Why Restoration Hardware sends 15-pound catalogs

When the upscale home furnishings retailer Restoration Hardware sent out its annual catalog in 2011, it was 616 pages long. The company was criticized by environmentalists for the move. In the face of that criticism, Restoration Hardware increased the size of its annual tome. In fact, this year’s edition is actually 11 individual catalogs, bounded together in plastic, at a grand total of 3,000+ pages. 

To call it a "catalog" is a bit of an understatement.  In fact, the company has come up with many other names for it, including "Magalog," "Source book" and "Inspiration file".  We wanted to know why it was so big (and, in the meantime, we came up with some uses for it as well...)

We were wrong: The once-a-year Mega-gantalog is actually part of the company’s strategy to reduce waste.

Brian McGough, a managing director of retail at Hedgeye, says most retailers put out catalogs quarterly or monthly. But because Restoration Hardware puts out its Gargantalog once a year, it actually produces less paper than many of its competitors.

“Williams-Sonoma, who no one ever talks about them and their catalogs, they print three times as many pages annually,” says McGough.

Restoration Hardware previously shipped smaller catalogs 10 times per year. But by moving to the one Megalog, the company’s gotten higher sales for fewer pages “and additionally,” says CEO Gary Friedman, “we ship all our Source books bundled together vs. separately, which is also significantly more efficient.”   

Friedman says his company is applying the same strategy to its stores, closing many of them and moving to fewer but larger locations.

Restoration Hardware takes its design cues from antiques, says Kit Yarrow, a professor of business at Golden State University.“They are really trying to create this sense of faux authenticity, if that makes any sense.”

The company produces so many products that only about 20 percent can fit in a store. The only place big enough to show them all is its catalog/source book/Magalog and website, which accounts for nearly half of all sales. 

Hopefully, the incredibly versatile Ginormolog doesn't become a stand in for Restoration Hardware's home furnishings. Though we're actually finding it pretty useful:

 

 

About the author

David Weinberg is a general assignment reporter at Marketplace.

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