Q&A with Jan David Winitz Founder of Claremont Rug Company

This international rug gallery caters to today’s high-end home furnishings shoppers who do not view their purchases as luxury items, but as art pieces that fit into their lifestyle. The company uses digital marketing, catalogs and one-to-one contact to retain lifelong customers.

Claremont Rug sells from a vast inventory of collectible to investment-level pieces from the Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving, ca. 1800-1910, each a distinctive work of art valued from $20,000 to $500,000.

The gallery acquires and sells its rugs privately. It sells more museum and investment-level Oriental rugs than the world’s top auction houses combined, according to the company.

Claremont Rug Co. embraced the Internet early on and now the medium is its primary means to disseminate information and gain sales from its high-net-worth audience.

In this Q & A, Mr. Winitz discusses the demands of today’s rug buyers, how the Internet drives his business and his outlook on the luxury home furnishings industry. Here is the dialogue:

What is the profile of the average customer of Claremont Rug?

Claremont Rug Company clients are discerning art collectors who often have built private troves of several genres of art. Among the most prominent groups represented in our international client base are ultra-high net-worth consumers from more than two dozen nations that are generally individuals and families.

What ties them together is their appreciation and ownership of world-class art and the effect it has on their lives.

How has your customer changed over the past decade?

Interestingly, as much changes, many things remain the same. We continue to have client relationships with collectors for decades, while at the same time we are sought out by individuals who have discovered us via recommendations from their peers, via our website or by Internet research. We do very little advertising.

We are working with second- and third-generation collectors within families as well as international buyers who are attracted to the artistic and cultural qualities of 19th century Oriental rugs.

We are increasingly being approached by collectors of other forms of art who recognize that best-of-the-best antique Oriental rugs are both undervalued and diminishing in availability.

What values are the most important to push among Claremont Rug’s target consumer group?

Fortunately, we have never been interested in, nor have we ever had to push our inventory. We have maintained since we opened our doors in 1980 that antique Oriental rugs are a great art form and worthy of collecting and placing in situations with other great art.

We have not compromised on that nor have we ever changed our approach to our clients. They are acquiring the rugs not simply as decorative pieces, but as great art and as an investment in precious tangible assets.

We are very committed to the privacy of our clients and have turned down many opportunities to appear in major media where the interview requests involved the naming of clients. We are first and foremost art rug collectors whose clients are also art collectors.

What are the wants and needs of ultra-high-net-worth consumers who are in the market for high-end home décor?

Our clients come to us because our reputation ensures them that they have access to the best of the best of rugs from the Second Golden Age of Persian Weaving (circa 1800-1910).

They also appreciate that beyond offering them one-in-the-world rugs, they are also provided personally with the information and education necessary to make sound decisions. I work very closely with them to ensure that the choices that we offer them fit with their own personal aesthetic and with the other forms of art that they collect to enhance the overall ambiance of their homes.

We have current clients who have been active with us since we opened Claremont more than three decades ago.

What outside factors are changing how Claremont Rug treats and interacts with its customers?

We were fortunate to have as a client in the ’90s, John Warnock, who was the chairman of Adobe Systems, and he introduced us to the Internet long before anyone in the art world recognized its potential for reaching collectors. As a result, we were pathfinders in the use of the Internet to market to people interested in elite, rare objects d’arte.

What advice would you give to other home marketers that are looking to maintain their traditions, but keep up with their evolving customer base?

Economic conditions change. But we find that respecting our clients, providing them educational tools and maintaining an unparalleled inventory are the essentials of our success. We understand that our clients have many demands on their time, which requires that we often work to their challenging schedules, not to our own convenience.

Because we have been involved with the Internet for nearly half our history, we have integrated it into the way we communicate with clients.

For us, it is part of the traditional way that we work with most of our clients.

What do you see as the key drivers of luxury home purchases in 2013?

My personal observation is that many of our clients do not look at residences as luxuries, but more as part of their lifestyle.

We have numerous clients who maintain homes in two or three countries or might have a New York apartment, a historic family residence and a summer or winter compound. While they may be more comfortable purchasing a new home as the economy improves, that is not necessarily the key driver.

Jan David Winitz, President and Founder of Claremont Rug Company in Oakland, CA, has built a global reputation among carpet collectors and connoisseurs since he founded the company-at age 25-in 1980. 

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