Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Art shop: Market research

When you plan your art shop business it's important to make an estimate of how much demand there will be and to think about what customers will want. Doing some market research will help you with this.

Estimating demand

You'll want to make sure that there's enough demand for an art shop in your area. Artists' materials and related craft and hobby items are stocked by a number of different suppliers, such as WH Smith, Hobbycraft, discount book retailer The Works, mixed retail chain The Range, and often local knitting, sewing and craft shops. Many professional-quality paints, brushes and other materials are available to order from specialist catalogues and more and more art shops and suppliers sell online. Some retailers, such as GreatArt, specialise in selling online, while there are plenty of traders selling artists' supplies on eBay and Amazon Marketplace. And when all's said and done, the market for artists' materials is fairly limited - plenty of people never buy them.

So you will need to find out not only how many direct competitors you will have but also how big your local market will be. Ideally you will be locating in a sizeable town or city which has a thriving art college, so that you can target the student population. Many adult education courses in painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, stained glass and so on are offered by local colleges and these will also generate demand for your business. Maybe your area has become renowned for attracting artists from all over the country (such as St Ives in Cornwall and Southwold in Suffolk) and has a thriving community of artists who will all need regular supplies of materials.

As a first step, check out the competition in your area to identify how many other outlets are already selling artists' materials locally. Try to establish:

  • what ranges they sell and what prices they charge
  • what their opening hours are
  • which services they offer, if any
  • how knowledgeable and helpful their staff are
  • whether they are prepared to order items that they don't normally stock

Your market

It's likely that your customers will include members of the public and also local businesses and organisations.

Members of the public might include:

  • amateur artists
  • students (both full and part-time)
  • members of local art groups
  • people buying gift sets, general stationery items and so on, depending on what you decide to sell

Your trade customers might include:

  • professional artists
  • graphic design studios
  • schools, colleges and nurseries
  • businesses such as picture restorers

You might decide to offer account facilities to certain trade customers and perhaps to others who buy products from you in large volumes.

Why will customers choose your shop

You'll want to make sure that enough customers will choose your shop - rather than existing outlets. Your market research might indicate that there is a gap in the market that your shop can fill. For example, perhaps no one in your area is specialising in professional quality paints and other artists' materials despite the fact that your area hosts many artists' workshops.

One of the independent's great strengths is in-depth knowledge of the artists' materials they sell so that they can offer a personal service and helpful advice to their customers. This is a service that major national stores such as WH Smith have difficulty in providing, so you should make sure your customers are aware of what you can offer.

Find out what people want

Small independent retailers face tough competition from large chain stores and other outlets. So it is very important that you find out what people want and whether there are particular goods or services you can offer which will attract customers to your shop. If you plan to carry out a local survey, don't forget that your customers might include trade customers such as art colleges, schools, nurseries and graphic design studios, all of which regularly require art and craft materials.

Use the Record sheets to note down the results of your market research.