The important role of art during the pandemic


Lindéngruppen company Colart has adapted to the challenges and opportunities created by the Covid-19 pandemic to look after its people, retailers and consumers.

A paintbrush in use by Colart brand Liquitex

With the pandemic forcing the public to spend more time at home, people have been using art to reconnect with their creative side while providing a welcome digital detox.

“I believe that being creative with art supplies enables personal expression and reflection, reduces stress and anxiety, and can help connect with loved ones if shared – all of which have been essential during the pandemic,” says Dennis van Schie, CEO at Colart. “The pandemic has accelerated our ambition to be the most sustainable consumer driven house of creative brands in terms of our sales and consumer engagement.”

The growth of e-commerce

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way retailers sell art materials with some retailers in Europe doubling or trebling their e-commerce sales.

“When stores closed in Europe in March, we saw a switch to online shopping, with a massive increase in internet searches for art supplies,” says Gail Pasquier, Chief Commercial Officer at Colart. “Some businesses already had e-commerce sites and were equipped to manage mass distribution, others weren’t and have struggled during the pandemic.”

Responding to the increased demand in online shopping, Colart has stepped up its website and e-commerce transformation projects. Improvements across retailer and Colart branded websites have resulted in an enhanced online consumer experience through increased product knowledge and engagement.

Content is king

“Our research had already shown how consumers like ‘how to’ art videos and at the start of the pandemic we noticed an increase in audience engagement from budding artists who were looking for creative inspiration online,” says Pasquier. “So our brand teams worked really hard to quickly create inspiring free content in the form of tutorials, studio visits, challenges, tips and techniques, and master classes that were only previously available to subscribers.”

In response to lockdown-related restrictions, Elephant Academy transitioned its physical art classes to digital Zoom classes and now offers a comprehensive programme across multiple mediums. “Efforts such as this and our increased social media engagement worked well in capturing the hearts and minds of consumers during what has been a difficult time for many,” says Pasquier.

The safety of its people first

Colart has also had a clear ‘safety first’ mentality for its people, demonstrated by how it responded to the situation in China early on in the pandemic.

“In China, we established very strict protocols around health checks, masks, cleaning routines and social distancing, and these learnings, underpinned by regular audits, shaped our response to developing protocols for elsewhere in the Group,” says Jane Beeston, Chief People Officer at Colart. 

Colart’s early Covid-19 experience in China led to the establishment of a Cobra crisis meeting group that expanded as the crisis evolved, involving the whole leadership team and CEO. The group decided that everyone at its headquarters in London would work from home two weeks before the UK lockdown.

“Our commitment to our people and safety first prompted this management decision, and we committed to our ‘safety first’ Cobra principles throughout the company,” explains Beeston. 

The right internal systems already in place

Colart’s recent investments in system tools such as Microsoft Teams together with an existing focus on organisational clarity and well-being have enabled people to cope with the challenges of remote working. “Going forward we will continue to support our people both professionally and personally in the ‘new normal’ so that we create a workplace that can cope with current and future challenges,” says Beeston.