatever. If you really want WP to thrive you will teach people how to properly use WP. You will teach your Devs how to properly dev in WP. C’mon, it’s not rocket science. It’s not even PHP. It’s easy WP theme development! That’s why the market is over-saturated now. But at least teach good practice please! Sure, WP are not fans of Envato, but I’m sure WP would be fans of Envato IFF Envato didn’t make $ off crappy themes that all look/function the same 🙂 I promise you: there will be a theme developer who’s sitting somewhere reading this and will release a theme that will squash all these chump themes sooner or later. A lot of people thought X was that theme. But after thorough audit, the X theme is just some conceited wannabe framework started by some clickit inbound marketing d00d–forgetting about the true value of WP. Not in monetary value, in larger scale value. I’m ranting, but I won’t go into detail about how these “theme developers” can make their products better. Because I hope these developers get phased out sooner than later. I hope the “true” Devs with a bigger vision step-up and finally start getting paid for quality work. I’ve consulted with so many agencies where WP is now the defacto. But I’ve had to strip these themes down to the bare bones just to get them to unbloat and behave themselves. Haha. Heck. I might just start a theme business and school these guys on how to do it THE RIGHT WAY. C’mon. Look at the portfolios of the whiny TF users above. Ew! Muwahaha. xo Peace.

  11. @PremiumWP

    I’ll add my 2-cents into the ring here as a plugin author and a theme author… (plugin on CodeCanyon and theme direct)

    CodeCanyon: I’ve seen a decline too, of around 40-50% in PLUGIN sales so the reasons behind it being due to saturated themes or theme prices I don’t fully agree with. There’s definitely a lot of plugins being released but wouldn’t explain why a drop like I’ve seen in June + July has occured.

    From 1 July they’ve tweaked something in their API (hence why my collections stop 30 June) but I’ll take a look at trends from plugin hunt (

    As for direct theme shops, I’ve not seen a little drop in the past couple of months, but I’m penning this down to being summer holiday months and the fact I haven’t released a new update / product due to taking my own break (Jan, Feb, Mar were on the back of a December launch of the plugin hunt theme (

    Hope this helps.. reliance on Envato is the main reason I don’t put my themes on there, they could have easily slashed their PPC budget with google and authors seeing the impact on this.

    This: doesn’t show historic trends but I’m sure the guys from there keep the data history – could reach out for comment

    Great post by the way

  12. @ Mike
    Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. Interesting to hear you’ve had a decline in sales on CodeCanyon also.

  13. This is why sales dropped on TF, It’s not quality, It’s not competitions, it’s nothing else … just the decrease in the number of the visits will suffice to explain it all , I mean : competition and quality are also factors, but the biggest factor is advertising and visits:

    Visits started to drop since October 2014.

  14. Keep also in mind that most visits are not from the States, but from India :

    India 23.7%
    USA 5.5%
    Turkey 5.1%

    Look at the difference between India and USA, it seems like there’s a drop in TF popularity in USA. While indians still use it. But c’mon, where’s EU, where’s australia ??

    Also look at the drop in its ranking on the web, it was 66, and now it’s 199.

    The marketplace, I’m afraid seems like it’s about to die …

  15. Another point I just noticed, is that not only TF visits that know such a decrease, but also the second (and less popular) marketplace (Mojo-Themes) , its visits started to drop since October 2014 too.

    Which makes me think, maybe the industry as whole is in crisis. As people now clients become less and less interested, because them too know a drop in their sales, because their clients (clients of clients) maybe find free solutions online or people just become less and less interested in the web.

    Many assumptions, but we don’t know.

  16. @Simo
    Thanks for your comments.

    Alexa ranks need to be taken with a large grain of salt when it comes to guessing what’s happening to the traffic of a website. The Alexa Traffic Rank of a given website isn’t only based on traffic to the given site, but takes into account the traffic to all sites and ranks sites relative to each other. Since a site is ranked relative to other sites, changes in traffic to other sites affect a site’s rank.

    Things are changing, buy I’m not so sure the industry is in crisis and the ThemeForest marketplace is about to die (just yet anyway).

  17. As a consumer, I personally no longer plan on purchasing ANY ITEM from Envato

  18. I will no longer be purchasing from ThemeForest either, simply down to EU VAT and also 6 months support.

  19. The main reason I think there is a decline in sales is due to the “New support time limitations”. I agree theme devs need to be compensated for their time but the truth is that after your website is up and running the only support you need is when the theme breaks on an WP or theme update. If I have to pay for an update which is basically buying the theme again every time this happens it is not worth the time and money. It is a shame though because it took me a while to find good authors and now that I am done buying from Envato the whole exercise was a waste of time.

    Now on the plus side this change forced me to find other themes. I went to Elegant Themes “Divi” and I have never been happier. It is a better product than most at Envato with better support. You pay annually to use their themes and plugins on unlimited websites. Also I have been using Studio Press themes with the new “Divi builder” plugin and that is a great combination.

    I am in the process now of changing over all my sites (60) from Themeforest themes so I do not have to deal with them again. Frankly I was very upset when they changed the support terms on all previous purchases. That should have been for new purchases going forward. I do not like buying something and then told later the terms have changed. That is dishonest.

    Michael Mancini

  20. @Michael Mancini

    … but the truth is that after your website is up and running the only support you need is when the theme breaks on an WP or theme update. …Michael Mancini

    That’s reasoned from your level of knowledge.
    I bet that most buyers at TF are not capable of getting up and running **on their own**.
    They here that WP is so easy. They buy a theme. And then they need explanation, handholding, or do it for me please.
    The paid support might be an issue. But the limits of 6 months minimum, and 12 months maximum are probably a deal breaker.
    TF Sellers with well manned support forums might do better than TF Sellers without, if they offer longer (paid) support though.
    I can imagine theme clubs like Elegant Themes, WooThemes, Justin Tadlock’s Theme Hybrid Club with dedicated support will only grow bigger.

    … I agree theme devs need to be compensated for their time but the truth is that after your website is up and running the only support you need is when the theme breaks on an WP or theme update. If I have to pay for an update which is basically buying the theme again every time this happens it is not worth the time and money. …Michael Mancini

    You can extend support with 6 months to max 12 months :
    “You have the option to add a further 6 months of support **when purchasing an item (License)**.
    Your item can only ever have a maximum of 12 months valid support at any given time.”

  21. I make WP sites for small businesses and individuals. Four years ago, when I started freelancing, I used to visit Theme Forest regularly to have a look at what new themes had appeared. If I really liked the look and functionality of a theme I would buy it to add to my collection. In early 2015 I stopped my regular scans of Theme Forest because it became hard work. There were too many mediocre cookie-cutter themes appearing and sifting through to find the great themes (that are in there) became a chore.

    The fact that support for themes may not be available when I come around to using it is also a deterrent.

    Some theme developers who sell on Theme Forest are excellent and I’ve really enjoyed working with their product. These days I only keep an eye on these dev’s new offerings via ‘authors you follow’. The days of scanning Theme Forest every few days to see what’s new, and purchasing the stand-out themes for my collection is over for me.

  22. Because my previous comment doesn’t appear, I guess that it was inappropriate in some sort of way (although I can’t think of anything that might have caused it to be inappropriate).

    So be it. Never mind

  23. @ Robert, Your comment appears now. Akismet has automatically flagged your comment as spam for some reason so I had to search for it and pull it out of the spam folder.

    Thanks for your comment.

  24. Not wanting to be the devil’s advocate, but I received a Thank You email from Creative Market last Friday titled “Our Favorite Moments of Year 3” :

    2015 has been all about growth for the Creative Market community
    Creative Market email

    with a breakdown of the year here :

    @PremiumWP Thanks for pulling out my comment. ✌

  25. Reason might be the good competition and the flexible themes. Don’t really want to link them here because it might feel like advertising. But searching for “flexible free” and so on with “wordpress” is showing very convincing results that are not Themeforest based.

  26. Most of the theme on TF are pretty much looks the same, with bunch of pages design using drag and drop plugin that can be easily done with one good theme like Twenty Sixteen you can easily design the pages yourself using a drag and drop plugin that is also available for free?

    What the developer has failed to understand is the buyers want to see a good UI design with unique functionality that support Buddypress, Woocommerce, Easy digital download. and not just a default looking as you activate the plugin, most of the theme they just look the same and claim it support WOO,Buddypress this plugins works fine on any theme out of the box.

    Another thing they do is they build a theme with features that you can not use it require the buyers to go and buy the extra plugins license not 1 or 2 maybe 5 and this plugin cost more than the theme itself $150 or $250. I don’t understand why the seller claim this features comes with their theme when they don’t, The plugin is been build by the thirdparty why take credit and list on the features on your document when you really did was build plain theme?
    why should we go and buy the thirdparty plugin when the TF seller do not support the thirdpart plugins anyways?

    and what’s up with this limitation support 6month? if you take a look at the comment on the seller pages on TF all you see is people asking question about seller product theme, that’s not even support that’s simple a FAQ.

    I’m not even complaining about the 2 cent extra when buying a theme.

  27. The reason is simple. Themeforest affiliate system does not pay well. I do sent over 3k referrers to themeforest each month and i earn appr. 100 dollars with in a month. However, i do also making affiliate with mythemeshop, With the same amoth of trafic i earn more than 1000 dollars. Why should i market the themeforests products ? So i decided not to market them anymore and i spent all my efforts to market mythemeshop

  28. Really.. helpful post … thank you…. your article helps me to buy my website theme…

  29. I just wanted to give my 2 cents here. But about GraphicRiver, not Themeforest.

    GraphicRiver authors are also suffering a general drop in sales, and the reason is very simple: there has been an invasion of desperate people with little to no design skills that in the past two years have decided to flood the markets with their poorly made products, with the intent of competing on quantity instead of quality (contrary to Envato rules, which apparently are not important anymore).

    These people, which have like 3’000 items in less than one or two years, are spamming like crazy and GR reviewers are approving almost everything. So when a normal author takes one or two weeks to make a flyer, for example, these “new authors” in the same week spam about a couple dozen flyers, with every kind of name to saturate the market with their poorly made items.

    Many of these “authors” also use the trick of making one poorly made item, and then resize it five or six times and upload it in different formats (also contrary to rules: but Envato again don’t care anymore about their own rules). The result is what AnitaH said in her comment above: the markets are full packed with so many items, most of which are extremely poorly made (like litteraly a 10 minute job), and browsing them to look for something has became like a long chore.

    I assume the same is happening on ThemeForest, with “new authors” spamming low quality stuff just to compete on quantity instead of quality.

  30. EU VAT Tax regulations *******

    Frankly a stupid add-on!

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