Recently I spoke with a lady that felt like she had been hit by a tidal wave in the past few weeks. Her normal printer still had not re-opened and she had a backlog of hundreds of orders from her Shopify site to fulfill. Some printers she had contacted said they had a 3 to 4-week turnaround time on average right now, not including shipping and others could not give her a definite answer as to when they could start. I told her we ourselves as a printer of fine art were quite a bit busier than normal but since these were relatively simple orders to process, we should still be able to get them all out quicker then some of the others.
We have been inundated with similar requests to varying levels and this may harbor good things to come for those selling their artwork online. Fall and Christmas season may appear too far away to make accurate predictions in a world that seems to be rapidly changing in its buying habits, but we expect to continue seeing an increase in sales and great number of success stories from our customers.
What We Know so Far
Melissa Hernandez, the lead sales, and marketing agent for FinerWorks located some interesting data. She conducted quick research on the volume of people looking at buying art online and found the number has increased since April. You can find some of this data on our Facebook page. This means if you sell on various online market places or even on your own website, you should have seen an increase in sales if your artwork is well listed. One thing is certain is sites like Etsy has experienced record levels of traffic.
For those interested, the framing business appears to be seeing a similar trend. Both conversations with some of our fellow online framers as well as our own order numbers seem to attest to this.
As you can see these numbers have been quite positive. Rather than the earlier numbers showing a huge drop which some expected early on, the number of people searching has surged to the type of numbers usually seen during the Christmas season.
Why So Optimistic?
Online shopping is expected to remain higher than previously. The shipping carriers are preparing as well. Most probably know by now carriers like UPS, FEDEX and especially the US Post Office are overwhelmed. We see it ourselves with tracking not updating, packages getting lost or misrouted and International orders disappearing then reappearing out of the ether.
I do not have UPS’s market research but the UPS and Post Office drivers are maxing out their trucks to Holiday levels. More than one carrier, said they are stretched to the limit while scrambling to bring new drivers and warehouse workers on board. Other conversations with a UPS rep has indicated they are just as busy as they were last Christmas season but do not have the normal seasonal help. The below article talks about UPS and other carriers getting prepared for the post COVID world.
Print Labs Must Be Prepared to Print & Ship Small Orders
So far, all this has been good news for artists but a challenging for many printers. One of our suppliers of canvas warned me at the beginning of the closures to be prepared. We would be stretched to our limits like never before. Many of the smaller companies did not have the capacity to accept orders online and some larger ones did not have the ability to operate for various other reasons. He was right and it hit online companies like us like a tsunami.
For some online printers, traffic has eased up a little. But in its wake we are seeing a whole new customer base that have taken their printing and framing online. This means the number of new and repeat customers who have moved their framing and printing to companies like us has continued at higher than normal levels. This means hiring new personnel, applying new technology, developing more efficient workflows in production and stocking up on more materials. We ourselves are doing this and it is finally starting to show as our outbound orders begin to catch up with out incoming orders.
What About Offline Sales?
While much what I wrote discussed progress with online sales, even if you are not selling online, there may also be good news. The Spring art festival season was a bust but there will be the occasional summer art festival. Brick and mortar are starting to open which means if you sell in a retail environment like a gift shop or gallery, there is the potential to see your work begin to move again. Already we are seeing this within the orders we process as business owners begin to order new inventory in the form of prints and cards for their art or for the artists they represent. The bottom line is if you are not selling online, my advice is to find ways to do so.
There are still many unknowns and questions such as if there will be a second wave of shut downs, an economic depression, will unemployment levels impact your sales, etc. There are no certainties in life but generally if you want to be successful selling your art, you need to put yourself in the best position to do so.