2017 Year End Overview
Increasing Global Client Base, More Connoisseur Collectors and Record Internet Usage Result in “Exhilarating Year”
I am extraordinarily pleased to report that 2017 was among the most rewarding and exhilarating years in Claremont’s almost four-decade history. We began relationships with many more new customers than in any year before and worked with a record number of ongoing clients building substantial collections of rare 19th century rugs.
AN ABUNDANCE OF NEW AND RETURNING CLIENTS
Our newly expanded group of sales associates assisted over 100 new buyers to select their first antique rugs, and I worked closely with old and new friends on over 30 Whole Home Rug Displays. As a result of our two-year rebuild of our custom website that includes a greatly enhanced mobile user experience, we saw a whopping 41% rise in buyers from the Internet this year.
THE MARRIAGE OF ANTIQUE RUGS AND CONTEMPORARY DESIGN
This year, we saw a definite pivot toward using antique rugs in modern residential design. We worked with client after client wishing to furnish either new or substantially renovated homes, many with contemporary lines and a modern aesthetic, who were seeking the substantive, eclectic enhancement that antique art rugs contribute to their overall design.
In the collecting segment of our market, we experienced a surge in clients strategically seeking out truly unique pieces from our High- Collectible and Connoisseur-Caliber levels of the Oriental Rug Market Pyramid I created three years ago. Thankfully, we were able to satisfy the significant uptick in demand for one-in-the-world pieces through the rugs that came to us through our constant communication with a network of mature, elderly collectors, some of whom I have known since I was a child.
SATISFYING OUR CLIENTS’ NEEDS WITH LIGHTNING SPEED
As the demand on our clients’ time continues to escalate, we have redoubled our efforts to seamlessly satisfy their needs at lightning speed. Thankfully, we anticipated this trend by expanding not only our sales staff, but our imaging and logistics departments as well. When requests arose, we regularly emailed .jpg images, usually on the same day, overnighted photos, and shipped out rugs, often within 48 hours.
Our quickened pace of response played a role in a longtime collector acquiring over 70 best-of-the-best rugs in a great variety of styles for four homes in the U.S. and abroad last year. Another long-distance couple wished to furnish six public areas of their home with High-Collectible rugs for a celebration scheduled to take place five days later. We immediately emailed jpgs and “fed-exed” prints of the most appropriate rugs. We then photo-shopped the rugs they pre-selected into the images they provided of their spaces. This enabled them to see the rugs “in situ” before having them shipped. They then felt confident to place their order. We shipped the rugs and their pads and arranged for a local logistics team to install them with two days to spare!
Featured Interior: A cheerful décor creates a stunning backdrop for a client’s Bakshaish rug.
OUR COLLECTOR-CLIENTS FOCUS ON THE TRULY UNIQUE
The increase of Whole Home Rug Displays, in which clients use antique rugs as their primary art form or as supplements to established art collections, demonstrates a new level of confidence to use rugs in inventive ways that reflect their personal taste. Whether venturing into new styles of antique carpets, finding wall space to hang particularly striking smaller pieces or even layering them on the floor, our clients were deeply inspired this year.
“The Toronto Treasury, Part II, the European Holdings,” a monumental private collection of 140 pieces that virtually sold out in just over a three-month period, offered a staggering profusion of Connoisseur-Caliber and High-Collectible pieces. This event evidenced a notable shift in buyers’ taste to truly unique rugs with deeply inventive patterns and exotic color palettes that are most often seen in pieces 150 years old or more, along with premier examples of classical design styles.
Last year, we also experienced a notable growth in what I term, “Pure Collectors,” those who acquire Connoisseur-Caliber and High-Collectible rugs with no spaces in mind and who stockpile them to display in rotation or for potential later use. The clients often called upon us for consultation regarding storage or keeping their surplus inventory in the art storage facility we use. The most serious Pure Collectors often stockpile great antique carpets for the inevitable day when the best 19th century rugs will no longer be available, and premier pieces will be sought by museums, just as today major museums worldwide maintain collections of 15th through 18th century rugs.
TOP SELLERS AND RISING STARS
Top sellers in 2017 included Bakshaishs, Serapis, Camel Hairs, and Caucasian tribal rugs, circa 1875 and earlier. Among Persian city rugs, early Mohtasham Kashans again reigned supreme. In the Persian town rug category, 19th century Ferahan Sarouks received the strongest following.
As examples of the above-mentioned carpets in unusually good condition become even more difficult to source, I clearly see some rising stars on the horizon. These include room-size Persian Serapi-Herizs, and the best Sultanabads, circa 1900 and earlier.
Among tribal rugs, the most unique Caucasian rugs, circa 1880 to 1900 that retain the spontaneous character of their earlier counterparts and noteworthy 19th century tribal rugs from South Persia, notably Qashqais, Afshars and Khamsehs should also see greater interest. As for formal city rugs, particularly fine antique Tehrans and Hadji Jallili Tabrizs are poised to enter the limelight.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE FOR OUR CLIENTS
Claremont has always been a labor of love for my wife, Christine, and me, and we are particularly proud of the level of customer loyalty we’ve experienced. Our clientele now includes up to three generations of some families. And interestingly, this year more clients revisited us after up to a 15-30 year absence than in any previous year, and just like a good friend you haven’t seen in a long time, it is as if no time had passed whatsoever!
Of special note were two articles that I was asked to write for Private Wealth magazine and Money, Inc. about our unique approach to providing the highest level of service to clients, which we call “Client First.” This is based on the concept that first-rate customer service starts at the initial interaction and continues through the life of our relationship.
When you call, email, or visit, you will likely meet Nancy Brinkley, our gallery manager and my close associate for over 20 years, who has joined the senior sales team and has her own loyal clientele. A graduate in Art History from UC Berkeley, Nancy brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge of rugs as an art form and much practical experience about creatively using them in the home.
Our mid-2016 move of Claremont 2 to a beautiful, contemporary-designed storefront located immediately adjacent to our Main Gallery provides clients with seamless access to our 3500-rug inventory.
Photo above: President Jan David Winitz and Nancy Brinkley, senior sales associate, in Claremont’s Private Showroom.
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2018
With our infrastructure in place, a highly enthusiastic, international client base and our buying department in full gear, we expect to be even more active this year. In our free moments, we intend to create a series of educational videos and articles to further demystify antique Oriental rugs.
We look forward to sharing our passion for this as yet underappreciated art form with you again this year.
Best wishes for an enriching New Year,
P.S.: Be sure to experience our extremely popular annual event, “50 Best-of-Their-Type Rugs Sold in 2017.” It opens Friday, January 12th in a special gallery on our website and includes some of the most awe-inspiring rugs we’ve ever had the privilege to place.