Holiday Art Market Success: A Comprehensive Roadmap for Artists

Suzy Kopf | November 6, 2023

The holiday season can be one of the most lucrative times of the year for artists. 

The bulk of small retail businesses have the most sales between October and December as shoppers gear up for the winter gift-giving holidays. 

Artists who sell their work are no different.

The countdown for holiday markets and increased direct sales is on right now. According the CNBC, the average American spent $1,500 on gifts in 2022. Use our Artwork Archive checklist to make sure you’re on track to maximize your holiday profits at the busiest time of the year.

Here is a month-to-month guide on how you can best prepare for holiday art markets and online sales for your art business. 

What should artists be doing in October and Early November to prepare for the holiday season?

  1. Apply and Pay for Participation: Start by applying for the art fairs or markets you wish to participate in and ensure you meet the booth fee payment deadlines. 

  2. Plan Your Market Schedule: Create a market schedule for the next 12 weeks. Determine the number of events you want to attend and assess the time and commitment required for each. Use Artwork Archive to keep an organized calendar of your upcoming events, helping you manage your schedule effectively.

  3. Assess Your Needs: Consider your bandwidth and needs for each market and fair. Decide how many events you can realistically participate in and whether you require assistance. Reach out to potential helpers, such as friends, family, or your partner, well in advance.

  4. Organize Your Documentation: If you haven't done so already, it's time to photograph and scan any artwork you plan to transform into printed items like calendars, giclées, or tea towels. Even if you primarily sell original pieces, it's still a good idea to get your documentation in order, making it easier to add your work to your online shop or preferred point-of-sale system.

    TIP: Keeping all of those images organized alongside the details about each print in a system like Artwork Archive can help streamline this process. 
  5. Review Sales History: After completing your documentation, review your sales from previous years to understand the demand for each type of work. Determine how much of each work to make or order, following the guideline of adding 20% more of what you sold in the previous year. Artwork Archive helps you easily generate sales reports from past years or quarters for this analysis.

  6. Complete Design Work and Testing: For any prints you plan to produce, complete the design work and create test proofs. Ensure you are satisfied with the printing quality before committing to full production. Artwork Archive can assist in organizing your design files and recording the results of your print tests.

  7. Fulfill Product Inventory: If you're working with prints or other products, place orders for all the items you intend to sell. Use Artwork Archive to track your inventory and orders, making it easier to stay organized.

  8. Schedule Production: Plan your last production push for October to ensure you have sufficient inventory before the busy holiday season. This way, you can focus on sales, events, and packing in November and December. 

  9. Plan Your Booth Layout: Begin planning your booth layout, considering the specific products or pieces that make sense for each venue. Tailor your selection to match the target audiences of different markets. 

What should artists be doing in mid November to prepare for the holiday season?

  1.  Order Your Packing Materials: In early November, it's essential to stock up on packing supplies, such as plastic sleeves, chipboard backing, boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap, shopping bags, cards, and ribbons. If you're running low on business cards, consider ordering them now. 
  2. Set Up Your Booth Materials: If you need materials to set up your booth, such as folding tables, display racks, book holders, or pop-up tents, make arrangements to purchase or borrow them. Some markets offer tables for a fee, but they require advance reservations. If you're new to holiday bazaars, ask your network if they have any equipment you can borrow for a day or two. 

  3. Prepare Your Packing in Advance: Once your packing materials arrive, use them to protect your printed materials. Any packing work you can do in advance of selling or shipping during peak holiday sales will save you time and effort. 

  4. Price Your Artwork: Keep in mind that holiday shoppers may have different budgets. Price your work with the holiday shopper in mind, setting small items at no more than $10, mid-range items between $15 and $35, and larger items at $35 and up. If most of your products are priced at $75 or more, you may not make many sales at holiday markets, but participating can still help you introduce your work to a new audience. Artwork Archive can help track and get insights into your own pricing. 

  5. Update Your Online Shop: Add the items you're selling to your Artwork Archive Public Profile, a curated Private Room for VIP customers, or website. Ensure that you can accept multiple forms of payment and that you're charging the appropriate taxes. 

  6. Test Your Online Shopping Experience: Send the link to your online shop to a few friends to test the shopping experience on different devices. Make any necessary changes based on their feedback to ensure a smooth sales process. 

  7. Promote Your Participation: Start promoting your participation in various events to your network on social media and through your newsletter. Additionally, give a shout-out to any friends who will also be working the same events to encourage resharing. 


What should artists be doing in late November to prepare for the holiday season?

  1. Boost Your Social Media Promotion: As part of your ongoing social media promotion, start sharing the link to your online shop and consider offering a "pre-sale" event timed with Small Business Saturday, which falls on November 25th this year. Don't forget to remind your followers that you have great gift items available! Link to your Public Profile on Artwork Archive's Discovery Platform—where collectors can browse for holiday gifts of original artworks.

  2. Prepare Your Vehicle and Booth Setup: If applicable, pack your vehicle and complete a full booth setup wherever you have space to test out your setup. Time yourself during this process, and document how you load your car and arrange your display. 

  3. Evaluate Early Sales at Late-November Markets: If you have one or two late-November markets or fairs, treat these initial in-person selling opportunities as a test, especially if you're new to this selling method. Carefully note what is selling well and what strategies are working. If you quickly sell out of certain items, consider ordering or making more if the time allows. If your sales are sluggish, think about reconfiguring your booth layout for a more appealing presentation or consider adjusting the prices of specific items. Artwork Archive can assist in tracking your sales, helping you identify which items are popular and need replenishing.

  4. Manage Shipping Commitments: Stay on top of your shipping commitments and plan to visit your chosen shipping provider multiple times a week during this six-week period. It's important to note that all carriers are typically overwhelmed during this time, which might lead to longer delivery times, so plan accordingly. Let your buyers and collectors know of a last cut-off date to get their orders in — likely early December, to ensure that their artwork will arrive on time. 


What should artists be doing in early December to prepare for the holiday season?

  1. Manage Your Schedule and Prioritize Self-Care: During the initial three weeks of December, you might find yourself juggling multiple markets, sometimes even on the same day. This can be quite stressful, and the process of loading and unloading merchandise can be physically demanding. It's essential not to overcommit yourself socially during this period. For instance, if you have a market on Saturday, avoid planning to attend a holiday party that night. Prioritize taking care of your mind and body to ensure you can maximize your sales potential during these hectic weeks.

  2. Stay on Top of Inventory: Keep a vigilant eye on your inventory, ensuring that it remains up-to-date minute by minute. To achieve this, it's most convenient to record all sales in one central place like Artwork Archive. For example, if someone purchases a print in person and pays with cash, immediately update the number of available prints in your online inventory.

  3. Communicate Shipping Deadlines: If you are still shipping items, start notifying your customers about the last shipping date for products intended as gifts. Many retailers choose December 15th as the final shipping date before the new year. Keeping customers informed about shipping deadlines can help manage their expectations and ensure the timely delivery of their gifts.


What should artists be doing in late December to prepare for the holiday season?

  1. Review Your Sales and Inventory: After hopefully successfully navigating the holiday season, it's essential to ensure your inventory is accurate. This includes verifying stock levels and accounting for any holiday-related products you have on hand. You can use Artwork Archive to maintain your inventory, helping you identify which items need attention.

  2. Finalize Promotions: As the year draws to a close, take the opportunity to send out any final promotions or discounts to sell any remaining holiday-related products that you don't want to carry over into the new year.

  3. Reflect and Plan: Take some time to make notes for yourself regarding what worked well during the holiday season and what did not. For instance, if you encounter challenges like a lack of lighting or a wobbly display, plan for additional battery-powered lights and reinforce your booth before next year. Additionally, if customers expressed a desire for more options within your display, make note of the suggestions for next year.

  4. Take a Break: After a demanding holiday season, remember to take a well-deserved end-of-year break to rest and recharge!

By incorporating Artwork Archive into your post-holiday routine, you can efficiently manage your inventory, promotional efforts, and planning for the year ahead, ultimately making your transition into the new year more organized and productive.

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