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Merchant Spotlight: An Online Shop That's Selling a Legacy

An inspiring story of a father and son duo! Michael is keeping his father’s art legacy alive by maneuvering his sales online from traditional in-person sales.

Tell us a little bit about your business! Where can people find you online?

“We're a Canadian family business based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

I offer the artwork of renowned Canadian wildlife artist my father, Glen Loates, on various products. They range from wall art to phone cases. We're continually expanding our product line and have recently released silk scarves designed by me, Michael Loates. You can visit our online store here."

What motivated you to open up an online store?

“My father has been selling his art since the age of 11. Many art critics have recognized him as the foremost Canadian wildlife artist.

My parents have been selling his work since the '60s using various distribution channels, licensing deals, galleries, commissions, and art shows.

There was a time in my father's life where he could no longer paint on site due to health reasons. As a result, they had to wind down the business. Recently, my father has done commission work with the Royal Canadian Mint for their collector's coins.

A few months before COVID-19, I decided to start an online store and re-introduce my father's work to the world. As his son, I am honoured to work with him closely and utilize the latest technologies that allow for on-demand printing and fulfillment. This is a very meaningful venture and a great learning experience for me.”

Are you exploring expanding your product line? How are you doing that? 

“Every day I think about what to add to the store. I already have a wealth of my father's images to work from. Right now, we almost have 200 different images and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. New ones get added every week, and new product lines are introduced frequently. In the future, I see us selling over 50 different products times thousands of additional images. This can't be done without my print-on-demand providers. The thought of zero warehousing and very low overhead is a real plus for me.”

What do you love most about digital marketing? What are three tactics / channels you use that provide you the highest ROI?

“When my parents were selling my father's work, there was no Internet. The only marketing channels they had were print and TV. Social and internet marketing changes all of this! We now can market products based on location, audience, and various other metrics. The challenge I currently have with this is that my father's fans range from 50 to 80 years old. Many don't know how to use a computer, let alone Facebook. 

As a result, I get many comments from his past fans and how they love to see his work online for sale. A lot of them email me directly and feel a personal connection to our family and his work. As of right now, I find that personal touch can make a difference in sales and friendship. People don't buy products. People buy people.

I'm currently using Klaviyo, Pinterest, and Facebook. Now I'm finding that the ROI scale fluctuates regularly between my social channels. Each one has its purpose and benefits. The more channels that you're using, the more exposure you got online. That in itself is very important.”

Do you have an email list? If so, what have you found to be the most effective strategies for growing that list?

“I currently have an email list in Klaviyo. I offer a generous discount of 20% off your first order and a free digital book that was never before produced. It's a digital version of a handmade book about making the life-size Siberian tiger watercolour painting that my father was commissioned to do for Electrolux.”

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