Business realism

If a tire-kicker like me will buy a snowblower online, it’s time to retire my arguments against internet stores.
Breaking Storm, by Carol L. Douglas

This is the week when I hole up with my fellow painter Bobbi Heath and talk about our business plans for the coming year. The question I’m asking myself has been niggling at my planning for at least three years: do I want to invest significant resources into setting up online marketing? Or a bricks-and-mortar gallery in my Rockport studio?

My arguments for not doing so have been:
  • It takes a lot of time to set up an e-commerce-enabled website;
  • People won’t buy expensive things sight unseen;
  • All painting sales are relational;
  • Conflict with my current gallery representation;
  • I’d rather be painting.

Cape Elizabeth Cliffs, by Carol L. Douglas

Ten days ago, I was lying in bed whining about an upcoming winter storm. We’ve always shoveled snow rather than hire a plowman. But I’ll be sixty years old next month. While snow never gets old, I sure am. “Let’s buy a snowblower,” I said to my husband.
I pulled out my cell phone and texted my gearhead son-in-law to ask what brands he thought were most reliable. “My uncle has an Ariens,” he said. That was enough for me. Said uncle always buys quality equipment.
Fifteen minutes later I’d charged an $1100 snowblower on my credit card on an online site attached to a bricks-and-mortar store nearby. it was in our garage, ready to use, by dinnertime.
That’s anecdotal, but my own metrics tell the same story. In 2018, my family placed 115 orders on Amazon alone. The total value was nearly $10,000.
Parrsboro Sunrise, by Carol L. Douglas
If frugal, older, careful tire-kickers like me are doing that much business online, that can only mean our arguments against selling art on the internet are out of date. This year, I go into this planning session not with a generalized idea, but with a firm goal.
The problem will be implementing something so far outside my skill set. There are only two ways to do this. The first is to pay someone to do it for me, and the second is to suck it up and learn how myself.
Dry Wash, by Carol L. Douglas

Then there’s the question of the brick-and-mortar gallery. I spent yesterday morning looking at spaces where there are galleries, spaces where I know there will be galleries, and comparing the shopping districts of area tourist towns. I walked away thinking there may be marginally better retail spaces than the one I already own, but none with such great advantages that they’re worth the extra cost.

Note: before you can start specifically planning a retail business, you need a basic strategic plan. If you don’t understand your customers, the work you like to do, your strengths and your weaknesses, you’re more likely to fail.