Artist Jeff Mitchum’s work focuses on the nature’s dramatic color and light. So the Strip, blazing with light and soaked in color, fits as a setting for his work and his art gallery. Although the Strip’s bustle and energy scream, Mitchum succeeds by selling softly.
Mitchum’s art gallery has been in the Bellagio since 2009 and MGM since 2012, making both venues a case study for post-recession high-end luxury retail sales generated from disposable income.
“People come to Las Vegas to shop, and even though we are a different business from most retailers, we had become a major retail brand for MGM,” Mitchum says. “It is all about exposure, and like the old real estate motto, it is all about location, location, location. Our location is important to find the people qualified to purchase our work. If you do not have the right portfolio of work, it does not translate to sales on the Strip because of the different demographics that visit your gallery.”
Russian-born artist Vladimir Kush, who operates the Kush Art Gallery at Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood Resort, shares Mitchum’s narrowly focused view of steady growth. Kush’s childlike, “dream-state” art takes common life experiences and combines them with pop culture references.
“My Las Vegas art gallery is a completely different business from my other galleries,” says Kush, who also has art galleries in Malibu, Calif., and Maui, Hawaii. “With the foot traffic we receive on the Vegas Strip, 90 percent of our clients are brand new. In our other galleries, it is just the opposite, as 90 percent of our buyers are repeat clients.”
The soft sell
Maintaining an art gallery on the Strip works only if consistent sales offset bottom-line costs. Although art gallery guests might expect a hard-sell strategy, Kush and Mitchum advocate a softer approach.
“Because of my style, a lot of my clients are not normal collectors of art, so we use a soft, inviting style and they become collectors of my artwork,” Kush says.
“That has allowed me to create a strong secondary market when the art is resold, which also benefits the gallery and our bottom line.”
Kush’s bottom line is increasing; He has already presold 200 prints of his newest “Tree of Life” painting that was unveiled May 30 in a ceremony at his Forum Shops at Caesars art gallery.
Because the art galleries draw hundreds of domestic and international visitors, database management is vital to track prospective clients, especially ones who visit Las Vegas many times a year.
“Not everybody buys on their first visit and everyone at the gallery is OK with that,” Kush says. “We get enough visitors so we do not have to pressure anyone and we understand that a lot of people like to walk through an art gallery like a museum. We keep the database updated so the client is already in the system when they return in a month or even a year to buy a piece of art that they have been thinking about.”
Mitchum does not let his high-end luxury gallery at MGM Grand or Bellagio use high-pressure sales tactics, either.
“We have seen shifts in our sales numbers through the years and have adjusted our sales strategy to match the positive energy and positive experience our guests receive,” Mitchum says. “I did not want to be anywhere in Las Vegas; I only wanted to be at the Bellagio and now that we are here we want to provide a no-hassle experience for our guests.”
Mitchum tells employees that he does not want sales that imperil clients financially, especially impulse sales.
“Our philosophy is not about taking the money and running with it,” Mitchum says. “People know if you are treating them like objects and then the deterioration of that relationship is inevitable. Our clients are smart, and they care how they are treated.”