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Author Topic: What do you think about.....  (Read 11679 times)
Justan
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« on: July 03, 2012, 11:04:33 AM »
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I have an opportunity to open a studio/gallery at our local public market. This means that I’d be mostly going after $10 and $20 dollar bills.

There are a number of other artists who sell at the market.

The argument in favor is that our market is host to about 10 million people a year who are mostly tourists. That is also the argument against.

In general, has anyone sold in a high volume tourist market place?

Comments appreciated....
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2012, 11:32:09 AM »
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The only thing I can offer is a second-hand experience. I know a guy who had a gallery in a typical high-volume tourist/shopping location (Michigan Avenue - a.k.a. Magnificent Mile - Chicago). He had beautiful photographs of Chicago, sold in relatively high volumes, and the place looked reasonably busy most of the time. He was selling unmounted printouts for $50-$150 on average. I always thought he was selling too cheap. Ultimately, he lasted about a year or two. He was helped initially by the lower rent for the place (in the aftermath of the Great Recession), but as soon as the landlord raised the rent, he was forced out. It is a classical conundrum: better location means more business, but the landlord knows that too.
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Justan
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2012, 01:36:12 PM »
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Thank you for your comments!
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bill t.
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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2012, 06:09:34 PM »
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Only a good idea if you don't have to personally be there, and the production work is done by industrial robots or highly trained chimpanzees.  Lacking either of those parameters you risk artistic suicide and severe mental health problems.  Also make sure you are not next door to the Fudge Factory or a jeweler, either of which will make your establishment all but invisible.  And nearby guys who weld together steel dragonflies from old knives, forks, and spoons will pluck those $20's right out of your customers' wallets.

However, in the final days before xmas last year a friend showed a few of my smaller, cheaply framed panos at a shopping mall cart-kiosk when her own stock ran out.  They sold out in a couple hours at around $190/pop, thanks to gratuitous local interest subject matter.  I inquired about leasing a cart for this holiday season back in March, but they were already completely booked unless I wanted to commit to a full year.  No thanks.
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« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2012, 10:49:55 PM »
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I am just finally getting into some consistent sales so will share with you what I have learned.  I am selling through a few local galleries/art shops in various locations, but all pretty much in high traffic areas.  The prints have to be dirt cheap, like $25 for a 9x36 pano.  Essentially, I am selling paper and ink.  Heck, if I didn't have my own printer and had to outsource, no way could it be done.  But alas, my best customer (art shop) is in a high tourist area and so they are buying it up.  The stores will generally markup 200-250%.  I have a minimum order for prints of at least 4 to make it worthwhile for me to even print up a receipt and bring the goods.  The canvas sales are much more lucrative, but I'm really still just selling canvas and ink and wood, not artistic photography.  The picture of course has to be good in order to sell the ink and paper. 

Essentially, I am marking up my hard hard costs at least 400%, but once you screw up one print, there goes a good chunk of your profit margin.  The good thing though is there are sales.  A canvas goes here and there, and that amounts to hundreds in my pockect every week.. only during tourist season of course.  But of course if I add in my time, equipment, depreciation, well, I'm making nothing. 

The only way to do photography these days is as a part time gig to supplement and of course its making money from what I enjoy doing.  It sucks to be selling wholesale, but to pay rent, even if you will man your own shop would be crazy.  As the OP says, a high tourist area is what you need, but of course that won't come cheap.  Better to let someone else sell, unless you're Peter Lik of course.  I doubt that these days he could climb to where he is now though.  I think its a different market and although I feel like the work I put into my images should command a higher price, the reality today given the economy and the fact that everyone is a photographer makes me happy to have sales and the ability to expand my business further without too much more risk if I just keep up with this same business model.

Oh.. worst of all, I'm not even the cheapest out there.  Some of the stores think my print prices are too high compared to what they are getting some of their other stuff for.  I figure if some photographer out there is just doubling their print costs they just just giving it away.  But don't get me started! LOL
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Justan
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« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2012, 09:34:59 AM »
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>However, in the final days before xmas last year a friend showed a few of my smaller, cheaply framed panos at a shopping mall cart-kiosk when her own stock ran out.  They sold out in a couple hours at around $190/pop, thanks to gratuitous local interest subject matter.  I inquired about leasing a cart for this holiday season back in March, but they were already completely booked unless I wanted to commit to a full year.  No thanks.

I contacted one of our local super malls to ask what the fee was for a 5x9 kiosk. For 10 months of the year, the monthly rent is about $3,500, but during November and December the price jumps to $6,500 per month. SPENDY, but tempting.
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Justan
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« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2012, 09:56:17 AM »
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I am just finally getting into some consistent sales so will share with you what I have learned.  I am selling through a few local galleries/art shops in various locations, but all pretty much in high traffic areas.  The prints have to be dirt cheap, like $25 for a 9x36 pano.  Essentially, I am selling paper and ink.  Heck, if I didn't have my own printer and had to outsource, no way could it be done.  But alas, my best customer (art shop) is in a high tourist area and so they are buying it up.  The stores will generally markup 200-250%.  I have a minimum order for prints of at least 4 to make it worthwhile for me to even print up a receipt and bring the goods.  The canvas sales are much more lucrative, but I'm really still just selling canvas and ink and wood, not artistic photography.  The picture of course has to be good in order to sell the ink and paper. 

Essentially, I am marking up my hard hard costs at least 400%, but once you screw up one print, there goes a good chunk of your profit margin.  The good thing though is there are sales.  A canvas goes here and there, and that amounts to hundreds in my pockect every week.. only during tourist season of course.  But of course if I add in my time, equipment, depreciation, well, I'm making nothing. 

The only way to do photography these days is as a part time gig to supplement and of course its making money from what I enjoy doing.  It sucks to be selling wholesale, but to pay rent, even if you will man your own shop would be crazy.  As the OP says, a high tourist area is what you need, but of course that won't come cheap.  Better to let someone else sell, unless you're Peter Lik of course.  I doubt that these days he could climb to where he is now though.  I think its a different market and although I feel like the work I put into my images should command a higher price, the reality today given the economy and the fact that everyone is a photographer makes me happy to have sales and the ability to expand my business further without too much more risk if I just keep up with this same business model.

Oh.. worst of all, I'm not even the cheapest out there.  Some of the stores think my print prices are too high compared to what they are getting some of their other stuff for.  I figure if some photographer out there is just doubling their print costs they just just giving it away.  But don't get me started! LOL

Thank you for this commentary!

One of the debates I’ve maintained over the years is that one gets about what they set themselves up to get, for better or worse. If one puts themselves into a venue where people expect to spend $20 dollar bills, then that’s what they will get, for the most part. A friend who has a store at this market (he’s had it for years) says that most of his sales are for $10-$20 but that some go up from there. For him the store is a part time job. He is a commercial artist by trade, and has had a regular gig for decades.

The larger issue is one of likelihoods. I’ve had a number of offers from high volume areas to show & sell work, but the locations typically sell photos for around $20 a print. At that rate it is impractical to use fine art paper due to cost. In fact, most of the prints form tourist locations I’ve seen are not printed on high quality paper. And no one appears to care. The prospects transform the process from one of selling a high quality print, to something where the margin is the primary concern.

Of course, if 12 million visitors a year translates into, say, 100K sales at $20 each….
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2012, 01:32:12 PM »
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... Of course, if 12 million visitors a year translates into, say, 100K sales at $20 each….

Which translates to 13-14 pieces per day, every day of the year. Is that realistic (open-ended question)?
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« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2012, 01:50:26 PM »
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I have an opportunity to open a studio/gallery at our local public market. This means that I’d be mostly going after $10 and $20 dollar bills.

There are a number of other artists who sell at the market.

The argument in favor is that our market is host to about 10 million people a year who are mostly tourists. That is also the argument against.

In general, has anyone sold in a high volume tourist market place?

Comments appreciated....



For the last 3 years I've sold wholesale to a high volume framer who operates direct to the consumer sales with the equivalent of 12 10x20 booths in a high traffic Winter season location in Arizona. I sell them paper prints on Epson Presentation matte for around $25 each in the 16x20 to 24x30 sizes. They usually buy several dozen at a time, then double and triple mat them, and frame them with very attractive moulding plus regular glass. Average selling price for those framed sizes are around $225.  

I also provide them large canvasses mounted on foamcore that they simply put nice moulding around and add hanging wire. I sell the 64" x 18" size sealed and mounted canvasses to them for $149 and they retail them for $400-$500.

In the same shopping area location are usually four or five other photographers, some of whom come and go from month to month who believe that they have to give away prints and matted prints for $10 - $20. They have no impact whatsoever on the sales of my work. Another good quality photographer also sells large canvasses there for quite a bit less but they are stretched only. And he doesn't provide any framed work, probably because he can't compete with the high volume framer's pricing.

My best advice is to judge your pricing according to the quality of your work and its presentation. The worst thing is to make buying decisions for your customer. Winter visitors and tourists have money to spend. Most of the scenics I sell there are local in nature. The Superstition Mountains and other Southwest USA landscapes. If you can provide the local products folks are looking for in your location you should go for it.
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bill t.
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« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2012, 10:46:06 PM »
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May I seriously recommend selling your pieces on commission through galleries run by other people?

For a ridiculously low 50% commission they will spend their days doing nothing but pitching your product, and you don't have to pay them a salary or hourly wage to do this!  You also don't have to pay on a lease, clean the bathroom, change the lights, mop the floor, collect or pay sales taxes, or deal with the occasional psycho customer or employee-in-crisis.  And you will get to spend much more time out in the field taking pictures.  The best possible gallery experiences can very much resemble being a man of leisure.  Sorta.  Think about it.
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Justan
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2012, 11:32:40 AM »
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Which translates to 13-14 pieces per day, every day of the year. Is that realistic (open-ended question)?

Well, if it were 100K items sold per year, that would be way more than 14 pieces per day.

But numbers aside it a realistic expectation? I don’t know. Based on my buddy who has a store that sells art in the area, in his case, absolutely no, except during the xmas holiday. In the case of the guy who sells freshly made donut holes about 100 yards away, he probably comes close to selling 2x that.

If one wanted to use the classic model of catching about ½ of 1 percent of the opportunity (about 10M), that would pencil out at 100K item sales per year.

It probably helps to have something that smells like hot canola, sugar, and cinnamon. My partner makes some of the best pizzelles in the world. We could sell those too.
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Justan
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« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2012, 11:35:55 AM »
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For the last 3 years I've sold wholesale to a high volume framer who operates direct to the consumer sales with the equivalent of 12 10x20 booths in a high traffic Winter season location in Arizona. I sell them paper prints on Epson Presentation matte for around $25 each in the 16x20 to 24x30 sizes. They usually buy several dozen at a time, then double and triple mat them, and frame them with very attractive moulding plus regular glass. Average selling price for those framed sizes are around $225.  

I also provide them large canvasses mounted on foamcore that they simply put nice moulding around and add hanging wire. I sell the 64" x 18" size sealed and mounted canvasses to them for $149 and they retail them for $400-$500.

In the same shopping area location are usually four or five other photographers, some of whom come and go from month to month who believe that they have to give away prints and matted prints for $10 - $20. They have no impact whatsoever on the sales of my work. Another good quality photographer also sells large canvasses there for quite a bit less but they are stretched only. And he doesn't provide any framed work, probably because he can't compete with the high volume framer's pricing.

My best advice is to judge your pricing according to the quality of your work and its presentation. The worst thing is to make buying decisions for your customer. Winter visitors and tourists have money to spend. Most of the scenics I sell there are local in nature. The Superstition Mountains and other Southwest USA landscapes. If you can provide the local products folks are looking for in your location you should go for it.


Thanks for this excellent feedback! There is a lot of practical information here.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2012, 11:54:11 AM »
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Well, if it were 100K items sold per year, that would be way more than 14 pieces per day...

 Huh

$100,000 total sales per year, divided by $20 each, results in 5,000 sold prints per year. Divided by 365, results in 13.7 prints per day on average.
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Justan
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« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2012, 12:00:33 PM »
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May I seriously recommend selling your pieces on commission through galleries run by other people?

For a ridiculously low 50% commission they will spend their days doing nothing but pitching your product, and you don't have to pay them a salary or hourly wage to do this!  You also don't have to pay on a lease, clean the bathroom, change the lights, mop the floor, collect or pay sales taxes, or deal with the occasional psycho customer or employee-in-crisis.  And you will get to spend much more time out in the field taking pictures.  The best possible gallery experiences can very much resemble being a man of leisure.  Sorta.  Think about it.

My original plan was to get my work into about a dozen (or more) galleries. I'm still working on that plan.

I’ve learned that some artists who do have their own public studio/gallery successfully leverage that to help them get into yet more galleries and art shows.

The problem I’ve encountered with galleries is one of fitting into the gallery owner’s agenda. This is a long topic but the summary is that it’s rare that I’ve been able to get the larger pieces I want into local galleries. Ironically, when I do get the works in, they sell.

Most gallery owners I’ve spoken with A) have a back-handed bias against photographs; and B) they have a long list of friends and dependents they’d rather help support rather than another unknown be seller of pictures.

So the goal of a public studio/gallery is as much as a marketing platform as it is an opportunity to promote works better than others will, and to a larger market.

Selling at a mall would be a gamble at a very high volume setting. Considering that a big local art show can cost over a kilobuck for a 3 day opportunity, 6 kilobucks for a 30 day opportunity might be a pretty good value. Of course, there is usually only 1 or 2 art galleries at most shopping malls around here. That says something about the buying public…………………….………………………………………………………..



« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 12:03:27 PM by Justan » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2012, 12:01:26 PM »
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Huh

$100,000 total sales per year, divided by $20 each, results in 5,000 sold prints per year. Divided by 365, results in 13.7 prints per day on average.


That explains. I was talking about items, you about revenue.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2012, 12:23:17 PM »
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That explains. I was talking about items, you about revenue.

Expecting to sell 100,000 prints a year? 250-300 per day? 34 each hour? One every two minutes? And generate $2 million in annual revenue? Hell, where do I sign up?

No wonder artists are lousy business people (and vice versa) Wink
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« Reply #16 on: July 13, 2012, 12:44:47 PM »
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^Never said I expected to sell that, only that it was a reasonable opportunity given 10 M visitors per year, (almost 28K visitors per day) that go by the store.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #17 on: July 13, 2012, 01:11:01 PM »
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My original plan was to get my work into about a dozen (or more) galleries...

May I seriously recommend selling your pieces on commission through galleries run by other people?...

Bill and Nancy,

Where do you people find a gallery, let alone dozen!? A gallery willing to accept photographic walk-ins, that is.

Here, in Chicago and suburbs, I witnessed in the last eight years only closures of galleries (both photographic and classic arts). Here in Naperville (a Chicago suburb), eight years ago there was a strictly photographic gallery and one with classic arts (at least on the main downtown streets). The photographic gallery was selling only its owner's photography (mostly local scenes). Never saw photography in the other "classic arts" gallery. Both closed several years ago.

The renowned Thomas Mangelsen had until recently its own gallery in Oakbrook (another Chicago suburb). Had to close it last year. And that is the same guy who reportedly made $11 millions in sales one year (through all his galleries and online sales). Apparently, couldn't afford the rent in the upscale shopping mall.

Chicago itself has several photographic galleries, but only one that carried the type of landscape and cityscape photography we see around here (on LuLa, that is). And that is the one that closed, as described in the second post in this thread. Other photographic galleries are rather fine-art photography (i.e., closer to classic art done through photographic medium, rather than classic photography aspiring to be art). Their prices are in kilos, rather then grams (to borrow Nancy's dollar scale). And they are by invitation only.

There are occasionally "fine art" shops in some suburban malls, selling what I consider standard kitsch fare, the likes you can find in home-furnishing stores. I say occasionally, as they seem to faster close than open.

In the last eight years, since I moved here, I witnessed nothing but closings of spaces that could be (even remotely) associated with culture: Borders book stores, photographic and classic art galleries, etc., and being replaced by yet another product of sweat and child labor from Asia, i.e., clothing. How many more variations of cheap t-shirts and jeans people need!?

Chicago has its Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue), prime shopping and, supposedly, cultural venue. It has never been famous for its culture, but at least there were some islands of that, among the sea of shop-till-you-drop spaces. Not any more.

« Last Edit: July 13, 2012, 01:14:51 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2012, 10:20:12 AM »
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> Nancy,

> (to borrow Nancy's dollar scale)

> Where do you people find a gallery, let alone dozen!? A gallery willing to accept photographic walk-ins, that is.

Slobodan,

There is no one named “Nancy” that has participated in this thread. Yet your references make it clear you are referring to me as “Nancy.”

I’m sorry you can’t hold a conversation without being stupid.

Based on your evident need to insult, it’s not a surprise you’ve had a lot of problems getting into galleries.

Good luck with that.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #19 on: July 14, 2012, 11:44:30 AM »
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... There is no one named “Nancy” that has participated in this thread...

I’m sorry you can’t hold a conversation without being stupid.

Based on your evident need to insult, it’s not a surprise you’ve had a lot of problems getting into galleries...

My apologies, Tracy, a temporary brain freeze. A more benevolent person would see a certain similarity and simply correct me. After all, both names have five letters, end in "cy" and share "a." But, the memory error is mine, so I once again apologize for it.

However, how you make a bee line from a slip of the tongue to me "being stupid" and with an "evident need to insult" is, indeed, beyond me. Also, how's calling someone Nancy, even in error, insulting!?

Given that a lot of people here are posting under their full names, and given that is also a recommendation from the owners of the forum, I prefer to address people by their real names (barring occasional and unintentional misspelling).

As for me "having problems getting into galleries"... I have zero problems, actually, as I am not trying at all. I subscribe to the Groucho Marx philosophy* in that respect.

I spent a lot of time and effort trying to address the essence of the issues you raised in this thread, but apparently the only thing you see is the name mix-up!?

* EDIT: Apparently, it wasn't clear which Groucho Marx philosophy (i.e., quote) I had in mind (and I was mistaken in hoping that the context would help), so here it is: "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member".
« Last Edit: July 16, 2012, 12:43:36 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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