Results of Consumer Survey Shed Light on Art Buying Behavior

Article excerpt

ATLANTA--The Art Publishers Association (APA) recently released the results of its consumer survey, "The Art Market: A Study of Consumer Art Buying Behavior," at a special APA breakfast held during DECOR expo Atlanta. The purpose of the survey, according to APA President Robert Sher of Bentley House Publishing, was to forecast the prospects for expanding the art market.

Currently, the picture industry, which includes sales of original art, is a $33 billion industry. It includes originals, custom framers, mass merchandisers, and all chains of distribution, according to Unity Marketing, a consulting firm based in Stevens, Pa. This impressive number convinced Sher and others of the Market Expansion Committee at the APA of the need to examine the art buying behavior of consumers. The goal of the study was to shed light on the industry's current situation and what lies ahead in its future. As Sher said, "The first step in developing strategies to increase art sales is to understand why consumers who buy art make that choice and why other consumers do not choose to buy art."

From Aug. 8 to 22, a research firm conducted telephone interviews with 405 households across the United States. The key issues measured by the survey included whether the household had purchased pictures during the past 12 months; reasons for buying or not buying pictures; whether purchasers had framed any unframed pictures themselves; the amount paid for pictures; alternate wall decor purchased by non-purchasers; and the type of retailer where pictures were purchased.

The term "pictures" was used in the survey rather than art, because there was some concern that "art" would be perceived as only sophisticated or expensive.

Of those participants, 44 percent responded that they had bought pictures during the past 12 months--71 percent of these bought pre-framed art; 59 percent bought unframed art; and 42 percent bought custom framed prints. The survey found that households did not necessarily buy only one kind of picture, as those who bought custom-framed pictures, for example, also often bought pre-framed and unframed pictures.

The average price paid for each unframed picture was $76, pre-framed pictures was $132, and custom-framed pictures was $199.

One interesting finding was that a high percentage of picture purchasers were younger than 45 years of age, with the average age being 39 years old. These younger buyers also tended to buy unframed pictures. Since decorating proved to be a key trigger for picture purchases (47 percent of the purchasers said they were in the decorating cycle), it isn't surprising that purchasers over 45 years of age tended to buy less pictures, because their homes were already decorated and they had little wall space. However, when they did buy a picture, they usually spent twice as much per unframed picture than the younger buyers, according to the survey.

The survey also found a buyer's level of education and income level affected what type of picture a purchaser bought. For example, half of those who purchased a custom-framed picture were college graduates, and two-thirds reported an income of at least $75,000. College-educated purchasers were also more likely to purchase from an art gallery or custom frame shop and less likely to purchase a picture from a department store or furniture store.

Strengths of the Industry

Next Sher explained that a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) was conducted on the entire industry in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses within the industry and the opportunities and threats present in its environment. A committee was formed to interview many long-time participants in the industry and included George Leeson, president of Image Conscious; Bruce Lieberman, partner of Lieberman's Gallery; Sara Richards, managing director of Art Group USA; Aimee Talan, director of marketing at Winn Devon; James Meserve, c. …