As any business owner knows a drop in sales is both alarming and a signal of something - but understanding why a businesses sales into a particular market dropped is a puzzle.
Initially we assumed that political uncertainty (election of Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK) could be the biggest factor in this decline, it's a sentiment that would be hard to measure of course but intuitively when the financial outlook is less clear making the decision not to buy a non-essential item such as an artwork might be a logical response. The ongoing strength of the NZ dollar against the pound was brought up in our meeting, but the $US has been rising against the $NZ so relative currency strength probably wouldn't be a factor in both of these markets declining at the same time.
But then our analytics revealed something else that neatly fits another theory, not sure how we can test the validity of this without a survey of our customers but bear with me...
We were surprised to note that the total number of transactions had not fallen, and a similar number of prints were bought in an average sale - it was the average value of each sale (ie the cost of each print purchased) that had dropped.
|Native Birds poster $NZ 39.95|
Previously an edition by a top shelf NZ artist like Dick Frizzell - one of his tiki series for instance like the "1938 Tiki" pictured below which start at 20x the price of the bird poster even for a small work- was a more typical purchase. This is an artwork you would buy to have a lasting memento of Aotearoa to treasure for the long haul - perhaps if you did not have any inkling that maybe one day you would be returning home to NZ to live.
|D. Frizzell "1938 Tiki" $NZ 650|
Is this change in preference for the temporary decoration over the long-lasting taonga an indication that kiwi immigrants to these countries are feeling less certain about their long term prospects?
And is this an indicator that perhaps even more kiwis are actually planning to be returning home while we are already undergoing a period of sustained record high immigration?
Art that we buy for ourselves reveals a lot about us (yes, even those customers who "don't know anything about art but know what I like when I see it" but who actually do have an appreciation of art that just needed some encouragement) - but we have never considered that the value and intended longevity of a purchase might mean something too. But we have been left wondering if this (hopefully temporary!) sales blip for NZ's largest art print and poster gallery provides an insight into the current mindset and perhaps future plans for the kiwi diaspora?