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Q4 is Here, Are we Ready?

Good week this week. We passed a couple of milestones, so that's always nice. Firstly, Bogdan has been accepted into the FAIN Art Fair in Mexico City this year. That's quite an honor, and after the great experience we had in Guadalajara, we're delighted to be able to spend some time in Mexico City as well.

After weeks of preparation, the night of the Biannual extravaganza sale at Sawyer Yards arrived and wait for it... we had zero sales. Twice a year all the studios at Sawyer Yards open for large art sales including the something like 400 artists on the two campus sites. It really is a big deal, and a whole lot of planning, marketing, and such must take place to achieve an event of this size and scope. The last two biannual sales have been greatly affected by the pandemic, but we were hopeful that more people would come out now that so many have been vaccinated, and starved for public events. And largely they did come.

There seemed to be quite a nice crowd, though only a small portion of them actually made it to our studios on a back hallway. But even that small portion added up to a nice flow of customers. The crowds were nothing like the throng of people who showed up before Covid, but after the past two similar events, the numbers had risen exponentially. Bogdan and I were ready. We had loads of inventory on hand, including quite a bit of new art that returning customers would not have seen. We also have a range of price points given the fact that art can be a pricy commodity. In my studio I have things ranging from buttons for one dollar up to large format paintings for over $3,000. The studios were cleaned up, the art was displayed and price tags were updated. We were ready, with lights, music, treats, and our Square terminals were poised and ready to take money in any way convenient to our collectors. We had put out reminders on our own social media channels, included a spot in our newsletters, and I even had a neon open sign in my window. We just didn't have any buyers. Neither did one studio next to us. The studio on the other side has two artists, one who sold a few ornaments, and the other who topped $3,000. I know others sold, because I saw the artwork in people's hands as they walked by my door. So what do you do when you have a bust of an event? That's easy. You take a deep breath, curse if you need to, then you clear your head and begin again.

Unfortunately, that's the business we are in. Buying art is so personal, and it almost always an impulse buy. I buy art when I'm looking, and when I fall in love with it. Love just didn't pass my threshold last Saturday. Some of the things that we did notice were that our marketing tried to target a different clientele than we normally see. And that marketing seemed to have worked. The studios are in a changing neighborhood, rapidly filling up with higher end condos for professional young people. These 20 to 30 year olds have been largely the bulk of our customers of late. That's not a problem, we love those guys. They however are often looking for art on a tighter budget than the 40 to 60 year olds. The younger crowd are starting out in life, and may be buying their first post-college furniture, all the things needed for their first home, as well as a thriving social life. Art is important to them, but they have so many competing needs. They're also new to collecting "real" art, and often seem to be doing more research than collection. This year, we put less advertising in local pubs, and more into things like Public Radio. It worked. We still had our lovely millennials roaming the halls, but we also had a LOT of folks who dressed for the event, had a lot more gray hair, and presumably already have all their needs paid for. These are the folks with discernible income, good credit, and less competition for their hard earned money. I was so thrilled to see so many of these folks walking through the door, because we just weren't seeing enough of them. But here is the two edged sword... they don't have an entire condo to decorate. They've already purchased a lot of art during their lives, and don't have empty walls to fill. While these customers may have more money, and perhaps even a more developed sense of taste and style, they also have less need for new art.

We all know the importance of the fourth quarter for businesses who sell luxury and git merchandise. Honestly there are businesses who earn more in these last three months than in the rest of the year combined. Art sales seem to follow that trend as well. Q4 can be monumentally important in the year of an art business. We just have to be ready for it.

Our first strategy for Q4 was the biannual art sale... oops. That didn't go at all as planned. And a blow like that can instill doubt and fear that all our holiday sales ideas could meet the same fate. The most upsetting thing is that they may all be equally disastrous. That's just a reality when you're in the business of selling, on impulse, to a fickle public. If I need toilet paper, I buy it now. I don't wait until I find just the right texture and thickness. Selling art is a strange way to make a living, and it's one that has its own share of idiosyncrasies, trends, and rewards. The trick is to learn the art market's heartbeat.

But that's certainly no our only strategy. We've been dumping inventory to online platforms, the most important of which is our respective websites. We feel like it's so important for clients to be able to review and purchase our art directly from us. We've noticed a bit of movement of late, so perhaps we're starting to become players out there in the market. I recently sold a larger painting on Etsy, and a couple of smaller pieces from my website. So that's another avenue we have working for us.

We're also participating more in art fairs as they begin to resurface. Bogdan was accepted into the fairs in Guadalajara and Mexico City, and we've both been entering various exhibitions at Silver Street Studios, Poughkeepsie, New York, VAA Juried show in Houston, etc. I personally believe that the art fairs will all come back to their pre-covid glory, and we plan to take full advantage of those forums for sales and exposure.

And of course, we're doing all we can to promote on social media. In addition to all the posts we supply to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, we do a weekly live show called "Art Chat with John & Bogdan"; a weekly vlog called "Art Life"; I do this weekly blog, as well as a weekly podcast and video/podcast. Im also considering starting a weekly live art show/auction too. You can't say we're slackers. It's harder to measure the ROI on those activities, but we're committed to keeping the content coming.

So that's our strategy for Q4. What's yours? Leave a comment below and let us know what you've got planned for this most important season.

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