I guess if you live long enough you can discover anything is possible. Thank you Goldman Sachs and friends; you taught us how to manipulate the price of aluminum upward with the technique of storing and moving inventory. Is the storage and movement of decorative and fine arts really a disadvantage? Perhaps you can skim a nice percentage, like a built in commission.
Without physical control, it would be hard to classify anyone in this industry as a dealer. It is the function of a dealer to trade with inventory and bet that you can buy low or beat up a consignor’s share, but be able to sell it. For anyone in this industry who is still around to enjoy it, a sale is a welcomed event. They are far fewer, more selective, and require attention to detail regarding shipping, taxes, import/exportation, form of payment, etc.
A large, centrally located storage facility could service many needs of many dealers. We see this form of dealer grouping in local antique centers. There is usually a manager who runs the facility and dealers tend to assist each other. However, that is being challenged by online super malls like eBay and 1stdibs. Yes, it is nice just to rummage through, but we live in an “arm chair” society. Technology now rules the day, but there is a visceral effect with actually be able to physically find, buy, and taking home any form of decorative and fine arts.
Aside from the one hit wonder show extravaganza of an auction, the only time you get significant attendance at a dealer venue would be an elegant Park Ave. style show, but how about Brimfield too? It happens were the merchandise is in large quantities, and the choices are broad. What clearly defines the most success is not having the best, the most, or whatever, but how are sales? The common denominators are: is it easy, predicable, interesting, and a place where selling is conducive and happens.
Can a single dealer or consortium of dealers ever coalesce around a shared attempt to acquire and store for sale through consignment or purchase, a massive amount of inventory? It could be a single location or many regional locations. Goldman and their buddy JP Morgan Chase made warehousing of a commodity, a successful enterprise. Of course there must have been some price manipulation or these big guys would not be in it; but with a commodity, pricing is fairly consistent. Not so with the decorative and fine arts. Yes, there are price results out there, but they are mostly flawed auction results that include an inflated buyer’s premiums. It is a market of thinly traded items, with subtle differences between each.
Yet, there should be considerable saving of overhead and operational inventory maintenance with economies of scale. There is a reason Amazon’s large operation creates efficiency. Shipping, storage, and assorted logistical needs are a byproduct of how our industry must operate. Like many industries, survival can depend on consolidation to achieve these ends.