Chapter 2 Dealer Sales in 2020

Chapter 2 focuses on dealers and galleries, analyzing sales and other key indicators, assessing how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on different value segments and sectors of the market. This chapter looks at costs, margins, and debt in the sector as well as artist representation. It also addresses the changing priorities and outlook for dealers in 2021.

The fallout from the COVID-19 crisis had a negative effect on aggregate dealer sales, with values declining by 20% to an estimated $29.3 billion in 2020, after a marginal increase of 2% in 2019.  

A survey of the dealer sector at the end of 2020 revealed an average year-on-year decline in sales of 23%. The most significant average annual declines were reported by dealers with turnover greater than $10 million, at 31%. 

Average Changes in Year-on-Year Turnover by Dealer Turnover Segment 2019–2020

The ability to reduce major operating costs allowed some dealers to maintain profitability in 2020: 28% were more profitable than in 2019 and 18% maintained a stable level of net profit.

Share of Total Costs for Dealers in 2019 versus 2020

(Net) Profitability 2019 versus 2020

Dealers’ top priorities shifted markedly over 2020 to focus on existing clients, online sales, and finding ways to cut costs. Client relationships, online sales, and art fairs were their top priorities looking ahead to 2021.

Top Business Priorities for Dealers in 2019 and 2020

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