With an ambitious expansion in the United States, the French start-up ThePackengers wants to streamline the journey of your art
While the cost and logistical complications of shipping a work of art have often been a surprisingly big headache for collectors, the pandemic has made those hurdles even moreâ¦ well, complicated.
The European maritime transport start-up the packers aimed to make it easier to ship artwork (with one click) when it launched in 2018, and in just a few short years that convenience has become a necessity. Earlier this year, the company expanded into the United States, establishing a warehouse in New York City, and recently opened a new facility in Los Angeles to handle shipments from the West Coast.
Coinciding with these expansions, the company has also added industry pillars to its team. Brook Hazelton, formerly president of North and South America for Christie’s, has joined ThePackengers as chairman of the advisory board. Other additions include Gwen Wells, formerly of Sotheby’s, who became the US COO, and Yann Guyon de Chemilly, who was appointed CEO.
Recently, we caught up with CEO Amaury Chaumet to talk about the expansion of the business and beyond.
What do you think is your company’s contribution to the art world?
Prior to launching ThePackengers, there was no solution that offered full operational and logistical support to marketplaces and auction houses. When ordering online, potential buyers previously had to leave the seller’s website to request a quote from a third party and then wait up to 48 hours for a response, which significantly reduced customer conversion. We are the first 100% digital solution capable of generating, with one click, an instant price that covers delivery and packaging anywhere in the world. In addition, the global pandemic has seriously and negatively affected the art market. Today, auction houses and gallery owners want to continue selling rare, fragile or luxury items around the world. With ThePackengers, they can sell online and offer their potential buyers a complete, easy-to-use solution for packaging and transporting items. It simplifies the entire supply chain and creates a strong value proposition for every buyer.
Why was it important to develop in the American market?
After our first deployment in France three years ago, the American market is one of our main growth priorities for 2021. We already count among our clients some of the biggest names in the world of art and music. luxury, like Bonhams and 1stdibs. Currently, discussions and tests are underway with other US marketplaces and auction houses. Given the strong demand from the US market, as well as our ambition to become a disruptive and strong player in the US, we have developed a unique algorithm capable of generating price quotes with an easy-to-use API, and an order page and personalized dashboard that are unmatched in the market.
Where will you be based now and will you grow?
With offices already operational in New York, we are also deploying our offer in Los Angeles. Currently, items can be shipped from the east and west coasts of the United States to any destination in the world.
How has online sales transformed the art market?
While the evolution of our industry was quite slow initially, 2020 has dramatically accelerated the digitalization of the market. Online sales have grown dramatically since the first foreclosure, and auction houses and gallery owners needed a solution to enable them to sell online. This is what ThePackengers offers: By integrating our API directly on their websites, our customers can sell goods and have them delivered safely anywhere in the world.
Does the art world experience the same delivery delays as other sectors? How do you deal with this?
As in all industries, we experience delays due to the unpredictable nature of transportation, whether by sea, air or road. The health crisis and border closures have made our work more difficult, but our clients understand this and are very aware of the circumstances we are facing. Our goal remains to transport goods safely, in the best possible conditions and as quickly as possible.
In what ways can ThePackengers help collectors?
We can help you by providing them with unique, high quality service with competitive pricing that translates into an average customer conversion rate of 56%. In our business, everything starts with packaging, and we are extremely attached to the quality of the service we provide. The way collectors use technology has changed more in a year than in the past decade. It was necessary to respond to this new mode of consumption: I want something, I order it, I pay for it immediately, and it is delivered right away – and I don’t have to worry about a thing. The collector can even get a quote from us before the auction, depending on what he is willing to pay for a lot, since the delivery rate is tied to the value of the work. Our technology is therefore particularly suited to the needs of collectors, because we are the fastest to quote a price: determining and triggering element of e-commerce. This is a real revolution for the market, because until now the buyer had to independently find a shipper to pack and transport his purchases. With our product, it only takes a second to combine these two steps.
Do you think the ease of shipping makes people more likely to collect?
Definitively! Having a transparent idea of ââthe cost of packing and neat delivery of an item will reassure and strengthen my purchasing decision. It makes the buying process easier for beginners or experienced collectors, especially since they will benefit from the best packaging and shipping conditions. In addition, thanks to our Authorized Economic Operator certification and customs accreditation, we cover the goods we ship with full-risk transit insurance without limitation of value. We process all customs declarations, ensuring accuracy and simplifying all import and export procedures. Our goal is simple: to streamline customs. One of our clients, Steve Phipps, Director of Global Operations at Bonhams, told me that working with ThePackengers improved their buyer shipping proposition, with faster pre and post shipping quotes at UK, as well as supported the company’s live auctions in Paris.
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