Shoots for Digital Images

The Bombay Co., a multichannel classic furniture retailer, is digitally reshooting its entire catalog imagery online to better merchandise its products on the Internet.

This move comes after the Fort Worth, TX, company realized that using the same process for images on the Web as in the catalog was not working.

Using catalog images for led to longer lead times, made it difficult to see close-up product views, required scanning and often was difficult to resize, Bombay Co. said.

“We began shooting digital images for seasonal spring product,” said Michelle Ballauf, Internet director at Bombay Co. “We're in the process of transferring all images to digital and hope to have that completed by late summer.

“We'll also be modifying the template for an up-close view which will offer the customer three views rather than the previous two,” Ballauf said.

Photographs play a critical role in clinching an online sale, especially for consumers who are deprived of the physical experience of touching the product. This is especially true of big-ticket items.

But rather than enhancing the images online to suit that medium, many multichannel retailers prefer simply to use catalog shots for their Web stores. This was a stumbling block in online sales, Bombay Co. found.

Since the steady transfer to digital images, has “continued to see an increase in sales each month,” Ballauf said.

“Since this is a pretty new process for us, it is difficult to quantify actual sales associated with it,” she said, “but depending on the category, it's anywhere between 5 percent and 10 percent.”

Besides, the retailer found, digital has a much quicker turnaround from CD to the Web site. There is no need to scan or correct, since this now can be done electronically.

Another benefit is the ability to modify digital images if product or image samples are not entirely accurate. This is not an option with film, Ballauf said.

“Cost is the biggest impact now,” she said, “about half to one-third the cost of film, but I think long-term, sales in categories like prints and textiles, where color and texture are important, will increase due to the increased quality.”

Bombay Co. has mail-order operations, Web operations and more than 400 stores in the United States and Canada.

Over the past two years, it has decreased its reliance on British colony-inspired furniture — dark wood and few accessories — and has expanded to metal, wrought iron, leather and different upholstery.

Nearly three decades old, Bombay Co. last year reported revenue of $421.5 million, up 8 percent from $390.9 million in 2000. The Internet accounted for less than 1 percent of overall revenue, though combined with the catalogs, remote sales account for just less than 3 percent. offers 1,200 to 1,550 items online, depending on inventory levels. The site sells furniture, accessories, gifts, seasonal specials and wall décor items.

The company is aiming to position as a gift destination instead of merely a furniture store. The home page displays a prominent tab touting gift boxes.

The product-bundling feature, which is unique to its Web site, kicked off in time for Valentine's Day. The site now sells a blue-and-white tea gift box for $20, a blue-and-white gift box for $25, a place card holder/coaster gift box for $35, mini golf tick-tack-toe for $35, and a business card holder/pen and pencil gift box for $45. This is a far cry from furniture selling for hundreds of dollars.

“With using digital [images] and the lower cost, we're now able to offer lower-priced items which, in the past, would have been too expensive to shoot for the Web,” Ballauf said.

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