It’s a familiar scenario: You walk into your local big box electronics retailer and, while admiring the impossible-to-miss, state-of-the-art 3-D home entertainment system on display, one of the store’s helpful salespeople informs you that you can take that very same system home with you today and pay no interest until 2013…
Now imagine you’re at your local art gallery, pining for that impossible-to-miss new painting from your favorite contemporary artist: One of the store’s helpful salespeople informs you that you can have that one-of-a-kind piece hanging in your living room this evening, and pay no interest until 2013.
Though the financial terms differ from customer to customer, that’s the gist of how GE Capital’s Luxury Financing Program works. “We help businesses build by being competitive,” says Regina Leadem, GE Capital’s vice president of client development. “By being competitive with big box retailers, and by being competitive for the luxury dollar alone.”
A major player in the financing market since the 1930s, when the company began financing appliances for consumers, GE Capital has since expanded its presence into nearly 20 segments. The company entered into the luxury market more than 30 years ago, when it began offering financing for such items as bridal wear and jewelry. Though art has long been a part of GE Capital’s portfolio, the company really “started to make a foray into the art market around 2005 or 2006,” says Leadem. “It’s really then that we said, ‘Hey, there’s something out here…’ Last year, we decided to make much more of a statement in the market, because there were so many people reaching out to us.”
With more than a half-century of success behind them, GE Capital understands the importance of becoming true “partners” with each of its clients. “We do that not by saying, ‘We’re a bank, we’re giving you financing,’” notes Leadem. “We have marketing materials, we have training materials, we have WebEx training, we have point of purchase [displays] they can put in their stores to promote our program.” In short, GE Capital partners have access to the company’s eight decades of expertise in what drives consumer financing and big-ticket purchases. “We believe that better capital builds better businesses,” states Leadem.
Anthony Deljou, national sales director for Deljou Art Group (www.deljouartgroup.com), one of the world’s leading fine art retailers, has been working with GE Capital for nearly five years as a way to offer financing to his wholesale clients.
“Being able to purchase a painting today and not make a payment for the piece for up to six to 12 months is a definite advantage,” says Deljou. “In most cases, the gallery will sell the artwork long before they would ever have to pay for it.”
In addition to creating a convenient—and familiar—payment solution for the consumer, the program helps to create customer loyalty, turning browers into buyers and one-time buyers into full-time collectors. “For Deljou, the program offers immediate client loyalty as the luxury card that we set up for our client can only be used to purchase Deljou artwork,” adds Deljou. “We have been able to market the financing options into our brand.”
“We hear that a lot,” says Leadem of this repeat customer side effect. “It’s a great way to bring that customer back again and say, ‘I know you like this particular artist and we have more pieces.’ We’re really giving them a way to purchase these items and let customers get what they really want.”
Just as there is no typical art buyer, there is no one-size-fits-all set of financing terms, which apply to both deferred-interest payments as well as installment plans. Interest rates and payment schedules depend upon two things: A customer’s credit-worthiness and a merchant’s comfort level. “We are a bank,” notes Leadem. “We do have a fiscal responsibility not to over-lend, and we do have to look at someone’s ability to repay.” When it comes to payment terms, “It’s always up to what the merchant wants to offer,” she says. “So if you’re going to purchase $10,000 worth of art, it’s up to the merchant whether they want to offer you 12 months to pay for this or six months.”
What makes the program even more appealing to merchants and consumers alike is that the process is quick and easy; approval decisions are made almost instantly and funding is deposited into the retailer’s bank account within 48 hours. “The very first thing a merchant needs to be doing is selling,” states Leadem. “They like the fact that they’re not doing mountains of paperwork.” Research even shows that purchases made using a private label credit card are generally two times higher than one made with a traditional credit card—and that installment plan purchases are even larger.
At the end of the day, “GE Capital can help merchants build their business by closing more sales, improving cash flow and margins and, most importantly, enhancing satisfaction,” concludes Leadem. “Consumers can use their card for repeat purchases and merchants can message to those consumers, creating greater brand awareness and loyalty.”
For more information on GE Capital’s Luxury Financing Program, visit www.gogecapital.com/luxury or contact Regina Leadem at email@example.com. You can also visit GE Capital at International Artexpo New York beginning on March 22nd; company representatives will be on-hand and will also be sponsoring a VIP Trade lounge.