Be Smart About Art

Built to last - you get what you pay for

written by: Susan Mumford Nov. 16, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 2968 views

Built to last - you get what you pay for

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Everyone who has worked in a business of mine has come across the trusty Swingline stapler (ca. 1953). Originally acquired in the mid-90s at on the last day of a clearance sale in my hometown, during which one crams everything possible into a brown paper bag for 50 cents, this lucky discovery has been with me ever since and has made multiple trans-Atlantic journeys.  

What stands out about this trusty office gadget is that it still works. Not only that, it’s an item of beauty plus a pleasure to handle. I have disposed of goodness knows how many cheap plastic staplers over the years. Only one has stood the test of time.

In running your business, how do you make buying and selling decisions with the trusty stapler in mind? Do you purchase the cheapest equipment you can source, discarding items as they break, or do you invest in fine quality goods that are built to last? If you look hard enough, you might even score a Susan-stapler-style deal. Similarly, what quality material do you select for making or presenting works of art, ranging from paper selection to frame moulding?

Despite the buzz about sustainable living, it seems that many goods in the 21st Century are manufactured with planned obsolescence in mind. I perosnally like investing in products that are made well and have the ability to be repaired.

This day in age, short-term thinking often applies to services too, but it needn’t be this way. Once when I had my gallery, the gutters needed replacing. The managing agent went with the cheapest bid, and guess what? The same two blokes were called out time and time again to repair their work. It was such a joke that the gallery team nicknamed the duo the ‘Bodge-It Brothers.’ In the end, the managing agents paid the Bodge-It Brothers far more than they would have if the job had been done well in the first place.

Moving to the selling of art, consider an impressive statement: “This photograph will last for 300 years.” Wow! That’s a great selling point, and certainly more appealing to a potential buyer than, “Um. I’m not sure. This is a new process and nobody knows how long images will last.” Taking the former declaration, a successful sale can be followed by a subsequent upsell of frame supply. Educate buyers as to their choices; while they could spend a small amount of money on normal glass, by investing in UV-protected glass or UV-protected window film, the piece will remain in prime condition. You enable them make the decision, and either way, they have confidence that you are an expert advisor. The approach is ideal for developing strong client relationships and furthermore, you have the opportunity to make higher profit margins while at it.

As the saying goes, people get what they pay for. Bear this in mind as a customer as well as a seller, by requesting and offering options with longevity as a possibility. 

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Photographs © Chris King.