If any industry represented the total opposite of New Age technology, it must be the decorative arts, far ahead of the fine arts. In the decorative arts, the Sotheby’s/Christie’s duopoly look as tired as their “fellow” dealers, no easy buck in either format. So where will a start-up attitude ever come from this present industry situation.
Welcome to Newel, and now let’s have some real fun! But the reality is that Newel is an old company, started in 1938 and is still doing the same things it did back then. We have almost seventy five years of rental experience but precious few knowing how to understand a market that has extensive auction dominance and their unsavory methods. We don’t quite sound like a candidate for the New Age. Perhaps, but what if the old company had invested in an infrastructure with a state-of-the-art data base, not like anything off the shelf.
We have developed a specialized and functional database needed to deal with a monumental and varied inventory, along with the critical tasks of documenting the storage location, movement, and tracking of these items. At Newel there is also a need to control the chaos of our rental business and the additional required logistics of this physical movement of the inventory. I might actually sympathize with Sotheby’s and their union problems. To be big should offer efficiency opportunities. The other critical part is that in the decorative arts, you’ve got to get your hands dirty; touching and moving furniture and small items is part of enjoying them and knowing your product.
A lot of investment in the future of my business has been based on hope and a prayer, but more from infrastructure limitations. The ability to operate with a large and diverse inventory presents many obvious advantages, but reinventing our way of operating can open up new and better ways to reach out to consumers. Technology offers a platform to do a lot of the heavy lifting.
I’m sorry to say “good luck” to all those dealer organizations out there, you are worthy of friendship and shared passion. I also think it’s time to put the Duopoly in our rear view mirror and move on. Auctioneers would desperately love to mimic how dealers operate (ever heard of private treaty sales). We are now going out on our own and I hope to instill an attitude at Newel that we must think outside the box, use every opportunity, and refine our operations. I want a start-up attitude.
The attitude of Newel must recognize that customer service is the most difficult area of responsibility. Taking on a client must mean making sure their purchases more than meet their expectations and the experience is easy (think Amazon). The data base is now present, able, and willing to support, without limitations how we can operate. Developing an operation with a staff overseeing the creative uses of the inventory will require more than just being a “gallery girl”.