It’s a better time for OverstockArt.com.
David Sasson, CEO and co-founder of the 12-year-old company, said sales rose 20 to 30 percent in 2014, compared to 2013.
“We’ve had growth every quarter,” he said.
The company is an online retailer of reproduced oil paintings and prints of famous works and artists, such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet and Gustav Klimt.
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Three years ago it launched a second website and business, Artist Become (www.artistbe.com). Artist Become is for new and emerging artists to sell their works online, and is now the fastest growing part of OverstockArt’s business, Sasson said, after an overhaul and redesign of its website last year.
But the company’s growth hasn’t come easy. Starting in 2009, the privately held company hit a rough patch but prevailed, Sasson and his younger brother, Amitai Sasson, vice president for marketing and business development, said.
The growth OverstockArt is seeing today, they said, is the result of the lessons they have learned in the past five years. And they hope those same lessons set the company up for continued success and additional growth.
“I think, much as in life, you can kind of grow from adversity,” Amitai Sasson said. “And that really became a part of our company.”
The reproduced paintings that OverstockArt sells are done by contract painters in China and Vietnam.
It typically has 10,000 to 12,000 canvas paintings in stock at its 8,000-square-foot office and warehouse at 1401 S. Mosley.
David Sasson said most sales are to retail customers in the U.S. and North America. He said his customers tend to have household incomes of between $80,000 and $100,000 and mostly live in large metropolitan areas.
“We do some (sales to) small businesses and office complexes,” he said. The company’s paintings and prints are also sold through the sites of some other online retailers, David Sasson added.
The company employs 16 people who process orders, stretch the canvas paintings and put them into a frame that the customer selects, and ships the artwork. It also has an employee who makes “stretching frames” for the canvas paintings as well as assembles moldings, or decorative frames. David Sasson said once an order is placed the company tries to get the painting or print in the hands of the customer within four to five days. Depending on the time of year, the company ships between 60 and 150 orders a day.
David Sasson said he expects the company will see sales exceed $4 million in 2014.
The company got its start in 2002 when David Sasson and his wife, Stacy, acquired a handful of paintings they got from decor merchants on the West Coast and sold them on an online auction site called ubid.com.
He said during the first few auctions, he and Stacy would sit and watch the price on the live auctions go up and up, and “that basically showed us there was some demand.”
Key to moving forward with the business also was the fact that there were few merchants online at the time that were selling home decor items, especially reproduced artwork.
He said in the first few years the company had double-digit percentage sales growth.
“Then in 2009 we started seeing a decline for the first time,” David Sasson said.
The decline started almost from the start of the new year, and continued through the first half of 2009. Up until that point, OverstockArt was a part-time job for David Sasson. He was president of and an owner in small computer equipment business. But the slide in sales presented him with a decision: continue spreading his time across two companies or focus on his latest venture, which by this time had moved from his house to a 3,000-square-foot building and had a couple of employees.
So he left his full-time job at the computer company – and sold his shares in it – to focus on OverstockArt and reversing its sliding sales.
“I knew it was a risk, but I just felt like it was the right move,” he said.
Sasson said after meetings with his brother, they decided to be more aggressive with marketing.
“With the downturn in the economy we really started feeling it,” Amitai Sasson said. “We decided at a point in that year we were going to … focus our energy, time and effort to driving sales. We were strapped for cash.”
Amitai Sasson said that a majority of the people coming to the site were leaving without placing an order. So they decided to improve engagement. They did so by creating places on the website to request a catalog or to make a custom order.
“That enabled us to increase our (customer) list size,” he said. “We have their e-mail, now make them offers, show them what’s new, what’s hip and desirable. We became more aggressive.”
Amitai Sasson said the company’s customer service staff would even call customers who had put an item or two in their shopping cart on the website but left without fulfilling their orders. The calls were made to see if the customer encountered technical difficulties in completing the purchase.
“We were able to prevail by putting it all out there, communicating with, reaching out to customers,” he said.
The launch of Artist Become has been another driver of business – as well as speeding up order fulfillment, controlling inventory, adding more choices in picture frames, and finding better vendors of reproduced oil paintings.
In 2015, probably in the first quarter, OverstockArt will launch a completely redesigned website that David Sasson said will improve navigation for the customer and show larger, higher-resolution images of the artwork they are considering purchasing.