Restoration Hardware’s 616-Page Tome

Discussion
Sep 06, 2011
Tom Ryan

While many retailers are scaling back or outright ditching their direct mail offerings, Restoration Hardware recently sent out its largest-ever catalog — weighing in at three-pounds across 616 pages.

In a press release Restoration Hardware stated the catalog "showcases the most complete expression of the brand to date. Underscoring this are original editorial profiles — by independent journalists and celebrated photographers — that share the stories of a select group of internationally-recognized designers and craftsmen who bring unmatched passion and artistry to the company’s latest designs."

Editorials include profiles on Jefferson Mack, who handcrafts hardware, fireplace tools, and home accessories using traditional blacksmithing techniques; Ben Soleimani, a famed designer of luxury rugs; Timothy Oulton; a London antiques dealer and furniture reproductionist; and Raymond Libeert, CEO of Libeco-Lagae, one of the largest linen weaving companies in Europe. The resource guide, located in the back of the book with product grouped by category, presents 88 pages of lighting, 50 pages of furniture and 72 pages of rugs.

Restoration Hardware noted that its Fall 2011 Source Book is available digitally and via the Restoration Hardware iPad App. It also noted that its printed copies are meant for a long shelf life. "We ask that you hang on to it, as we do our part to support conservation and won’t be sending you another one until next spring," said chairman and co-CEO Gary Friedman.

An article in the September issue of Stores Magazine noted how catalogs are being reinvented though digital technologies, particularly tablets, and that’s enhancing their use as a brand-building tool. For instance, IKEA’s 376-page 2012 catalog comes with an iPad app featuring videos accentuating the images on the pages as well as a related microsite with blogs and consumer-submitted photos and design ideas.

Many retailers now feature catalogs on aggregator apps. The four leaders in the space are Coffee Table, Catalogs.com, Catalog Spree, and Catalogue from TheFind. Google in late August unveiled an iPad app dubbed Google Catalogs, which likewise enables consumers to shop a wide array of digital catalogs.  Among the 50 catalogs on Google’s app are Anthropologie, Blue Nile, Crate & Barrel, L.L. Bean, Patagonia, Pottery Barn, Sephora and Williams-Sonoma.

But the Stores article also pointed to the arrival of Restoration Hardware’s print catalog as a viable option to draw attention and tell stories.

"I believe catalogs will always have a unique and effective role," Catalogs.com co-founder Richard Linevsky, told Stores. "They’re like other specific advertising mediums. Why do we still have billboards? Because people are still driving.

Discussion Questions: Is there still a market for statement catalogs such as the one published by Restoration Hardware? Do you see digital technologies enhancing the value of print catalogs or replacing them?

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15 Comments on "Restoration Hardware’s 616-Page Tome"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

There is a still a specialty market for statement catalogs, however, it’s essential that the consumer also have an online digital alternative as well.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

There still is a market for catalogs. A well-done catalog, like Restoration Hardware or IKEA, may stay in the home for a longer period of time and may be referenced on multiple occasions, each time building advertising value for the retailer.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

I have to admit that when Restoration Hardware’s catalog came I was very surprised. I hadn’t seen any catalog that thick and heavy for some time. That being said, my wife immediately began paging through it. I expect that it will be something that definitely has staying power as a resource. I agree with David — I think both can have a role in influencing consumers’ decisions.

George Whalin
Guest
George Whalin
9 years 8 months ago

Yes, catalogs have declined in popularity as the Internet has grown as a more convenient way of selling merchandise. This does not mean they are no longer viable. There are a large number of older shoppers who still prefer the leisurely method of shopping by catalog. Catalog shopping is more than 100 years old so it won’t disappear anytime soon.

While the US Postal service has struggled, direct marketers have continued to send millions of pieces of direct mail every month for one very important reason … it works!

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

“Catalog” is a misnomer for the Restoration Hardware piece. This is an advertising and promotion tool that goes far beyond the normal published catalogs. Per the description, it will be a book that is saved and thumbed through and appreciated by RH fans. Beyond that, the impact will be minor.

In the end, digital technologies will replace print catalogs, even ones like this. Digital can do everything print can and more. And the demographic trends of the users favor it.

In the meantime, let’s hope this catalog is going via the USPS and paying its full fare. USPS apparently needs it.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

It’s not just a statement catalog for consumers; it’s a valuable resource guide for just about anyone in the home decor and remodeling business. I love the tablet and digital formats as well. In my opinion, the Restoration Hardware catalog is more fun to have on the coffee table than the September issue of Vogue.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

The timing of this question is perfect. My extended family got together for dinner last evening and the subject of the Resto catalog came up. The dark photos and gloomy, overly large furniture seem so out of place for a recessionary climate; it will be interesting to see whether anyone is in the market for a pair of huge $400 lamps.

Gary Ostrager
Guest
Gary Ostrager
9 years 8 months ago

There is absolutely a valuable place in the customer contact strategy for “statement catalogs”. The key to their effectiveness is to ensure the retailers optimize the reach of this marketing vehicle with pin-point accuracy. Mailing an expensive catalog that doesn’t create interest and “stickiness” to the targeted audience is a huge waste of marketing dollars. But addressed the right audience segments — where the content is extremely relevant — a print catalog can be extremely effective.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Upon receiving the recent Restoration Hardware catalog addressed to my wife “or current resident,” I was hoping this would be a topic of discussion. With all the digital tools and consumer adoption of these technologies, the arrival of this one-dimensional, 615 page catalog was like receiving a 2 lb. 14 oz. dinosaur in the mail! To go to this expense and send it blindly to unqualified prospects without being part of a relevant, personalized cross-media strategy is an incredible waste of money. This appears to be a narcissistic exercise as opposed to a sound business strategy. In a long list of ironies, the back cover states, “Promoting sustainable forest management. Please recycle this catalog.” Unfortunate, yet gladly.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 8 months ago

Everyone loves the gloss. And RH’s catalog is probably one of the better glossies that get sent out. Is it the wave of the future? No. Does it destroy trees? Yes. Does the RH customer care? Probably not. There is still a market for full color catalogs and, at 616 pages, RH is trying to say, ‘We have tons of unique stuff. Here’s your bathroom reading.’ Don’t forget, catalogs serve 2 purposes: to get people to order merch and to get people into the local store for the touch-taste-feel exercise.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Niche print still works. Digital won’t “replace” existing media any more than TV “replaced” radio.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

There are still customers who wish to have an “experience of shopping” that digital does not provide. Further, there are shoppers who are not aware of Restoration Hardware’s complete offering and their position in the marketplace.

The catalog offers the opportunity for RH to reach out to its target audience directly with an expression of how they wish to be perceived. Whether it becomes an on the shelf resource or a memory of products and services that resonate with the reader, it will serve RH and its customers well.

Will the ROI be realized? I hope RH shares that part of the story.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

Is there a market? Of course (or they wouldn’t have created it). And the same could be said for many other retailers, as well as payphones, (printed) newspapers/magazines, etc. The question, though, becomes at some point – as the market for these dwindles away, is the market sufficiently large for them to be viable?

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
9 years 8 months ago

Restoration Hardware catalogs are valuable marketing tools for their many loyal shoppers who like to consider and compare at home before they shop. This presentation works for the target group who like to have a “reference” book on hand as they discuss with friends. It works for RH. For the larger market, this may attract some new clients, comfortable with traditional, substantial pieces and price points. The digital will supplement the print version, giving instant access, particularly during shopping trips.

Armen Najarian
Guest
Armen Najarian
9 years 8 months ago

There is a market for statement catalogs, at least for now. How fashion and style content is consumed is just different from most categories. Emotion and tactile experience must be respected. Until tablet-based devices are more broadly adopted, fashion brands won’t abandon print.

To balance the economics, statement catalog distribution should be targeted with precision. A shotgun approach is a recipe for failure.

On a personal note, we made some recent RH purchases and received the catalog about a month later. While we appreciated the bold statement RH is making with this glossy, it just felt over the top. We recycled the very next day.

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