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Developing the key Bond Street site is central to a worldwide strategy for the company revealed to the Antiques Trade Gazette by chief executive Chris Thomson last week.

The main London saleroom is to become a venue for sales of only the best quality material, with high volume sales of lower value items concentrated in Bayswater and provincial rooms.

The salerooms in New York and Zurich are to be developed in tandem with the London rooms, though a large-scale investment in auction rooms across the USA, beyond the Selkirk saleroom in St Louis acquired last year, has been ruled out for the foreseeable future.

The decision to concentrate quality in London suggests a further rationalisation of the UK provincial saleroom network, particularly in the South East, where a single large sale venue is envisaged to replace 5-6 small salerooms. There is also likely to be a scaling-down of the Fine Sales in Fine Places initiative which has gathered quality goods in country house locations on a regional basis.

Mr Thomson emphasised that Phillips’ established provincial network will remain an important facet of the business, with regional offices opening where salerooms close, as has happened already in Sherborne and Gateshead.

He identified Edinburgh as the most successful of the non-London branches as well as a regional base which will have its own status as a saleroom in an international centre, describing the George Street premises as “one of Christopher Weston’s remarkable legacies”.

The first stage of a progressive refurbishment of the London rooms is on view this week with the unveiling of Phillips’ new image in the entrance from New Bond Street which is to be re-emphasised as the principal access to the building.

The former main entrance from Blenheim Street on the other side of the building will be retained mainly for deliveries.

Reviewing the company’s position after a year that has seen a complete change in top management since the surprise departure of Christopher Weston, Chris Thomson told the Antiques Trade Gazette that a rethink of the Bond Street business was central to his vision for future shape of the company.

“I have challenged my colleagues with the question: Are we a Bond Street business or a Blenheim Street business?” he said.

“My belief is that we ought to be a Bond Street business,” he continued, “with a high quality ambience, exemplary service and world class specialists. If we get these ingredients right we can grow the business by appealing to buyers and sellers of better quality merchandise than Phillips has historically dealt with in Bond Street.”

Mr Thomson, who came to Phillips from the Burton tailoring group, firmly believes that there are lessons to be learned from the retail sector and will be placing greater emphasis on customer service.

However, he is convinced that the impetus needed to move the business on and generate the profits expected by new major shareholders 3i and the Royal Bank of Scotland will only be generated by recruiting and developing “world class experts” with the necessary commercial drive in key areas.

Mr Thomson identifies the target for Bond Street as the upper middle range of goods. He does not envisage Phillips competing with Christie’s and Sotheby’s for top-flight international collections, but he acknowledges that they will continue to provide stiff competition at a level below that.

In order to concentrate quality goods in Bond Street, there is to be further investment in Phillips’ secondary London saleroom in Bayswater. This will handle some of the regular sales currently held in Bond Street as well as collectors’ sales of low value items.

“There is room for a sort of metro auction room which is more comfortable for private buyers and sellers and where dealers could find more modestly priced lots,” said Chris Thomson. “That is where we will have niche sales, more interesting sales, and sales in the Internet, with the Auction Channel.”

Bayswater will be promoted as a seven-days-a-week venue with improved facilities and services to encourage more private buyers to participate in the auction process. “I want people to feel just as good about coming to auction as about going to John Lewis,” was Thomson’s challenge.

On the global front Phillips have amicably dissolved the partnership with Paris auctioneers PIASA and international sales will be concentrated in Zurich, where they have recently acquired new rooms and in New York, where he pointed to the success of energetic experts in building up sales of decorative arts, Impressionist and American paintings, silver, jewellery and photographs in a short time.

“Some sales have attracted attention almost out of proportion to the value of the sale, which is what building a brand is all about,” he concluded.