Restoration Hardware Reinvents Itself

by , Sep 10, 2010, 1:42 PM
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Niche retailer Restoration Hardware is launching a fall collection at its redesigned "gallery" stores.

"We've destroyed the previous iteration of ourselves, clearing the way to express our brand in a never-before-seen fashion," says Gary Friedman, chairman and co-chief executive officer. A statement about the relaunch is in a 56-page direct mail piece that went out in late August and is also on the company's redesigned Web site, which proclaims the retailer to be "reinvented, remodeled, reborn."

Friedman calls the gallery stores "a complete re-conceptualization of the shopping experience and an artful expression of home furnishings in a gallery setting" for "an entirely new" Restoration Hardware.

A Restoration Hardware spokesperson declined to comment on marketing plans for the new collection or new stores.

The fall collection includes more than 500 new pieces that are a "personal expression of a lifestyle that respects the juxtaposition of form and function, past and present, and an environment that is relaxed yet refined," Friedman says. They include pieces like an antique piece of barn door hardware transformed into a cast iron trolley pendant and a replica of a circa 1850 dentist's chair.

Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says the privately held retailer's timing for the relaunch is questionable, given the lackluster economy that continues to plague the U.S.

"This is a terrible time to relaunch as a higher-end kind of manufacturer," Mulpuru tells Marketing Daily.

However, if the company is trying to get away from competition with the likes of Pottery Barn, they might be heading in the right direction, she says. "The reality is that in the middle of this recession, they were this aspirational brand, and they had a lot of products there that were frankly the same quality as you'd get anywhere else," she says. Competing with Pottery Barn -- which ultimately means competing with lower-end retailers such as Target -- was not working for the company, she says.

"I think their strategy now is all about much, much higher-end, higher-quality pieces that are almost focusing on interior designers," Mulpuru says. If they sell far fewer pieces at higher price points and higher margins, they might succeed. "I don't know how much they are aiming for, if they are thinking this is going to be a $10 billion business -- there's definitely not enough to sustain that in the high-end furniture market," she says. "But if they were just aiming to be a $1 billion business, I think there's an opportunity."

Items in the direct mail piece and the Web site offer a preview of the items at the new gallery stores. Pieces include one-of-a-kind items such as a five-foot French tower clock, a reproduction of an early 20th-century timepiece from the village of Bray-Sur-Seine in the Ile-de-France region. Crafted from reclaimed solid elm, a 15-baluster dining table features a grand hand-turned base topped with planks from a 19th-century Lyon courtyard.

"They're really elevating themselves and trying to compete with specialty stores that are one-offs, essentially places where interior designers go," Mulpuru says. "You can see that in the price points, the size and the heaviness of the products they are selling and this whole new redesign. They are definitely going after a very niche, target group with this new merchandising strategy."

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