Business strategies changing

Senior managers at Sotheby’s and Christie’s are beginning to refocus their firms’ strategies on the bottom line, rather than on beating the competition, according to sources at both auction houses. In their efforts to attract sellers and gain market share over the last few years, the companies have eroded their profit margins by making generous use of financial sweeteners, such as guarantees or the third-party “partnerships” Christie’s quietly introduced earlier this year. But unprofitable business is simply bad business. Just days after announcing its best ever season of sales last month, in the course of which the firm turned over $1.1bn in art, Sotheby’s launched a voluntary redundancy scheme for staff. The cost-cutting measure could lead to layoffs at the company, which saw its share price plummet to $29.02 as we went to press.