Many would argue that starting a business in these tough economic times is not prudent at least, especially a business characterized by a low inventory turnover and a very high elasticity of demand. In the short run, one would not expect a high return on investment from such a business, but with a well defined long-term strategy in place starting any business now is not such a bad idea. First, many companies that have been in existence for at least five years are on the brink of bankruptcy. Their fixed assets overshoot their current decreased demand and their debt-to-equity ratios are high. It means less competition. Second, when the economy starts picking up, your start-up will be well-positioned to go up with the tidal wave carrying little or no debt and built “tough, lean and mean.”
Art might be not such an easy sell now, but it is not necessarily the case in a better economic environment. Let us examine the consumer spending patterns on art in Canada.
o Canadian consumers spent $22.8 billion on cultural goods and services in 2003, an amount that is greater than spending on tobacco, alcohol and games of chance combined.
o The $22.8 billion in consumer spending is over three times more than government spending on culture in Canada.
o Culture is a growth market: Consumer spending on cultural goods and services grew by 36% between 1997 and 2003, much higher than inflation (14%) and population growth (6%).
o Canadians spent $1.2 billion on books (excluding school books) in 2003, 34% more than in 1997 (not adjusted for inflation).
o Spending on live performing arts was $980 million on in 2003, a 31% increase from 1997.
o Canadians spent $530 million on works of art, carvings and vases in 2003, 48% more than in 1997.
o Consumer spending on admissions to museums and heritage sites totaled $410 million in 2003, 23% more than in 1997.
o In comparison, consumer spending on live sporting events was $530 million in 2003.
o 49% of Canadian households spent some money on books (excluding school books) in 2003.
o 37% of households spent money on live performing arts.
o 11% of households spent money on works of art, carvings and vases.
People do spend on art. People are likely to rely on local artists if they have a choice and the total cost is affordable. Culture and art are growing in Canada. The trend is likely to go up despite the present economic slowdown.
I cannot emphasize more that demographics is the key variable in any marketing effort. It is not a coincidence that many companies spend fortunes on conducting primary demographic research prior to developing a new business segment or entering a new market. Art is especially sensitive to demographic segmentation. Thus knowing your customer is key to your success. Let us examine Winnipeg demographics to substantiate the points above.
1. According to the 2006 Census, there were 633,451 people residing in Winnipeg itself and a total of 694,668 inhabitants in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area on 16 May 2006, and 711,455 in the Winnipeg Capital Region making it Manitoba’s largest city and the eighth largest CMA in Canada.
2. Of the city population, 48.3% were male and 51.7% were female. 24.3% were 19 years old or younger, people aged by 20 and 39 years accounted for 27.4%, and those between 40 and 64 made up 34.0% of the population.
3. The average age of a Winnipegger in May 2006 was 38.7, compared to an average of 39.5 for Canada as a whole.
4. Between the censuses of 2001 and 2006, Winnipeg’s population increased by 2.2%, compared to the average of 2.6% for Manitoba and 5.4% for Canada. The population density of the city of Winnipeg averaged 1,365.2 people per square kilometer, compared with an average of 3.5 for Manitoba.
5. The population of the City of Winnipeg is estimated at 672,300 as of July 1, 2009 and that of the census metropolitan area at 739,300.
Psychographics or lifestyle analysis is essentially the analysis of a person’s day-to-day pattern of living. Psychographics are generally expressed as Activities, Interests, and Opinions. A detailed lifestyle analysis is likely to help new businesses in a number of ways. First, the analysis will help in planning an effective marketing strategy. Second, understanding lifestyle patterns will help in developing good advertising themes and web content. Third, lifestyle analysis helps designers to further improve interior and exterior designs.
There is a need to critically understand the spending patterns of people, especially on art and culture, how can they be facilitated by an improved online shopping experience which not only connects them to local artists but also provides many useful services as well.
To effectively tap the target market on the seller’s end, a complete behavior analysis must be done. There is a need to study needs, perceptions, attitudes, and other psychological variables which may influence the artists and art houses. The following factors have a profound impact on many artists who would like to adopt an online business model.
1. Inability to learn the techniques of website development or manage internet based portfolios.
2. Complete dependency on traditional forms of doing business and advertising.
3. Attitude, values, and perception about online business.
Part of a viable strategy is to inform and persuade clients about the firm’s offerings. A behavioral issue arises, however, if consumers have inaccurate beliefs or are resistant to changes.
The chain of events taking place is exerting additional pressure on local artists and creative boutiques to keep up with business overheads. On the other end, consumers are looking for low-cost solutions but are less willing to leave their homes for shopping. Consumers are taking keen interest in buying online to save costs. As the global customer is showing keen interest in buying products and services online, there is a business niche in this market. There is a need to think about ‘an e-store which only connects artists with consumers.’ There is also a need to educate businessmen about increasing the reach of their business beyond ‘traditional brick and mortar establishments.’ That is where your company might fit into the picture.