‘Get A Life’, Retailer Says To His Critics… And, While You’re At It, Fill It With Beautiful Things!

The delivery guy flung the package over the railing… it landed with a loud “thud” on the verandah (so much so, I looked up from my desk to see what caused the noise).

“It” was a package of “source books” sent to my wife, all shrink-wrapped together:

1. a 514-page “Interiors” book,

2. a 162-page “Small Spaces” book,

3. a 220-page”Upholstery” book,

4. a 246-page “Leather” book,

5. a 382-page “Furniture” book,

6. a 290-page “Rugs” book,

7. a 206-page “Linens” book,

8. a 258-page “Lighting” book, and

9. a 158-page “Bath” book.

All in all, 2,436 pages of beautiful items for any home – great reading and dreaming for the lazy summer days ahead. Together, they weighed 11.5 lbs. (Another compilation, apparently mailed in the US, included more books and topped 17 lbs. on the bathroom scale.)

The mailer is Restoration Hardware, the chain of upscale home furnishings, hardware, outdoor and garden products. This once-a-year distribution of its “source books” has attracted a firestorm of controversy on the Internet…

”Restoration Hardware 11 lb. catalog mailing draws criticism” — CBS News

“Restoration Hardware’s mail order monstrosity is a catalog hater’s worst nightmare.” — Mother Nature Network

“Restoration Hardware’s 3,000-page catalog sparks criticism on social media.” — Washington Post

I should point out that, strictly speaking, these are not catalogues since they do not provide for direct ordering… that’s why I would call them “sponsored magazines”. Essentially, the only difference between RH’s “source books” and publications like Architectural Digest is that the featured products are available at only one store.

Online, consumer outrage is focused on “environmental concerns” which is code for wasted paper and trees destroyed. I don’t know about you, but since the world went digital – with e-mails and attachments – I am buying more paper, and printing more documents, than ever before – notwithstanding the plea in many e-mails to ‘consider the environment before printing it.’

Offline, Restoration Hardware is reinventing itself – with fewer, larger stores that are eye candy for consumers who imagine that a more beautiful home can be theirs. These “source books” are this year’s inspiration.

Only time will tell if this strategy will work – however, we should recall that current CEO, Gary Friedman, took on Restoration Hardware when it was virtually bankrupt (2001: net loss of $35 million) and restored it to profitability – in 2013, the business made $69 million. (Amounts in US dollars)

In essence, Friedman is betting that is target customers will spend time reading… dreaming… imagining beautiful items in their homes… and heading directly to Restoration Hardware to buy those things that excite them.