Art Discounts – Should you give them?
Should you give discounts on your artworks?
As many of you already know, I run an online art gallery called Ginger Cactus Art www.gingercactusart.com and having just launched our Christmas exhibition, the issue of special offers or discounts is being discussed. In the case of Ginger Cactus Art, we are purely an online exhibition space; we advertise the site across social media, but we don’t get involved in sales at all. One of the problems we have is trying to follow a trail from our adverts of the site through to sales at each individual artist’s website. Because of this we are considering the best approach as people will only engage and share information if there is something in it for them.
So, one needs to consider how discounting your work on one site will affect your collectors and any galleries who already have your work displayed. There are some art buyers who will not purchase a piece of art unless it has been discounted or is unframed in your browser (that is a whole other conversation) and it is not uncommon for work to be displayed on your website and for you to be contacted by a potential buyer asking for a discount or better price. I suppose you can’t blame someone for trying but it is not always advisable to discount your work. I’m going to try and explain why not. Please note this information comes purely from my experience and conversations I have had with other artists, so some aspects may differ from how you operate but I hope you will still find it useful.
I would never discount work which has been viewed in a gallery and the customer has contacted you direct for a better price. Firstly, if you have work in a gallery, they will drop you like a hot potato if they find out and that information will be shared with other galleries in the area. If you get a reputation like this, you will find it very difficult to gain the trust needed for gallery representation again.
I know the commission charges can be horrendous but if you are using a gallery to advertise your work don’t then start selling discounted work behind their backs. If you don’t want the commission fees added to your work, then don’t use galleries. I don’t. I have written about why not in previous blogs, but essentially it allows me to be in control of my pricing and the opportunity to give discounts.
I do know galleries who will show your work on their walls and display it with a permanent discount on it. This is not a good idea, and I would always discourage this. It is one thing for a gallery to have a couple of one-off sales each year to pull in customers and increase trade, but a permanent discount just cheapens your work, and it then causes problems if you have work with other galleries or if you are also exhibiting your own work. All your prices should be the same regardless of where you are exhibiting. This is the industry standard and gives you the credibility you need to become established as a serious artist. Your relationship with your gallery is a business relationship and should be treated with respect.
So, when is it OK to discount? As we are considering with the Ginger Cactus Art Christmas exhibition, having a short promotional sale to drum up business and gain attention for sales in the Christmas market is absolutely fine. Generally, it is advisable that a short sale like this should only run for up to two weeks and then all prices return to normal. In our case, I think if we do it the sale will run for longer but we are small and trying to get our message out to a wider market isn’t easy so I think we can probably get away with it.
There are other circumstances in which giving a discount or having a promotion is OK. If you produce work in multiples or series, which many artists tend to do, when you come to the end of a series and a few pieces haven’t sold, it is OK to discount them just as any retailer would discount ‘end-of-line’ products in their store. As most galleries work on a sale or return basis these end of lines have probably not sold through them so they will have been returned to you so discounting them, either through the gallery or via your own outlets, is fine. However, if you have some of that series with another gallery think twice before discounting.
Sometimes, though it is rare in my experience, a gallery will buy your work from you on a wholesale basis. If you are in this situation, you really need to keep the lines of communication between yourself and the gallery open and honest. Having bought your work in this way if you then start discounting work before they have sold off what they bought this will cause problems and they are unlikely to want to work with you again.
Occasionally you will find a trade contact, such as an interior designer or art consultant who is buying on behalf of a client. Typically, these people get paid commission from placing your work so, just like a gallery, they charge commission but buy it from you less that commission and they collect the full amount from their client. If you feel it is appropriate to give a bigger discount to a designer or consultant, then you just need to ensure that they charge their client the correct retail price.
People do like to feel that they have been given something extra. It makes them come back a second, third etc. time to buy from you if they feel they are being treated well but you need to keep in mind the relationship you have with your gallery and not to cause yourself problems with future sales through them. Remember your collectors, too. I know I get a bit annoyed when I have paid full price for something and a couple of months later it is discounted in a sale. If I feel like that then you probably do too and, more importantly, so will your collectors.
When you drew up your prices initially, I hope you went through the process properly and priced your work fairly, taking into consideration the materials costs, your time and market comparisons. If you want to give your customers something extra, it may be better to produce a free print or some greetings cards you can give to them to make them feel special.
With the Ginger Cactus Art exhibition our aim is to track activity so the incentives to share that information need to be attractive. If you want to know what we decided, do pop in and take a look over the next few weeks. www.gingercactusart.com
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