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Just published, the survey reveals a number of trends, headlined by the news that growth in the past year has been at its highest, on average, among BADA members who turn over more than £2m a year.

That is against an overall drop in the estimated turnover across all members, down from £855m ($1.4bn) to £822m ($1.2bn) over the period.

BADA tend to get a very clear picture of what is going on via these surveys as they are answered by a high percentage of members; in this case 53%.

The growing importance of the internet for trade continues, with 60% of members displaying stock via a portal site, 63% of members making sales via the web and around 9% of transactions taking place online. Sales initiated via the internet, even if completed offline, now account for £18m of business annually.

Demand Shift

Changing market demand reflects the varying fortunes across disciplines: Asian works of art, which saw the highest increase in sales at 7% in 2011, have seen a more modest rise of 1% in the past year as the market has softened a little.

Fairs still account for 28% of all sales, down a single percentage point on 2011, a timely reminder of just how important this platform is for trade as London hits the height of its busiest fairs season.

Meanwhile sales overseas dominate trade in the south of the country, with 55% of all sales being to customers in other countries compared to only 31% for members elsewhere. The total proportion of sales overseas remained steady at 52%, with the US still the most important destination, accounting for a quarter of all sales.

"Analysis of the results showed that smaller dealers are the ones who have found things to be toughest," said BADA secretary general Mark Dodgson. "At the same time, those members who have the resources to take the higher-risk, higher-reward approach of targeting international clients, for example at fairs, have done some good business."