In a time well before online communities and digital platforms, Café Guerbois was a Parisian hot spot where some of the greatest artists and writers gathered for lively discussions and debates centered on their crafts.

Fast forward to 2020, when skilled and aspiring artists have an abundance of avenues to share ideas, and recreate the masterpieces that originated from great minds like those that met at Café Guerbois.

The notions of collaboration, global participation, and education are key to generating consumer engagement, which is in turn leading to growing sales for art and drawing related categories. Paint by numbers, YouTube tutorials, socially oriented paint nights, live online classes, art therapy, and new digital tools provide consumers with on-demand ways to connect with art, engage with each other, create, and recreate on a global level and instantaneously. Movements such as Inktober and The Sketchbook Project simultaneously provide artists with an outlet for their work and a platform to share it with the world. Digitally-oriented products including Repaper and Remarkable provide a platform for easy collaboration and transition between the physical and digital world, while maintaining the emotional connection consumers feel to something like writing or drawing on paper.

The sales growth happening within the broader arts and crafts space helps support these trends. Coloring and art was the second fastest growing category online in 2019,* and it’s no surprise that online is growing as a destination for art supply sales. NPD data shows that paint and painting supply sales grew 6% in 2019, driven by acrylic paint, fine art watercolors, and painting accessories. Online sales grew even faster, at 26%.*

Several factors are contributing to the growth happening both in stores and online. In some categories, consumers are trading up to more premium branded products. Consumers are also trading up in their pack size preferences, and this is primarily driven by the shift in purchases moving from in-store to online. Colored pencil sets grew sales online 19%, with the growth primarily stemming from larger packs 50+. In color markers, although a large portion of category mix share gains came from the standard 12-pack, larger pack sizes also grew share.

Other factors impacting this growth stem from the expanding distribution of art and drawing products available beyond the art specialty and independent channels. Aspiring and skilled artists as well as small businesses may be shifting where they purchase art and drawing products. In the last year, the mass merchants, warehouse clubs, and e-commerce channels have continued to gain share of coloring and art sales.** To do so, mass retailers have focused on evolving their digital platforms and pricing competitively to grow market share and pass down the savings to consumers. Better understanding the consumer purchase cycle and buying needs of segments like these may help retailers to customize and optimize digital programs.

Consumer needs centered on purposeful living trends and mindfulness have permeated across industries, and it’s impacting sales in the office supplies category as well, as consumers look for ways to bring mindfulness into their busy lives. With rising concerns around burnout in the workplace, consumers desire that elusive work/life balance and some have identified art as a way to find that balance and sense of mindfulness. In fact, the YouTube channel for renowned art instructor Bob Ross has accumulated over three million subscribers, while other channels, such as The Art Assignment, that offer instructional videos are also growing in popularity. Art also offers a form of meditation, which is another growing trend, especially among younger consumers.

Café Guerbois is different today; it’s a paint night, an online art class, a Sketchbook Project. Though times change, there is a constant in the expressive, inspirational, and therapeutic role art has in our lives. A shifting landscape and more people are tapping into this, and it’s helping to spur growth in the traditional supplies industry.  

*Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / Weekly Retail Tracking Service/ 52 weeks
ending January 4, 2020
Source: The NPD Group/Checkout/ 12 months ending December 2019