Mallett may not necessarily be the bellwether for the health of the English antiques trade, but, as a public company, its vicissitudes make for interesting reading.
The company’s oft-stated desire to reduce overhead by moving to cheaper premises off Bond Street has not been accomplished. With annual rent expense for their Bond Street premises alone amounting to over 10% of their annual sales- to say nothing of their Madison Avenue showroom rent- it is no wonder the company is bleeding cash. Albeit in premium locations in two of the world’s premier shopping streets, it is doubtful they will find a Bond Street subtenant any time soon. Unhappily, Partridge’s receivers may just be seeking a subtenant, too. Catering to a market segment that, globally, reflects a percentage of the antiques buying public that can be measured in basis points, one wonders whether Mallett wouldn’t be well served by eliminating the Madison Avenue operation altogether. Opened following the 9/11 attacks and in response to a perceived phobia amongst its American clientele for foreign travel, one wonders whether buyers were sufficiently phobic to abandon London and enable the New York showroom to ever pay for itself.
Staff reductions at Mallett- most notably the departure of well-paid former managing director Lanto Synge- have assisted in reducing the red ink, but with a loss for the first half of the year of £820m, one wonders what the results would have been had the company not been able to shift some £600m worth of stock at Christie’s this last June.
With near neighbor Partridge Fine Art in the hands of the receivers and its survival in question, theoretically Mallett might conceivably enjoy a sales bump from a decrease in competition. Possibly, but more likely, with a loss of Partridge, Bond Street will no longer be an antiques venue, and, with decreasing sales, one wonders how long Mallett on its own will be considered a destination for buyers, despite its enviable location directly across from Sotheby’s. The notion that Mallett would benefit from decreased competition, not only on Bond Street, but the result of the significantly thinner ranks of dealers internationally, is specious at best, and presumably could be said about all the rest of us surviving dealers. Speaking for ourselves, any beneficial effect has yet to manifest itself.