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Whether they have their own gallery, share space or simply have overseas representation, a quarter of the society’s 124 members have now spread their wings outside the UK.

This was the most significant trend to emerge from the survey which indicated general business stability among the SLAD members over the period between 2006 and 2008.

Concern over the Artist’s Resale Right also remains high on the agenda, even after the move to extend the right to the heirs of dead artists was put back two years until 2012.

According to the survey, to which just under half the membership responded, 62 per cent say they have already been affected, with 70 per cent expecting to be hit once the estates of artists who have been dead for less than 70 years qualify.

Only a small number of dealers report that the ARR affects more than half their sales by value under the existing rules. However, close to half expect somewhere between 20 and 50 per cent of sales to qualify after 2012, with more than a third saying the ARR would affect over half their sales.

Members who are entirely unaffected by the ARR do not deal in works that would potentially qualify anyway.

When it comes to turnover, there has been little change at the top and bottom end of the spectrum, but seven per cent fewer members are now trading in the £2m-5m bracket, while those with a turnover from £1m-2m have increased from 12 to 25 per cent.

Other headline statistics were as follows:

• 42% of members reported that 2008 had turned out better than expected, while 15% said it had been worse.

• 91% expected 2009 to be worse than 2008.

• Only 16% achieved year-on-year increases of more than 20% in net sales in 2008, while 15% experienced a decrease.

• Almost as many saw an increase in profits as saw a decrease.

• Private buyers continue to form the core client base, accounting for 69% of business in 2008.

• While there has been little change in staff numbers, there has been a shift from full- to part-time work.

By Ivan Macquisten