It has been several months since I last shared an update about how Xanadu Gallery is faring during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and what I’m seeing in the broader art market. I wanted to briefly share an update and request that you share what you are seeing in your own art business.
In previous updates I encouraged you to keep creating, and to keep promoting. While the last several months have continued to present real challenges for our business, our efforts to share art with our clients have been productive.
Many of you know that we have two galleries – our main location in Scottsdale, AZ, and our summer gallery in Pinetop, AZ. I want to give brief updates for both.
After a broad shut-down of Arizona businesses during March and April, accompanied by stay-at-home orders from the Governor, we were able to reopen (with restrictions) in early May. The decision to reopen the economy when Arizona did wasn’t without controversy. Ultimately a spike in cases and mortality in the state caused a second round of closures for bars and other public venues.
Our gallery was not forced to close again, but the uncertainty and concern about safety understandably kept down traffic to the gallery.
Down, but not zero. Within the first few weeks of opening we began seeing visitors back in the gallery. We created rules enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing, and restricted visitors to no more than 10 people in the gallery at a time. These rules have proven mostly unnecessary as everyone who is out seems to be prepared for masks and social distancing. It has been rare that we’ve had more than 2-3 people in the gallery at a time.
Visitors reported that a number of the galleries in our neighborhood in downtown Scottsdale were still closed. They thanked Xanadu staff for being open and for giving them the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy art. These visits began resulting in sales.
We have also continued to see strong sales from our website, social media, Xanadu Art Catalogue and email marketing. While sales were down significantly in March, April and May, we actually saw an increase in sales in June and July over the same period last year!
It should be noted that our Scottsdale gallery is seasonal. Our busy season runs from October – May, and so the drop from the early months of the year into the summer is typical; the dramatic decline in sales from March into April and May is not.
We anticipate that total sales for the year will be down from last year, but all things considered, we feel very fortunate have had the sales we have. We have worked very hard to make those sales happen.
I should also note that on top of the pandemic and resulting economic turmoil, Scottsdale, like much of the rest of the nation, experienced civil unrest in late May and early June.
In addition to peaceful protests, there was looting at the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, which is about a mile away from the gallery. Threats of further violence and property damage forced additional closures and reduced hours for about a week.
Fortunately, after the initial round of looting, all subsequent protests were peaceful.
Readers of Reddotblog will remember that last summer we opened a second gallery. Pinetop is located in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. At an elevation of 6800 ft., Pinetop is considerably cooler than Scottsdale during the summer. Many residents of Phoenix and Tucson have summer homes in the area.
We were very pleased with our first summer season in Pinetop last year, but had no idea what to expect this summer. In spite of the fact that June and early July saw a dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases in the state, and in spite of slow traffic in early June, sales have been solid.
Again, heavy social media advertising, direct mail and email campaigns have generated results. Compared to last year, sales were down a bit in June, almost exactly the same in July, and on track to be up for August.
While total traffic has been down, we’ve noticed an increase in the ratio of purchases to visitors. In other words, more of the people who are out and about are making purchases than did last year.
Prospects for the Coming Months
It would probably be unwise for me to try to predict the future in such uncertain times. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the economy and uncertainty about what direction the pandemic will take. We are also in the last 90 days of an election, an additional variable that can be a drag on the art market.
In spite of all the uncertainty, I am upbeat about the prospects for the art market in the coming months, and into next year. We have seen once again that art is so important to so many, that no matter what’s going on in the world, art lovers will continue to seek out great art, and, as they are able, make purchases.
I’m hearing mixed messages from artists and gallery owners about their experiences, but I’m hearing more positive than negative. I add my voice to those who are upbeat.
Even though it can feel awkward to be promoting art sales with everything going on in the world (see meme to the right), it’s important to remember that what we are doing matters. Art is fundamental to civilization. Creating, sharing, and selling art are important activities; these activities allow artists and galleries to stay in business and provide for themselves, and they allow collectors to enrich their lives.
Keep at it!
What Are You Seeing?
What have you been doing to cope with these challenging times? How have your sales this summer compared to last summer? What words of encouragement would you offer to artists and galleries who are struggling? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.