Get ready to be nostalgic for Restoration Hardware. The retailer that once scarily commodified the products of an entire generation’s youth as it grew through the ’80s and ’90s is reinventing itself to forget about the nostalgia and pay more attention to high-end furniture, the Associated Press reports.
The rebrand will include simplifying the name of the place to RH. "RH enhances our identity and moves us beyond our hardware store beginnings," CEO Carlos Alberini said in a statement. "It enables us to leverage our core capabilities of innovation, curation and integration of new ideas and businesses."
This is the next step for a chain that has been changing since Stephen Gordon launched it in 1980 and severed ties in 2005, through to when Sears acquired a stake in 2007 and the company was sold back in 2008 to a private-equity firm.
Under its current ownership, it has “redesigned stores, revamped its product line and focused on a higher-end market,” as AP puts it, as well as recently filing “plans for an initial public offering of stock.”
As part of the repositioning in 2010, gone were the fun tchotchkes (games, pet objects and lower-priced retro gadgets) that filled many a Christmas stocking, cleared to make room for pricier leather furniture and objets d'art — all part of a bid to be considered a luxury brand steeped in quiet (some would argue boring) elegance that scrapped the go-go "captains of industry/preppy Americana" vibe it built its brand on.
In August, Restoration’s CEO and chairman since 2001, former Pottery Barn president Gary Friedman, stepped down after it emerged that the 54-year-old "had an inappropriate relationship with a 26-year-old female employee," according to the New York Times. Now Chairman Emeritus, he has stayed on in a nominal role.
According to a release, Friedman (who has the largest individual stake in the business) will "continue to be involved with Restoration Hardware in an exclusive advisory role, serving as Creator and Curator for Restoration Hardware with a focus on strategy, creative, and design direction." In that guise, he penned a fairly esoteric letter to customers that can be found on the brand's website homepage.
One bit of nostalgia the company hung onto, though, is the heft of its catalog. Thanks to consumers becoming more environmentally conscious and mailing rates going up, most cataloguers have slimmed down their mailings and use their catalogs to push consumers to their website. RH’s latest catalog weighs in at 5½ pounds, the San Francisco Chronicle notes.
Industry insiders tell the Chronicle that the company is hoping the size of the catalog will keep consumers from just tossing it, but the paper notes that RH has been getting a pretty good berating online, particularly for a section of the catalog that extols RH’s concern for the environment.