Amaury Chaumet, CEO of Shipping Start-Up ThePackengers, on Revolutionizing Art Transportation

Already operating in New York, the French shipping start-up is expanding its US operations this year.

Amaury Chaumet, CEO of ThePackengers.

Imagine this: You’ve just won a rare and delicate artwork from an online auction. You’re elated until a pesky twinge of anxiety hits as you start considering how exactly you’re going to facilitate shipping, especially in quarantine. 

This type of time-consuming, vaguely daunting scenario was exactly what Amaury Chaumet was envisioning when, in 2018, he decided to found ThePackengers, a startup offering shipping quotes for unpacked, unique objects going anywhere in the world.

Chaumet’s instinct has seemed to have proven correct: since its launch, the company has flourished, striking a deal with French auction house Drouot, offering door-to-door deliveries in Paris and nearby areas as soon as one day after an auction ends.

We spoke with Chaumet about why the art-shipping industry is a particularly complex one.

ThePackengers is the first entirely digital art-shipping solution. Courtesy of ThePackengers.

ThePackengers is the first entirely digital art-shipping solution. Courtesy of ThePackengers.

If you had to describe ThePackengers, what would you say?

ThePackengers is the first 100 percent digital solution for instantly generating, with one click, a shipping quote for delivery of unpacked, unique objects to anywhere in the world. We are a French start-up backed by Group ESI, a company with world-renowned expertise in the transportation of works of art for nearly 100 years. We are specialists in warehousing and supply chain, with certifications and expertise in global customs regulations. Our experience and knowledge facilitates the easy transfer of packages all around the world.

As you mentioned, Group ESI is nearly 100 years old. Though the world is transformed in so many ways, in what ways does ThePackengers incorporate those time-tested values?

One of the main transformations our industry has experienced is the gradual digitalization of the art market. At Group ESI, we began to witness the acceleration of digital sales around two years ago. Auction houses and galleries needed a way to integrate a packing and transportation quote directly on their websites. However, a solution that was digital didn’t exist. Thus, ThePackengers was born. Built from the same DNA as our parent company, ESI Group, we pride ourselves on offering a tailor-made service that prioritizes quality and sustainable development. We are passionate about supporting the positive transformation of the art market. 

Alternately, what puts ThePackengers at the cutting edge of the shipping industry? 

Simply put, we are the very first solution to be fully digital, meaning the entire process has been digitalized, from pricing to shipping of goods. Until now, the buyer would have to source a company to pack and transport purchases after sales, and now these services can be obtained directly on the purchasing website within just a few seconds. Before the creation of the unique algorithm that powers our solutions, this just didn’t exist and makes it really revolutionary for the art market. The buyer can trace their package from end-to-end with a tracker link. In addition to this, our entire strategy is based on peak-volume flow, which allows us to offer extremely competitive, below-market pricing. During 2020, our first full year of operations in France, we processed around 12,000 shipments from France alone.

The pandemic has severely hampered the art market operationally. However, digital sales have only accelerated as auction houses and gallery owners continue selling works to clients all around the world. With ThePackengers, they can organize their sales online but, in addition, offer their potential buyers an all-inclusive solution for packing and transporting their goods anywhere in the world. It simplifies the entire supply chain and creates a high-value offer for each buyer.

What is something ThePackengers is excited about for 2021?

Following its highly successful deployment in France, ThePackengers is being launched simultaneously all across Europe and the United States—making 2021 a particularly important year for our development. With our recent partnership with Drouot and hosts around 80 different auction houses, we are already working in the entirety of the European region. 

Just as the internet is not limited to a specific geographical area, our offer too must also be global. In the immediate, we are excited about our platform launching in London, as this was essential given the recent customs and VAT regulations caused by Brexit. With offices already up and running in New York, we are also deploying our offer in Los Angeles. The US market is one of our key development priorities for 2021. Many discussions and tests are underway with different European, British and American marketplaces and auction houses. We going to be sharing more exciting news on this with you very soon! 

Can you tell me about your partnership with Drouot and other auction houses? How did it come about and what are its benefits? 

Difficulties with post-sale logistics are a problem in many auction houses, often becoming a bottleneck in the sales experience for auction houses due to high-sale and purchaser volume with endless varying deliveries and needs. 

Digitization makes it possible to streamline and accelerate all processes while providing an accessible and efficient delivery solution for the buyer that is both transparent and economical in price. We began testing our product in 2019 with auction houses we had previously worked within Paris. Since then we have been able to build win-win partnerships and these now established relationships are key factors of our organic growth. 

We pride ourselves on being French, therefore it only made sense for our first partnership to also be with a French company, Drouot. With Drouot, we have achieved a world first: our instant quote module has been fully integrated into their online purchasing platform.  This pricing feature can be found directly on each product page of the website. As soon as a catalogues is published online, any potential bidder can see the exact packing and delivery price for each lot in a sale. Our instant quote module applies to all types of sales offered by the Drouot Digital site (Live, Online and Buy Now) without limits on the format, size, price, or geographical destination.

All sorts of things are sold at auction houses. Are you only shipping art, or does it go beyond that? 

Everything. Our solution covers all the specialties present on the online sales platform: works of art, furniture, wine and spirits, carpets, ceramics, silverware, fashion and vintage couture, jewelry, watches, and so on.

Can people ship from anywhere in the world?

This is a very relevant question that needs to be answered with precision. Currently, objects can only be shipped from Europe and the East Coast of the United States to any destination in the world. In line with our business model, our strategy is to operate our own packing sites and our own teams in these different regions. In our business, everything starts with the packaging. We are extremely committed to the quality of the service we provide. 

All our picking, packing, and transports are managed and completed internally by us each step of the way which guarantees constant cohesion and constant quality control. We follow Amazon’s model, which manages its own supply-chain and logistics directly, rather than the model of Uber which relies on a third-party workforce. Given the high stakes of lack of know-how and the meticulous skill required for transporting fragile objects and unique works of art, the Uber-model simply does not work for the art market. 

What role do you play and hope to play in the art world? 

Years ago, we took a gamble that we could completely transform our industry. ThePackengers has surpassed even our greatest expectations. Today, we are the only company in the world to offer a solution like ours which makes us the true leader in our field. In order to maintain this position, we must always deliver on the quality of our service and the innovation of our product. Digitizing the entire supply chain, our algorithm has completely disrupted the art-logistics market. Even as new and unforeseen challenges may seem huge, our goal is to continue to push boundaries in technology while expanding our services within the fine-art and luxury markets! 

How would you describe the company philosophy?

I’ll answer your question with a Russian proverb: “Those who do not take risks, do not drink champagne.” Boldness is a quality that must also be consistent with a strong vision and an understanding of professionalism, seriousness, and reality on the ground. We bet on a profound change in our market and consumer habits and it worked! The keyword for us is trust, the trust our clients have for us. Our mission is very clear: excel in customer satisfaction.

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