Upgrading Your Gallery to Increase Profits

A Continuing-Education Series from Chalk & Vemilion Fine Arts, Inc.


As part of an overall product mix, most art galleries offer framing services, even to the point where the framing services provide most of the revenue for that gallery. How does a frame shop turn itself into an art gallery, and why would they want to?

The answer, in a nutshell, is to increase revenue. When you expand your product line, you increase the possibility of sales. By offering products that your customers want in conjunction with or in addition to the products you already offer, you satisfy more of their needs and increase your sales. It’s obvious that having art for sale along with framing is a natural fit.

How do you go about this? Some gallery owners may decide to really jump in with both feet – greatly expanding or renovating their gallery space, or taking a new space entirely, investing a lot of money in a complete inventory of art, display, lighting, etc. That’s great, and that’s one way to go, but what if you can’t take a big financial plunge? Is there a way to dip your toe into selling art without making a big commitment?

The answer to that is yes, and no. You can start small, but you must make a commitment of one kind or another to succeed. You can’t just buy 5 prints, hang them on the wall, and hope they sell. YOU have to sell them, and 5 prints may not cut it.

  1. Do your research. Look through the trade publications to see what’s currently being offered by art publishers. Read about trends in printing methods and media. Talk to the sources you already deal with – framing sales reps, for example – to see what they think is new and exciting out in the field. Visit other art galleries in your surrounding area; what are they selling, and how are they selling it? Do you want to copy their offerings, or try something new? How will you compete with what they offer?

  2. If you must start small, narrow your choices to 5 or 6 artists, then talk to the publishers. What are the prices and terms? What kind of marketing support can they give or offer you to launch their artist in your gallery? What kind of track record do they have as a supplier? Who else in your area carries their art?

  3. Choose 3 or 4 artists, and invest yourself in them. When you have settled on an artist whose work you believe in, educate yourself so your customers will believe in it as well. Read everything you can about the artist’s background, history, achievements, work methods, etc. Learn about how the pieces are produced and be able to answer questions without having to look at the reference material (Chalk & Vermilion, for example, has books and videos available for many of our artists, as well as brochures and videos about various art printing and productions methods).

  4. Buy the art, frame it well, and give it some wall space with a little breathing room, showing at least 3 or 4 pieces from each artist. This shows you believe in this artist and gives an idea of imagery and range to the customer. You can’t just hang one and keep the other pieces in a drawer to show when someone asks you – they’ll never think to ask you if you have more. Keep this “art area” free of distractions and clutter, and give the customer a little room to step back and really look at the art.

Sound simple? It is, really, but we are constantly amazed at frame shops who say “Oh, we tried selling some art, but no one really went for it, so we just carry posters.” We suspect that they thought the customers would fall all over themselves and bust down the door just because they saw a framed print on the wall (wouldn’t that be nice). But, as with everything, YOU have to believe in it, invest in it, and SELL it.

For those of you who are already “real” art galleries, the same steps apply when deciding to carry another artist’s work. Unlike, for example, a hot product that might be all the rage among, say, teenagers (who have an uncanny ability to sniff out something they like and buy it like crazy), you will have to educate yourself and give yourself a base of understanding of new art before you can talk about it and sell it. Even if you take on work with an established “name”, many customers will still need to be “sold” on it.

Upgrading in any form usually produces positive results, if the upgrade is well thought out and well supported. Whether it’s the natural extension of adding good art to a framing shop or expanding the art that you offer, customers who already trust you will be open to these new choices, and customers who do not currently do business with you may be drawn to you because of these new products.

55 Old Post road #2, Greenweich, CT 06830 (800) 877-2255

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