Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Claremont Rug’s Magic Carpet Ride

High-end oriental rug collector Jan David Winitz has had an even easier time reaching clients virtually—now that they have nowhere else to go.

When you think of retail products best suited for online-only sales, you’d probably come up with the usual suspects: household products, beauty care, non-perishable food…toiletpaper.

Few could have predicted it would also prove the perfect platform for the sale of 19th century museum-caliber Oriental rugs with price tags as high as $225,000.

It was a surprise to Jan David Winitz, too. The founder and president of Claremont Rug Company admits to being fairly rattled by the shelter-in-place orders that came on March 16. “We sell generally through our [Oakland, California] gallery or at in-home showings. Within 24 hours, those were both shut down,” says Winitz “That was a big shock—obviously.”

But Winitz refused to see it as a problem. “That word is verboten in our business because it means something insurmountable,” he says, noting that he inherited that kind of resilient thinking from his grandmother, who always maintained a positive outlook. “She looked at everything in life like an elaborate board game,” he recalls. “She always said, ‘Nothing is a problem, nothing is insurmountable. It’s just a challenge to be figured out.’ So we started to work at it.”

A Captive Audience

It didn’t take long to spot opportunity. While Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on the lion’s share of the economy, some businesses are finding the shelter-in-place climate has actually created avenues for deeper connection with both existing and prospective clients. 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.

They were also looking for something to do. Previously, the biggest roadblock the Claremont Rug sales team had seen was clients too busy to focus on making such a sizable purchase—but post-pandemic, time was something they had plenty of. “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.”

They also knew the web site they had wasn’t going to cut it, and they would need to invest in some enhancements to the virtual gallery—”something we had been thinking about for a couple of years but had never gotten around to.” So they commissioned a web design company to work “around the clock” to deliver multiple improvements to the web site, such as adding multiple images for each rug so prospective buyers could see the item from more than one angle; beefing up the search functionality and simplifying the user experience, so clients could find just what they were looking for; and adding a feature that allows users to track the last 10 pieces they’d looked at. “We also added more videos and more articles, so we really propped up the web site to make it more of a destination,” says Winitz. “Believe it or not, it took about three weeks to make all the improvements we had been talking about for two years.”

Next, Winitz knew he’d need some sort of incentive to get people’s attention and jump-start activity. So he did something he’d never before done: offered a 20% discount on all rugs. He had some concerns about margins, but in the end his hunch that he’d see a net positive turned out to be right: 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.”

A New Market

Technology also enabled Winitz to give clients something akin to the experience they would have had pre-Covid when purchasing his floor art: the in-home delivery presentation. “Now now we do virtual rug showings, where we ship the rug to the client and then have a Zoom call, and the designer and architect can be part of the presentation,” says Winitz. Those  virtual ‘big reveals’ have had the side benefit of introducing next-generation family members—and possibly a new market for Claremont Rug Company—to the beauty of antique rugs. Given how little effort is required, Millennial children can be more easily convinced to join the Zoom calls and, once there, have shown far more interest than their parents had thought they would, says Winitz. “We’ve now seen it repeated quite a few times, where a kid in their 20s will get very excited and say, ‘That’s so beautiful,’ and their parent says ‘I didn’t think you’d like this.’”

A booming business is helping Winitz stay away from the 24/7 Covid-related news, which he says is not helpful for anyone’s mental health, and for himself, has an adverse effect on his productivity and effectiveness. “It’s important to be informed, but it’s not helpful to get the same message over and over and over again, because as humans we’re not capable of handling that emotionally.”

Winitz expresses gratitude for his good fortune to be doing what he loves. “I’m surrounded by the most beautiful art in the world and the staff are my friends,” he says. “I don’t go to work every day—I go to fun every day.”



  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.