It is tempting to take a lofty attitude to sales in the art business. After all, it’s a luxury market, we can’t really steer people into a purchase can we?
It’s such a subjective market; we can promote the artists, but the paintings sell themselves, right?
Wrong. As gallery owners, we are in the retail business just like our high street neighbours. It’s our duty to our artists and our obligation to customers to have them in mind at every stage of their experience.
Starting with first impressions; the window display. Retail experts describe your window as the ‘eyes of the store’. A display should tell a story, communicating the identity of your business and giving a taster of your merchandise.
We often chose an artist to display in our shopfront, but put their work into the context of home. An old armchair, a dresser, some cushions or a sheepskin rug are a simple, visual way to draw potential buyers into the lifestyle we are selling. These suggestions of home also give us the opportunity to include ceramics, glassware or stationery in our displays, communicating from the outset that there’s more than traditional art on offer.
Then, consider the customer’s view from the threshold. A friend told us she found the experience overwhelming. When we looked afresh, it was obvious why. With stock brimming over out the back, we’d let the shelves fill up so that it was hard to take in what was on offer. Add to that the life and emotion humming from artwork on the walls and it becomes an onslaught on the eyes. People need time to acclimatise, so we’ve tried to push things away from the door, giving them the space to arrive. And it may seem an obvious point, but art needs to be looked at, so there needs to be enough room for people to stand back, consider, discuss and decide.
In retail, space equals luxury. So while trying to tackle the problem of an overwhelming amount of stuff on sale, we’ve resolved to declutter and stock rotate regularly. It costs us nothing more than our time, but keeps the gallery looking fresh and our local customers interested. Another tip is to avoid ‘bottom bumping’. With our client base predominately female, we need to keep in mind their preferences. Research shows that many women will avoid entering an area where they feel personal space is lacking, so we’ve moved things around to open things up. Also, people shop in a remarkably uniformed way - in countries where we drive on the left, we move left on entering the store, in the US and on the continent, they go right. So for us, the sales ‘hotspot’ should be on the left.
At the heart of all this is a straightforward point about who our business is for.
We love it, we created it, we choose what to put in it, but it’s all for them - the customers.
So........we just have to give them what they want.
With thanks to Peter Cooper from ArtySmith2 for all his support and advice over the years!