OAKLAND, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Claremont Rug Company founder/president Jan David Winitz today reported that he has successfully reinvented his elite-level antique Oriental rug gallery with a transformation that produced a sales mix of 80 percent online and 20 percent in-store, a total reversal for the 40-year-old establishment.
In mid-March, the Claremont Rug Company founder had been confronted with the same conundrum that thousands of businesses in California faced. Effectively, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to suddenly close the doors of his gallery.
“At that moment,” he reflects, “we didn’t have a clear vision of what to do. We gave ourselves a week to think and plan, after which we saw that we could pivot our business by dramatically upgrading our website, intensifying our educational program, and moving to an entirely online business model.”
Now, eight months later, the success of his strategy has led him to a better recognition of what was accomplished and the profound changes he made on his business as a whole. “By deliberating with a bias toward action, we avoided falling into the ‘inertia’ trap. We fully committed to a fundamental change in how to conduct business in the future.
“We recognized that it was not enough to just survive until normalcy returned. We committed to a ‘new normal’ that we saw as inevitable, but also sustainable. We adapted the central components of our success over four decades: unparalleled inventory, expertise, personalized consultation, and first-rate customer service, all integrated through cutting-edge technology.
And Winitz can cite empirical and anecdotal evidence of what future success will look like. International sales at Claremont have grown 75 percent since March and overall sales, despite having to greatly diminish his in-gallery sales model, have steadily returned to previous levels. Rugs at Claremont are valued in the range of $5000 to more than $500,000 per piece. The Gallery has clients on six continents and 30 countries, including more than 75 Forbes’ list billionaires.
“Our clients are extremely successful and affluent,” he points out. “They are used to having the flexibility to travel and to acquire what they seek in a stress-free environment. For many, restricted movement provided them much more time at home to contemplate how to make their lives more fulfilling, minus the onsite experience.
“Collecting and connecting with antique Oriental rugs that were woven by master weavers 100 to over 200 years ago was something that they now had time to appreciate through our enhanced website and the semi-weekly email campaigns we instituted,” he said. “Our conversations changed. I noticed that the average length of time of a website visit grew from seven minutes to more than 30 minutes. These were not people who were ‘window shopping.’ And what gratified me the most was the overwhelming warmth of their email comments to me.
Winitz also noted that during the COVID-19 period, clients with whom he had not been in contact for as long as two decades have reconnected with Claremont. “We are tremendously proud that our website is 21st century, but our approach is old-fashioned and personal. We still answer the telephone directly, no voice mail during business hours, and the person who answers is knowledgeable and adheres to our Rule Number One that client service starts when we pick up the telephone, not when we make a sale,” he said.
Claremont immediately embarked on projects that it previously couldn’t find the time for. For instance, the gallery search, online rug education and wish list features were greatly enhanced. “We’ve begun the process of creating a portal that enables clients to upload photos of their rooms, into which we Photoshop images of various appropriate rugs, allowing them to experience rugs in situ, albeit virtually.”
Another increasingly important factor in Claremont’s connection with clients has been its educational approach. “We have always had an “Education” section on the site,” Winitz said, “but in the last eight months we have been sending semi-weekly emails to clients containing articles I’ve written about the weaving process, decorating with and collecting antique rugs.
“Our clients have traditionally been very tactile and oriented toward touching and feeling the merchandise, so to speak. We have always had clients from around the world, but the pandemic made it unlikely that they would be visiting us in California anytime soon. What we now realize is that many of our clients are so used to the online purchasing that the in-store experience was no longer necessary. I don’t think that you have to be a visionary to see that to survive and to thrive as an art gallery, you will have to evolve rapidly into what we have become in the past eight months. Yes, on one level, it was a ‘pivot,’ but what really happened and why our success continues is that we reinvented ourselves on the fly.
“We have come to recognize,” he says, “that what was ‘normal’ before is in the past and we have used this period to create an even more dynamic shopping experience.”
About Claremont Rug Company
Jan David Winitz’s Claremont Rug Company (www.claremontrug.com), founded in 1980, is an international art gallery with an inventory of 2500 Oriental rugs woven during the “Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving,” (ca. 1800 to ca. 1910). The Gallery has clients, including more than 75 Forbes list billionaires, who reside on six continents. Among its client-focused services are its Whole Home design consultations, a long-term trade-in policy and its educational focus. Widely written about, Winitz has been featured in publications including Apollo, Art & Antiques, the Financial Times, Luxury Daily, the New York Times, moneyinc.com, Private Air/Luxury Homes, PrivateWealth.com, Robb Report, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal and Worth magazine.