I chose not to continue with Online Galleries (or its parent, 1stdibs) as a result of a subscription increase that, in my case, was from £175 per month to £400 per month and in the middle of what I considered an annual subscription agreement (a case of ‘always read the small print’, it seems).
Coming off Online Galleries will, without doubt, cost me valuable referrals, and according to Google analytics, has already reduced traffic to my own website. When I Google relevant search terms like ‘Archibald Knox silver’ I have the galling experience of seeing my images as previously listed on Online Galleries linking to their home page.
My analysis of the direct value of Online Galleries to me is that it is indeed worth over £400 per month, generating well over £10,000 of sales per year.
Squeezed on costs
So why come off it? Well, I believe that the internet will become an increasingly dominant channel for antiques and design galleries and so control of that channel is critical.
With this in mind, I cannot envisage partnering with an internet site for the long term when there is such a breakdown in trust. When my sales are, say, 50%, not 5-10%, through Online Galleries, what then?
Will I be asked to pay £4000 per month, or, as for 1stdibs, well over 10% of sales?
Physical galleries are being squeezed by increasing rents and now we have intermediary listings providers trying to recreate an online equivalent.
More than this though, it is important to ask what is the valueadd of an intermediary like Online Galleries? Just 10 years ago the answer was ‘quite a lot’.
Building workable websites was expensive, listings sites even more so, and that warranted high fees. With the emergence of HTML templates however, it is inexpensive and easy to create very effective websites.
So, what are we, as dealers, paying for? The reality is we are paying an intermediary to promote itself at our expense. My images on Google from Online Galleries are there for a reason, indirectly I have paid for it. So why would I pay to become more and more dependent on an intermediary whose value-add is to a large degree a function of my expertise, my products and, in fact, my money?
So, it’s bye-bye Online Galleries and hello to BADA and LAPADA, who have created listing sites empathetic to both the consumer and industry, and also to Instagram.
With increased investment in my own site I am confident that what I may lose in the short term will be more than gained in the longer term.
The Peartree Collection, London
ATG asked Carmine Bruno, managing director, 1stdibs Europe, to respond and here is his reply:
“Four thousand dealers around the globe trust 1stdibs to help them sell their beautiful finds in an increasingly digital-first world. We have invested heavily in building a platform that small, independent sellers can leverage to compete against large online and global brick-and-mortar retailers.
"We understand it takes some time to adapt to change and we constantly talk with buyers and dealers, to understand any concerns they have.”