Always a little slow on the uptake, it is then not surprising that I continue to be surprised by the amount of sales activity we enjoy the result of our website. With the establishment and the proliferation of online sales platforms, it had originally seemed to me that these were designed for the sale of shall we say cheap and cheerful items of limited antiquity. Consequently, it appeared that successes were achieved mostly with that darling of contemporary design, mid-century modern furniture, and items of no great age that would be produced in multiples. With the dealers with whom we have a good relationship (read ‘those who will actually tell the truth’) it is the general consensus that, while an occasional better sale might be achieved utilizing a sales platform, it is mostly for the sale of what we refer to as price point merchandise.
With a consistent lukewarm response from peers, we’ve relied on our own website and seen, for a few years, roughly the same result- the occasional spot sale, usually for not very much money. What we have seen ongoing, though, is the phenomenon of any actual darkening of the gallery door preceded by a browse on our website. This, coupled with follow-on sales through our website related to an initial gallery visit has made our website a useful tool. While the virtual hasn’t replaced the actual, our website has, in the ten years we’ve maintained it, consistently been an excellent adjunct to our bricks and mortar.
That is, until recently. Markedly over the course of the last year, we are achieving a significant and growing proportion of our sales from website activity unaccompanied by an in-store visit. We always assume that the buyer of traditional material will continue to utilize a traditional method of making a purchase, with four if not five of the senses- not all of them internet accessible- informing the punter’s decision to buy.
In all this, I am reminded of a phenomenon of the ‘60’s, with the American public, largely unused to wine, suddenly exposed to it in greater volume. While it was assumed that the glass of tawny port consumed at Christmas had irrevocably shaped the American palate, sage oenophiles knew that consumers would over time achieve a comfortability with more sophisticated wines. The fortunes of the wine industry in California have certainly borne this out. Similarly, it seems that the internet has exposed so many prospective buyers to art and antiques that, over time, the purchase of items of increasingly better quality using the same method with which their exposure is ineluctably linked appears now to be a natural adjunct.
A Growing Entre to interaction
Though we had assumed that the nature of our internet sales would inevitably be dry and arid, as opposed to the intimate conviviality of our face to face client relationships, we’ve found that the internet is anymore the growing entre to interaction that is just as rewarding as before. Moreover, whatever it is that disposes a client to establish a relationship with a particular dealer seems, for Chappell & McCullar at any rate, to transcend our galleries, somehow infusing our website and those who browse it. I am possibly penning this blog entry too late, as we’ve renewed our lease and we’ll be ‘actual’ for a few more years yet. I suppose I might have got better terms from our landlord had this blog entry appeared a few weeks ago. Still and all, we cannot deny that in the fullness of time the virtual may make the actual gallery if not obsolete then the adjunct that the internet was formerly- even in what we have always steadfastly maintained is the highest of high touch businesses.
Copyright © 2012 Michael James Chappell, Chappell & McCullar