June 18, 2003, 12:00 AM

Marshall Field’s takes fine art shopping online

Corporate art sales and service provider Art Holdings moves itself into retail and Field’s art sales to the web with Look Gallery at Marshall Field’s.


Marshall Field’s, a division of Target Corp., has had fine art consultation and sales in stores for 17 years, but with the help of new partner Look Gallery, it’s expanding that service online for the first time. Look Gallery, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based art services company Art Holdings Corp., which provides artwork to furniture stores, interior designers and corporations, will be open in 13 Field’s stores in Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota by the end of this week. As part of the service it provides to Field’s customers, if shoppers don’t see what they want in a store, Field’s art department store sales associates can log onto Look Gallery’s web site to search a database of more than 20,000 images of original and collectable art in Art Holdings’ inventory on customers’ behalf.

Using Art Holdings’ internally developed software, sales associates can create a “project room,” a dedicated web page which the customer accesses online via a password. The page displays images of artwork the associate has pushed forward from the database, based on the customer’s preferences. The customer can not only view but also purchase items online. But Art Holdings CEO Greg Hennes says that based on his company’s experience with its own store, showroom and web operations, most buyers of expensive artwork still want to see the item in person before closing the deal.

“Our business has always been consultative,” says Hennes. “If customers don’t see what they want in the store, we search our inventory and other publishers for what they want. The Internet allows us to offer more choices to a customer, because if what they want is not in the store, we can very quickly access it online. So you’re more likely to close a sale.”

Hennes adds that the web expedites the whole sales process as well. “Previously, if a customer said she wants a 30" x 40" oil painting of a Tuscan landscape, we’d have to call our artists and have 20 shipped for the customer to choose from,” he says. “That takes a few weeks to a month.” But now, because customers can preview artworks online, “They’ve already made choices electronically. So we only have to have one or two shipped in instead of 20,” he says.

Consumers can access the Art Holdings database through a new web site, Look-gallery.com, which launched last month. Together, the new web site and the Field’s installation represent Art Holdings` first efforts to expand from the corporate and professional market into the consumer and residential arena. It’s also the first application of its proprietary technology in a store--but it may not be the last. Though nothing’s definite, says Hennes, “We’re looking at other opportunities.”


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