Christie’s is closing its South Kensington wine department at the end of the week.
According to David Elswood, head of Christie’s International Wine Department, at the end of this week the auction house will be announce a restructuring of its London wine department, including the closing of the South Kensington wine branch after over 30 years.
Elswood said Christie’s new strategy will focus on the Asian market where financial pressures aren’t as profoundly felt as the rest of the world.
‘European wine sales were up 10% year on year in 2008, but the forecast is uncertain,’ he said.
The current economic conditions will not sustain management of high volume, lower value wine inventory, which is the focus of the South Kensington wine department.
Christie’s London King Street wine department, which deals with fine and rare wines, will carry on. ‘The King Street auction line-up for 2009 remains unaltered’, Elswood said.
Meanwhile Christie’s Hong Kong will expand. Elswood said he ‘would not talk about numbers of staff’ in that department but confirmed that they would be recruiting locally in 2009 to bring the permanent staff up to three.
Christie’s sets great store by Hong Kong, which is proving to be a profit centre despite the economic turmoil.
Its November 29 Hong Kong wine auction surpassed expectations. Aggressive bidding achieved record-breaking prices, netting US$4.07M, well beyond the US$3.2 pre-sale estimate.
A formal announcement is anticipated February 2009.
Written by Cheryl Lincoln