With an Ambitious U.S. Expansion, French Shipping Start-Up ThePackengers Wants to Streamline the Journey of Your Art
The company's CEO, Amaury Chaumet, talks with Artnet about online consumers' changing expectations and what's in store in 2022.
While the cost and logistical complications of shipping an artwork have often been a surprisingly big headache for collectors, the pandemic has made these roadblocks even more…well, complicated.
The European-based shipping start-up ThePackengers aimed to make art shipping easy (just 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 to the U.S., establishing a warehouse in New York, and just recently opened a new facility in Los Angeles to manage shipments from the West Coast.
Coinciding with these expansions, the company has also added some industry stalwarts to its team. Brook Hazelton, formerly president of North and South America for Christie’s, has joined the ThePackengers as chairman of the advisory board. Other additions include Gwen Wells, formerly of Sotheby’s, who has come on as the U.S. COO, and Yann Guyon de Chemilly, who has been named managing director.
Recently we sat down with CEO Amaury Chaumet to talk about the company’s expansion and what’s next.
What do you see as your company’s contribution to the art world?
Before we launched ThePackengers, there was no existing solution that gave full operational and logistical support to marketplaces and auction houses. When ordering online, potential buyers would previously have had to exit the seller’s website to request a third-party quote, then wait up to 48 hours for a response—causing a considerable reduction in customer conversion. We are the first 100% digital solution that can generate, in a single click, an instant price that covers delivery and packaging to anywhere in the world. Moreover, the global pandemic severely and negatively affected the art market. Today, auction houses and gallery owners want to continue selling rare, fragile or luxury objects around the world. With ThePackengers, they can sell online and offer their potential buyers an all-inclusive, easy-to-use solution for packing and transporting objects. It simplifies the entire supply chain and creates a strong value proposition for each buyer.
Why was it important to expand to the U.S. market?
Following our initial deployment in France three years ago, the U.S. market is one of our main growth priorities for 2021. We already count some of the leading global names in the art and luxury sectors among our clients, such as Bonhams and 1stdibs. Currently, discussions and tests are underway with other American marketplaces and auction houses. Given the high demand from the U.S. market, as well as our ambition to become a disruptive and strong player in the States, we have developed a unique algorithm that is able to generate price quotes with an easy-to-use API, and an order page and custom dashboard that are unrivaled on the market.
Where will you be based now, and will you be expanding?
With offices already up and running in New York, we are also deploying our offer to Los Angeles. Currently, objects can be shipped from the East and West Coast of the United States to any destination in the world.
How have online sales transformed the art market?
While the evolution of our industry was quite slow to begin with, 2020 dramatically accelerated the digitalization of the market. Online sales have increased dramatically since the first lockdown, and auction houses and gallery owners needed a solution that lets them sell online. This is what ThePackengers provides: by integrating our API directly onto their websites, our clients can sell goods and have them safely delivered to anywhere in the world.
Is the art world seeing the same shipping delays that other sectors are undergoing? How are you handling that?
As with all industries, we experience delays due to the unpredictable nature of transport, whether by sea, air, or road. The health crisis and border closures have made our job more difficult, but our customers understand this and are very aware of the circumstances we face. Our aim remains to transport goods safely, in the best possible conditions and in the shortest amount of time.
In what ways can ThePackengers help collectors?
We can assist by offering them a unique, high-quality service with competitive pricing that results in an average customer conversion rate of 56 percent. In our business, everything starts with packaging, and we are extremely committed to the quality of the service we provide. How collectors use technology has changed more in one year than in the last ten years. We had to respond to this new mode of consumption: I want something, I order it, pay immediately, and it’s delivered right away—and I don’t have to worry about anything. The collector can even get a price quote from us before the auction, depending on what he is prepared to pay for a lot, since the delivery rate is linked to the value of the artwork. Our technology is therefore particularly suited to collectors’ needs, as we are the fastest to quote a price: a decisive, triggering element in 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 ease of shipping makes people more likely to collect?
Definitely! Having a transparent idea of how much it will cost to carefully package and deliver an object will reassure and reinforce my decision to buy. It facilitates the buying process for new or experienced collectors, especially as they will benefit from the best packaging and shipping conditions. Moreover, thanks to our Authorised Economic Operator certification and customs accreditation, we cover the goods we ship with all-risk transit insurance that has no value limitations. We handle all customs declarations, guaranteeing accuracy and simplifying all import and export procedures. Our objective is simple: streamline customs. One of our clients, Steve Phipps, global operations director for Bonhams, told me that working with ThePackengers has enhanced their buyer shipping proposition, with faster pre- and post-sale shipping quotes in the U.K., as well as supported the company’s live auctions in Paris.
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