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But the findings also state that despite this, many dealers selling on the Web are content with their return to date and, significantly, many were prepared to invest considerably more than they had done, the survey reported.

And SLAD believe that it was not surprising that only about 30 per cent of the dealer-owned Websites produced any business at all during the year because only modest sums had been spent on them so far.

The survey, which analyses the London art trade’s performance and status, was completed by a little under half SLAD’s membership. It threw up some interesting statistics, particularly to do with e-commerce, including the fact that only around a dozen members had used an online auction service during the year.

Overall, almost 60 per cent of respondents reported a higher turnover than the previous year, with only 20 per cent seeing a drop; 40 per cent achieved an increase of more than 20 per cent. And about 80 per cent of respondents recorded invoiced sales of £5m or less, while 11 per cent recorded sales in excess of £15m. In addition, more than 70 per cent of respondents reported an increase in pre-tax profits while 16 per cent noted a fall.

Apart from assessing the significance of the Internet on the trade in pictures, the survey also throws interesting light on stock sources.

While dealers acquire 37 per cent of their stock by value from auctions, they report selling only three per cent at them. This would seem to indicate that a large proportion of fine art auction lots come from private sources.

Fairs are becoming increasingly important. Three quarters of respondents exhibited at one or more fairs in the UK or overseas, with an average of a quarter of their annual turnover being achieved at them – “This clearly demonstrates the continuing need to stand up for British interests in negotiations within the EU,” SLAD secretary general Neil Smith told the Antiques Trade Gazette. Exhibitions are seen as contributing significantly as well, with more than twice as many respondents rating them as very important compared to those rating them as having no importance (28 to 13 per cent).

Unsurprisingly UK and US buyers remain overwhelmingly important, accounting for 77 per cent of sales.