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Is Big Always Better?

I love an art shop, and here in Nice, where almost everyone seems to have an interest in art, we are spoilt for choice.

There is the long-established, prestigious one in a prominent position, the pavement outside taken over by a vast array of easels with prices to match ie vast.

There is the studenty one, run by a formidable couple, where they offer some extraordinary deals at back-to-school time. Always worth a look.

There is the one that seems to specialise in graphic arts and printing, where thay stock every type of pen imaginable, but not so much for a watercolourist.

Then there is the perfect one, run by friendly, knowledgeable staff that stocks most of the quality brands and does a nice line in framing - if you can afford it!

And there's the rub, affordability, because for more than a year now, there has been a newcomer on the block, an art supermarket, one of a national chain. Everything under one huge roof, self-service, buy-it-when-you-see-it-deals too good to ignore and an immense stock.

So, here's the problem. All artists, and aspiring artists have to be conscious of price, so when the brand you favour is cheaper, the range of colours/sizes available wider, why do I feel guilty buying from the 'Giant'? My friend and neighbour, also an artist and a french resident, goes so far as to hide her very glaringly red 'supermarket' bags as she smuggles them past our preferred shop for fear of hurting the feelings of the staff we have come to know over the years.

So here's the problem, while we don't wish to hasten the decline of the independent shops, no-one can afford to ignore a bargain. The answer? Who knows, but for now, we continue to spread our business around and hide our red bags...

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