We Have Significant Common Ground

By Jeremy Franklin, NAMTA’s 2018/19 President

I recently attended the Creativeworld show in Frankfurt Germany, and as I was leaving on the train headed to the airport, passed a billboard that read “The world of business has limited common ground”.  As I was reflecting on the show, I couldn’t help but think how much I disagreed with that statement.

With respect to our industry, and the NAMTA membership, I believe we have significant common ground.  The art materials market, like many others, is undergoing a change leaving many members questioning the future of retail in the age of e-commerce.  And the most important common ground topic of today is the continued effect of online retailing on both the traditional brick and mortar sales channel, as well as the vendor – retailer – consumer relationship. As e-commerce continues to grow and challenge market segments, it will take forward thinking vendors and retailers (both traditional and online) to find creative ways to partner to succeed.

The NAMTA trade show can be more than an opportunity to see new products and programs and visit with business partners and friends.  It can be a conduit for exploring this commonality and a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and opportunities.  A vehicle for working together to adapt and navigate the changing landscape of the new marketplace. 

My goal in this article is to get you thinking about these challenges and then to bring those insights and ideas to the Dallas show to share and discuss with your fellow NAMTA members.

The 2016 Creative Products Size of the Industry Study estimates the U.S. Art & Craft Industry at $36 billion dollars, with a majority of the spend (91.3%) at physical stores. Of the top 5 art & craft categories, “Painting & Drawing” is ranked number two in terms of percentage spent at 16.3%. 

NAMTA’s 2018 Artist and Art Materials study indicates over 58% of art materials spending in the US is done at a local or online art supply stores.  What does all this mean?  There are plenty of customers looking to purchase art materials, and opportunities exist for capturing these sales across multiple channels.

  • E-commerce will continue to disrupt the market, and brick and mortar retailers must find new ways to respond and leverage assets that e-commerce players don’t have.  The more e-commerce pushes algorithms and artificial intelligence, the more space there is for individualized service and personal connection with your customers.  Figure out what makes your store special and use those weapons to compete.  Ask your fellow NAMTA member retailers for examples of how they may be accomplishing this goal.
  • Can e-commerce help you sell more product via third party marketplace transactions?  Marketplaces have strong appeal — and retailers must closely evaluate participation. Per a recent UPS study conducted by ChannelAdvisor, marketplaces are a retail force with 90% of U.S. independent online retailers selling through them. ChannelAdvisor estimates that marketplace sales account for approximately 25% of total online retail sales, and 85% of online shoppers in their study had made a purchase from one or more in the past year, led by Amazon (70%) and eBay (53%). Would you be interested if NAMTA sponsored a workshop on understanding third party reselling?  Ask your vendors how they may be supporting this channel?
  • If you are an online seller, how can you work with vendors and reps to ensure your content is up-to-date and accurate (from the newest product images to correct product specifications)?  New studies indicate e-commerce websites have surpassed search engines as the primary vehicle for consumer research and purchasing decisions.
  • How can your store become a fresh, local destination for artists?  How can you work with your vendors and reps to ensure you have the most up-to-date assortments & merchandising?  Are you maximizing your retail and feature space via power panels and endcaps that are refreshed and updated regularly?  There must be reasons to visit and then a desire to return to ensure your store’s viability.
  • How can you leverage the expertise of your vendors and reps to work with your staff to resurrect the ‘art of selling’ to your customer?  It is difficult to get customers interested in and understanding the technical side of art materials.  A well trained and educated staff is essential to a personal connection with your customers.  Use your customers’ time in the store for engagement, and an opportunity to figure out what you or a vendor can do better or why a shopper did or did not buy a product.  Then share this information with your staff and vendors so they can improve accordingly.
  • How can you use technology to improve efficiencies?  From inventory to checkout, can an investment in a new and modern POS system assist by providing data that is essential for you to use in future purchasing decisions?  Do you offer quick checkout tapping into mobile technology?  Would you be interested if NAMTA were able to add technology vendors to the trade show floor?
  • Many vendors have initiated Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) policies to address discounting.  For those vendors who have initiated MAP pricing, ensure you have a complete understanding of their policy, its requirements, and objectives.
  • How are you communicating with your customers outside of the store?  Are you taking advantage of social media and/or opportunities for engagement with local artists, art societies, and schools?  Do you carry the merchandise they want and need?  Do you have classroom space – if yes are you working with local artists and vendors to create a robust class schedule to bring customers into your store?

Facilitating these conversations can help us all take an honest look at how we work together to define our role and position in the new marketplace. Most importantly, it will help NAMTA understand opportunities for making our trade show better, and ensure we are providing maximum benefit and value to our membership.

In addition to the above, NAMTA has released the 2018 Artists and Art Materials Study.  I encourage all NAMTA members to download the Study. it's a free download for members.  Use its insights and key findings to also help understand how our vendors and retailers can better serve the artist community.

Jeremy Franklin is the President of A Franklin & Associates LLC, a manufacturers’ representative organization based in Texas.  Jeremy has been in the Art Materials Industry as a sales representative since 1998, and the 2018/19 President of NAMTA.