How to Start an Art Supply Store

People enjoy producing fine arts and crafts both as hobbies and professionally. Art supply retailers provide the vital service of promoting the creation of art within a community by making available arts and crafts supplies and offering in-store arts demonstrations. An art supply retail business applies all of the basic principles of retail sales; however, because it serves a niche market, you should have a keen interest and knowledge of the basic history, materials, trends and terminology of the fine arts and crafts industry.

Finance the art supply store business venture. Depending on the size of the store and type of inventory stocked, the start-up costs can vary. Sources can include personal finances or a business loan from family and friends or a commercial lender such as a bank. Request to set up business accounts with wholesale art suppliers with net-30 or net-60 terms, which respectively provides 30 or 60 days after receipt of goods to pay the vendor's invoice. This business credit gives some accounting and financing flexibility by allowing for sales on products before invoice payments are due.

Increase art supplies know-how. Knowledge of art supplies will be important in talking with both wholesale vendors and the general public. Basic knowledge can be obtained from books such as Sister Wendy's 1000 Masterpieces, or by taking an introductory seminar at a local college.

Find a retail store. Look for high traffic areas for visibility. Starting the store near a university with an active and well-established fine arts program is also a good idea. Additionally, the availability of convenient parking will also be important to customers.

Stock the retail store. Art supply inventory can be purchased in bulk from wholesaler dealers. Staple inventory will include an assortment of paints, pencils, brushes, canvases, sketch books, smocks, easels, sculpting supplies and chairs. Order an assortment of wholesale catalogs to select inventory. Operational equipment needed will include a cash register, glass display case, computer, printer, copier, telephone and Internet access.

Join an association of professional art retailers. For example, the International Art Materials Trade Association was founded in 1950 by a group of art supply retailers and provides members retail information and resources and opportunities to network. Members include manufacturers, distributors, retailers and importers.

Provide unique services, such as mobile service. Consider offering free periodic delivery of art supplies to shut-in such as to residents of independent living communities and senior citizen homes.

Promote the business within the local community through advertising and marketing. This will include advertising with local radio, newspapers, and magazines. Frequently distribute fliers and brochures to locations such as universities, summer camps and day care centers -- places where teachers, students and parents frequent. Develop a mailing list to send out press releases for in-store events and store catalogs. Offering a how-to series of art classes and workshops may draw both hobbyist and experienced artists.

References

Resources

  • "Sister Wendy's 1000 Masterpieces"; Wendy Beckett; 1999
  • "The Everything Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store"; Dan Ramsey and Judy Ramsey; 2010

About the Author

Vanessa Cross has practiced law in Tennessee and lectured as an adjunct professor on law and business topics. She has also contributed as a business writer to news publications such as the "Chicago Tribune" and published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Cross holds a B.A. in journalism, a Juris Doctor and an LL.M. in international business law.