How Discounting Can Hurt Your Art Business

Cutting prices might be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to increase your sales. But it could be your worst move.


Why Discounting can Hurt Your Brand and Your Small Business. Read About it on the ABI blog at


Have you noticed that many large retailers have sales going on pretty much all the time? And take note of all the emails you open that offer discounts – 30% off, half price, major reductions, and so on. Discounting seems to be a way of life for many retailers.

But is this the right move for artists? Hardly. Dropping your prices sends a message to shoppers that can devalue your brand, and create the perception that your handmade work isn’t worth your original prices. They may even wonder if your regular prices are artificially high. And, collectors who bought at full price (and are expecting your art to increase in value) might not be very happy to see that you are frequently giving lower prices to others.

Case in point. An artist with a very popular line of fun jewelry complained that customers were only buying when she offered discounts on her work. It turned out that she discounts so often, her many repeat collectors have learned that they don’t have to pay full price. Some of them have told her directly that they always wait for a sale before they will make any purchase from her. The result? She has inadvertently given herself a wage decrease, because now she has to work harder for each dollar she earns.

Rather than discount your work, consider these alternatives:

  1. Add value to what you sell. Rather than drop the price, add something extra. Cosmetic brands have been doing this for ages by giving a small sampling of their other products with each purchase. The extra may be a small piece of art with the purchase of a large one, a baker’s dozen with the purchase of 12, or even a box of notecards that feature the art they bought on the front (this also becomes a great way to get referral business.)
  2. Consider offering a bundle instead of just one item. This is a great strategy for gifts, or for selling collectibles, and will bump up the ticket on each sale. Make this offer time-sensitive to add urgency to the purchase.
  3.  Free shipping is a very popular benefit that you can offer without discounting your work. In fact, you can permanently lower shipping costs by writing them into your pricing formula. Consider offering free shipping only if customer hits a certain dollar threshold, which provides incentive to add more items to the shopping cart. You might also include a coupon with your shipment that offers free shipping on the next purchase. Increase referrals by also including a coupon for free shipping for a friend, too.
  4. Services such as gift wrapping can be included as a complimentary extra during the holiday season. Include a personalized note to the gift recipient on behalf of the purchaser if you are sending the item directly.


What other ways have you found to increase your sales without discounting your prices?

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  1. Thank you to the Arts Business Institute blog for bringing this important topic forward and raising awareness. I agree with everything you said. I encourage every one to share this blog post and bring more visibility to this important topic.

    As mentioned discounts create uncertainty about the VALUE of the artwork. Discounting gives the message that the work was perhaps not worth its initial price, and may diminish what customers are willing to pay. Thus, in the long run, discounting can erode value. By not discounting, a consistent value is maintained for the work.

    Discounts create uncertainty about the stated PRICE of artwork. If it is widely known that a gallery will negotiate prices, buyers will regard the posted retail price as a fiction, and will expect a discounted price as a starting point for negotiation.

    Discounting creates the impression that art should be bargained for, like items in a flea market.

    Discounts align art or craft with a K-Mart mentality that does not sell the unique reasons that the customer purchases hand made art or craft.

    If an artist’s work is discounted in one gallery and not another, and buyers become aware of it, sales at the gallery that refuses to give discounts may be discouraged.

    Discounts can encourage price competition between galleries or competition between the artist and gallery. This is not in the best interest of either artists or galleries.

    Giving discounts selectively may imply that some collectors are more important than others. Many collectors know one another, whether or not they live in the same area. If some customers receive discounts and others do not, word may get around and cause ill feelings.

    When buyers negotiate for discounts, the discount becomes the object of discussion instead of the artwork itself.

    Once a customer receives a discount from an artist or gallery, he or she will expect a discount on all future purchases from the artist or gallery.

    Many of the above comments were copied from the DISCOUNTS document from the Professional Guidelines which discusses the impact of discounts on artists and galleries.
    This document can be found at this link. :

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts which expound on this topic, Harriete! Artists can learn a lot from your professional guidelines.

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