Utilizing the Off Season

I recently received a suggestion for a blog post from the cryptically named “GL”

I’d love to see a post about strategies you utilize for anticipated “slow” or “off” seasons.

For many of you, the deep winter is the off season. Because my gallery is located in Scottsdale, and because Arizona is so blazing hot during the summer, our art season is exactly the opposite of a lot of other art markets who do most of their business during the summer. Our traffic declines dramatically during the summer, and as a result, so do our sales.

Our summer slow-down is long too. People often ask me when our “off” season is, and I reply that it begins when the temperatures climb above 105° fahrenheit and ends when the temperature drops back below 105°. This usually corresponds with dates in mid May and mid October. This means that we have five long months without much activity in the gallery.

[In 2019 we opened a second gallery in Pinetop, AZ, which is busy during the summer and slow during the winter. This helps us keep busy year-round, but each of the gallerys still has its own off season.]

There are a number of implications of a slow season. First, we really have to make hay while the sun shines during our busy season. We have to make enough sales to cover our overhead and save up a reserve to carry us through the slow summer months.

Second, it means our Scottsdale gallery staff has a lot of time on their hands during the summer. During the season we have a constant flurry of activity. We have days where we will have hundreds of people through the gallery, each one of them requiring attention and follow-up. During the summer we have days where we may only have one or two people through the gallery. The difference in activity can be somewhat shocking.

Many of you also experience slower times in your business as the art market in your local area enters a slower time of year. Allow me to share some of the activities we engage in during the slow times – activities that you might find helpful as you are planning for your slow times.

  1. We follow up with customers. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. As I mentioned before, during our busy season the volume of traffic can be overwhelming. We do our best to follow up with every customer right after we interact with them, but our off season is a great time to follow up with the ones who didn’t respond, or who told us they weren’t quite ready to buy. I’ve mentioned before that I feel that most artists and gallerists aren’t following up enough with their customers. Off season can be a great time to improve your follow up. Don’t feel awkward if it’s been a while since you last  reached out to a customer – dash off an email or pick up the phone. Even though it’s already hot here, June usually ends up being a very good month because of all of the sales we close using follow-up techniques.
  2. We plan for the season. We use the off season to schedule shows, review portfolios and schedule our gallery display for the upcoming season. As an artist you can use off season time to prepare for shows and art festivals you might be participating in. We use the summer to build up our inventory by having artists ship us work. You can build up your inventory by focusing your off season on production.
  3. We take a vacation. Let’s face it, to be successful in this business, you have to work very, very hard. I take advantage of the off season to spend time with my family and to see the world. This last summer we spent time in the mountains at a cabin, and Carrie and I got away together to Georgia and South Carolina. Xanadu director, Elaine, went to Europe. I find that down time recharges my batteries and gets me excited to get back to work when the time comes.
  4. We focus on internet sales. Fortunately, the internet has no off season, and over the last several years we’ve seen an ever-increasing growth in our internet sales. During the off season we put even more emphasis on our efforts to generate online activity and sales. Our Catalogue has helped us increase sales activity year-round, including during our off-season.
  5. We tackle big projects. The summer is also a time for us to get to those projects that we keep putting off during the busy season. The abundance of uninterrupted time available during the summer is a great time to update inventory records, organize storage, catch up on bookkeeping and a host of other unappetizing but necessary tasks.

I think perhaps the greatest challenge of the off season is that it’s very tempting to let momentum slip away. I try to work just as hard during the summer as I do the rest of the year. Those long, slow months can either be a liability or an asset. I work very hard to make them pay off.

 

What Do You Do To Take Advantage of Your Off Season?

What activities have you found to be most useful during your off season? How do you prepare for your busy season during your slow time? How do you keep your slow time from slowing down your business growth? Share your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

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Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

6 Comments

  1. In the “off season” I do many things…
    …I attempt to reorganize my studio (hah)
    …I examine what sold last year and plan on building on those strengths
    …I work on commissions
    …I research for inspirations
    …I will update my woefully behind-the-schedule website
    …When the snow gets thick on the ground, I’ll make a snow angel!

  2. Winter here in Ontario Canada keeps me inside painting. I also use the time to review last years exhibition schedule while making decisions on what I want to do for this coming year. I will be re-entering some shows and scratching off others, while planning too for new opportunities spread across the year. It is a good time to prepare for juried shows and regular exhibitions, which can be time consuming. That also means making an appointment with my photographer to photograph the newest finished work. It is a good time to prepare my income tax too.

  3. I have to consider January and “off” season. People are just recuperating from the holidays, physically, mentally and financially, so it’s a good time for me to do some big picture thinking. I’ve written a year-end review, and am writing a blog post that shows the evolution of my work for 2019. I think about how I want the work to develop this year, set goals, and start fresh. The off season gives me time and space to step back, look at my studio practice from a big picture viewpoint, and set my sights on the future.

  4. This year my off season just started in January. Usually it started in November. My off season is the time I build my inventory, tax prep, decide if I’m taking any art classes. Decide on competitions to enter. Basically set up my yearly schedule. By April the season starts again and this year I have less off time to build inventory so I have no time to waste. My vacation is being able to be painting at home and spending my weekends at home.

  5. All I will say, with no consistent sales record and a lot of marketing work going on, is for years I’ve been in a subtle trap of “shifting focus”. As an arts educator I had 8 precious weeks to do everything I could on the art and domestic front and the routine was the same except the tasks were different.
    Suffice it to say, this year we are taking a 10 day vacation for the first time since we started teaching. We are both retired a decade and a half.
    I don’t know how to disengage the momentum. I’m very used to exchanging one activity for another and calling it a break because that’s what we did. I wonder about people in agriculture as well.
    What is your magic wand for this, Jason? You seem to have made it work.

  6. The off and on seasons shift for me. I am only beginning to experience sales from my exhibitions which is a blessing. and there is no one season that is predictably better so far. However, In what might be a “down” time ( for me “down time” would mean I’m not in high production mode which I periodically enforce on myself to encourage reflection) I determine where to have exhibitions, enter competitions, follow up on proposals that have had no reply beyond the expected time frame for some kind of response, and do a lot of reading and internet scanning , expecially learning about other current artists. I also plan new projects and travel which will stimulate new understanding . I practice re-writing statements. Finally, I bit the bullet this past August and worked on ( in tandem with help of a designer) a new website, which has already begun to be a huge benefit and help.

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