Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Art shop: Sector trends

Although painting, drawing and other art and craft pursuits are fairly popular activities, the amount of money that artists and hobbyists spend on artists' materials is affected by the state of the economy. When there is a downturn in the economy, people cut back on non-essential expenditure and hobbyists may either buy fewer materials or downgrade to cheaper products. Professional artists may find that there is less demand for their works, and so spend less on materials. So the economic downturn that began in the late 2000s and continued into the early 2010s was bad news for the industry.

However, people who enjoy doing artistic activities generally keep up their hobbies whatever happens to the economy. And there's plenty of interest in art and craft activities because:

  • people devote more time to hobbies and leisure activities these days
  • more and more venues such as restaurants, coffee shops and wine bars display original works by contemporary artists on their walls - these are frequently unframed, deep canvasses in bright colours which inspire people to try to produce something similar for their homes
  • many local colleges offer a variety of courses for adults in art and related subjects. These are generally held in the evenings and are very good value for money
  • a growing number of people are becoming involved in art and craft activities on a semi-professional basis as a means of supplementing their income
  • art galleries throughout the country have made their collections more accessible and attractive to the general public, raising the profile of art and painting
  • online galleries and websites such as Eyestorm introduce people to a wide range of work by modern artists, again raising awareness of drawings, paintings, installations, ceramics and so on

2013 saw some signs of a recovery in the economy which continued throughout 2014 and into the first half of 2015. The recovery slowed in the second half of 2015 and into 2016. The vote in 2016 to leave the EU added a further degree of uncertainty to the economic outlook. Economic growth slowed in 2017 as a result of a reduction in consumer spending caused by a squeeze on household spending power due to higher inflation and little growth in wages. It is expected that economic growth will slow further in 2018, with increases in earnings lower than the rate of inflation, putting further pressure on consumer spending. This and the uncertain economic picture are likely to result in both individuals and businesses once again cutting back on non-essential expenditure. Added to this, the government's austerity programme has led to cuts in education funding which has affected all educational establishments, including schools and colleges.

The fall in the value of the pound following the referendum vote might bring some benefit, encouraging more overseas visitors with more to spend because of a favourable rate of exchange. They may be keen to buy pictures or artefacts by local artists as a memento of their trip.


Ecommerce (including m-commerce) is very important for art shops, providing an opportunity for advertising your goods and services, reaching a wider market and, if your site is ecommerce enabled, making sales both to local and distance customers. Not having your own website (whether or not it is ecommerce enabled) will allow your competitors to get ahead. This is particularly important now that there are some big players in the market, with online specialists like GreatArt stocking 50,000 plus lines and sending out tens of thousands of parcels every month to customers all over Europe.

Keeping up to date with developments

It's important that you keep up to date not only with developments in the artists' materials sector but also with trends in the art world, so that you can discuss current art topics with your customers and, most importantly, stock new materials that are likely to be in demand.

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry. The Fine Art Trade Guild represents the interests of all those working in the art and framing industry, including suppliers of artist's materials. The Guild publishes Art + Framing Today, a trade journal for the industry. You can find out more about the Guild and subscribe to Art + Framing Today through the Fine Art Trade Guild website.

Artists' materials suppliers such as Daler-Rowney often have a great deal of information on their websites which can help you to keep up with developments in the art world and in materials.

The Artists Information Company (A-N) website contains a wealth of information of interest to all those in the art world.

The Craft Business website and journal contain information of interest to those retailing craft supplies and related items.