Existing users of Online Galleries, paying £100 a month, have been asked to pay £350 a month for a year ahead of a further rise to £500 a month. Any new users of the site will pay £500 a month immediately.
The US owner of the site, 1stdibs, defended the move – the first since it bought Online Galleries in 2012 – as one that reflects increasing traffic to the site. Carmine Bruno, managing director at 1stdibs Europe, told ATG: “In the last five years we have increased traffic by 250% without increasing prices. This price rise is bringing parity.”
Around half of the dealers using Online Galleries also use online portal 1stdibs and, combined, the sites host more than 400 dealers in the UK.
Bruno added: “We analysed the data and the value we create for dealers through the visits to sites and interaction with buyers, and decided the time was right to increase the cost.”
He said he had discussed the price rises with every dealer by phone before sending an email to confirm the costs which take effect from June 1.
Bruno said Online Galleries attracts 3m visits a year, which equates to around 250,000 visits a month. Previously when dealers joined 1stdibs, they were given a free Online Galleries subscription. Now, new dealers signing up will have separate contracts with Online Galleries and 1stdibs.
Belgravia art dealer John Adams said he is currently reviewing his subscription following the proposed increase.
He told ATG: “Online Galleries are seeking to finance further investment by charging their customers more, rather than funding it from their own resources. This strategy will end up undermining their income flow if loyal customers start voting with their feet.”