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One CEO’s Magic Carpet Ride

By Dan Bigman, Editor, Chief Executive Magazine


Would you buy a $225,000 Oriental rug online? Yeah, that’s what Jan David Winitz thought, too.

As our CJ Prince reports, the founder and president of California-based Claremont Rug Company had big doubts about whether anyone would ever pony up for that kind of purchase through a website. But when the Bay Area’s pandemic shutdown hit on March 16, it ended any chance for gallery or in-home showings. He didn’t have a choice. It was make it work or, well, the other thing.

“It didn’t take long to spot opportunity,” writes Prince. “Winitz and his team surmised that, as was the case after 9/11, people were looking for a way to ease the emotional burden and cope with a new normal.”

Rather than think of the lockdown as a disaster, they could change their playbook and use it as a path around the biggest roadblock his sales folks normally face: “Too busy” clients with no time to focus on making a six-figure carpet purchase.

Thanks to Covid, “they’re home, they’re bored, and these are people who are used to having active lives. I mean, how many Netflix movies can you watch?” says Winitz. “We realized, if we approached our clientele in the right way, we’d have a captive audience.”

He pounced. Immediately. A new website, better technology, sharp videos, head-turning discounts—the works (Prince’s story goes through all the details of what he did and how he did it—great case study—give it a read here).

The result: From March 17 through May 21, the company sold 95 rare antique rugs, compared with 60 rugs sold in 2019 during the same two-month period. Even with the lower profit margin, that represented a 45% increase in revenue over last year’s numbers. “We’re talking about rugs that sell for five and six figures,” says Winitz. “It’s pretty shocking, actually.” Pretty damn smart, too. Have a good week.