Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The buying habits of fine artists - in the USA

How does your buying behaviour compare to fine artists in USA? Did you know that
  • 99% of fine artists are willing to buy art supplies online
  • 70% actually do buy online on a regular basis.

I've been running a poll on my information site Art Supplies in the USA - Resources for Artists since November 2007. The above chart shows you how people buy art materials in the USA. (Click the pic to see a bigger version or visit my information site)

Based on 78 responses - and in order of magnitude - the results are as follows (percentages are rounded):
  • one third of fine artists (33%) prefer to go with whichever art materials supplier serves them best - they're neither wedded to their online supplier or their local art materials store. This figure is very similar to that experienced in the UK and suggests that around a third of the market is always going to be looking across the whole art economy of B&M and online art stores for their supplies and deals. These are the people who are going to be sensitive to aspects of online supply such as: ease of finding a product on the website; product pricing and delivery time and charges levied. In relation to the B&M supplier the issues are likely to revolve around whether items required are stocked, price points and urgency of need. In relation to both sets of suppliers artists may bring their custom for a sale but the really critical question is whether they come back and become a regular customer on a routine basis.
  • 24% prefer to shop online and are price and customer service sensitive. They always spread their custom around a range of online suppliers of art materials. Essentially they give their custom to whoever gives them the best overall deal. However all suppliers should note that this level is lower than that experienced in the UK.
  • Artists in the USA are much more tolerant of a poor customer service compared to the UK. 15% buy at the local art shop despite some problems in supply eg even if it has a limited range and occasional stockouts. This is significantly different to behaviour in the UK. I began to wonder whether distance between art shops might have anything to do with this. Some people will not buy online whatever and consequently will buy from a local store even if it's not providing the greatest service....
  • ....however in the USA this only 1% buy at their local art shop because they don't like internet shopping. That says an awful lot about how online shopping for art supplies is now completely rooted in the American mindset as a normal fact of life. It's a message that all B&M retailers need to take to heart - and their business plans.
  • By way of contrast some 14% are very happy to buy at their local art store BECAUSE it has a great range and good stock levels. This level is pretty much the same as experienced in the UK. Local art stores providing an excellent service can only be certain of capturing most of the purchases of around 15% of the the buying power of fine artists who live locally
  • 11% buy all their art supplies from one online supplier who serves all their needs. This is the customer who is like gold dust to online suppliers - a dedicated buyer who keeps coming back!
The bottom line

My own conclusions from the above is that
  • USA artists are more likely to support their local store and less likely to move all their purchasing online based on a parallel but identical poll in relation to UK suppliers
  • neither online supplier nor B&M retailer can be certain of the custom they will continue to attract. Consequently both sets of suppliers of art materials need to be working hard all the time to provide the best service and the best prices they can possibly offer. Artists continue to support their local art shops but 99% are also very willing to buy online if what they want is available at a reasonable price and can deliver when they need it - even if they don't do so right now
The latter conclusion is good news for all fine artists because the good suppliers are going to be working very hard to give you the best deal in terms of product, price and overall service.

If you'd like to take a poll just click this link to go straight to the poll

If you've got any comments - either as a retailer or an artist - do please leave a comment below.

Tomorrow I'll reveal the buying habits of fine artists in the UK!
My Favourite Art Shops - Resources for Artists
As more and more sales move online, it's crucial that all artists continue to patronise and support our favourite 'bricks and mortar' art shops in our towns and cities. These are where we can find the specialist art materials which can be impossible to find online. This site contains:
(1) reviews of favourite art shops
(2) photographs of what they look inside
(3) details of how to find them.


journalrat said...

Katherine, first off I love your polls. They provide some interesting peeks at what is going on.

I was sad to see, however, in your pool of respondents that so many are buying on-line or mail order.

I am fortunate to have a fabulous independent art supply store near me in St. Paul Minnesota—Wet Paint.

They are very responsive to my needs and the needs of all their customers. They are great with putting together class packets for university and school classes as well as for smaller classes of the type I teach in colored pencils.

Also their prices are great, especially when you factor in mail order shipping costs versus the ability to see the items (such as paper) first.

Last year through Wet Paint I was able to order large sheets of Nideggen (they only routinely stock the 22 x 30 inch sheet) by getting together a group of about 20 people, all buying from 3 to 80 sheets. We were given the quantity discount which was better than the quantity discount with other vendors of this paper mail order. And we didn't have to pay shipping so it was even cheaper still! Finally when the paper arrived all the purchasers simply had to show up at the store to get their paper and it was wrapped for them individually, so we didn't even have to worry about distributing it, which we would have had to do if we were ordering on-line or mail.

This type of customer service obviously makes it easy to deal with them, but also it is simply LESS EXPENSIVE when you take all the other factors of shipping and time into account.

It's one example of what they do.

I'm for supporting local suppliers whenever possible (yes sometimes they don't carry what you need—but tell them you want it because they may end up getting it if people let them know).

I also support my local store because I want it to be there when I need another sheet of paper or another pen at 7 p.m. that night, to finish a job. Mail order and on-line don't help me at all at that point!

Thanks for the interesting poll.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What a fabulous example of the sort of service which is always going to both win and keep repeat customers

You might be interested to know that I only wrote this post today because I was checking to make sure that i'd got both Wet Paint's retail site and its online site on my information site - because somebody else was recommending a piant tin they do!

Which I think makes it thumbs up for Wet Paint?

Does anybody else have a store they'd like to highlight?

Lynne E. Windsor said...

Katherine, as usual your information is boundless! I have just returned to the US having been in the UK for four months taking care of my Dad. I love Artisan's here in Santa Fe and really miss the resource when I am in the UK. Just driving down the road to be surrounded by one of the best art stores I know is invaluable.

I love Cornelissen's and Green & Stone by the way... it's the 'old'and a great resource. I also enjoyed Heaton Cooper. I didn't see that you had included Bird & Davis on your list. http://www.birdanddavis.co.uk/ I may have missed it, you have so much information. They are a wonderful resource and you can park!

What I would like to know is do you know of anyone in the UK that makes reasonable wood panels? This has been my biggest problem with painting in the UK. Now, I bring them over with me from the US... no clothes, just panels in my suitcase! I am thinking I should start importing them from these guys http://www.billewing.com/Panels.htm they are wonderful panels. Reasonable and substantial. Everything in the UK appears to be on MDF and is expensive. Help!

Thanks again for all your wonderful blogs.

Mabef said...

Katherine you have a wonderful blog. I have been a brick and mortar retailer and an online retailer, and I can tell you it's all about serving the needs of the customer.

Both retail models have advantages and disadvantages and neither have a lock on the consumer. And that is a very good thing for everyone, for it is competition that makes us better at what we do.

The better we are as suppliers the happier our customers(artists)will be. They will have better access to the quality materials they seek, and the world will have the joy of creative expressionism.

Keep up the good work.


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