Down Creek Gallery

Tony W. McGowan, owner
Ocracoke, N.C.

Have you reduced your inventory levels? What needs to happen before you will feel comfortable increasing your inventory levels?

We did not reduce our inventory levels. We increased our inventory levels at the beginning of the spring season. We looked for lower price points in high-quality works.

We finished up 21% in May, but June was way off and brought negative numbers compared to previous years. July, August and September all finished up, and by year’s end we will be close to last year’s numbers.

What indicators do you need to see before you’ve decided that the economy is indeed improving?

From a national standpoint I would like to see a downward movement in the unemployment numbers and the shift to the green-based economy with hard numbers on actual investment dollars.

On a local level we look for trends in the rentals of cottages and motels as indicators for weekly and seasonal traffic. We are on an island only accessible by ferry, so we also monitor their traffic counts.

Are you advertising consistently?

We do advertise consistently with two newspapers, a local visitors guide, a gallery guide and the local real estate company’s cottage rental catalog. We print and distribute rack cards locally and on the northern beaches. We get a large volume of day traffic from the northern beaches and try to reach them with various marketing outlets. We also issue press releases to all local media outlets regarding our many “Meet the Artist” functions.

What are a few other ways you’re preparing for the rebound?

It is still a little early for us to make that call for next season. If all things stayed the same, I would still fill the store for our opening in the spring as we did this past spring and be happy if the numbers were close to what they have been this year. If things are more positive I would consider moving our price point up a bit in anticipation of a consumer who is willing to spend a little more. I really think that it may take a few seasons to get back to the individual spending levels we saw as recently as ’07 and ’08.

What have you noticed in terms of consumer confidence?

Our numbers show us that we sold significantly more less-expensive items to reach the same total sales numbers of previous years.

With the housing market what it is, we find that two-dimensional works have taken the biggest decline. Large-ticket items are more rare than in the past, and that doesn’t seem to have changed recently.

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