By Barbara Thau
NEW YORK–Pottery Barn has banished the beige.
The Williams-Sonoma furniture brand bowed a new catalog bursting with bold, brights colors, a palatable departure from a retailer known for its medley of neutrals.
The book also plays up new wood finishes and more promotional price points.
These changes reflect the evolution of Williams-Sonoma’s efforts to rejuvenate Pottery Barn, its biggest brand and Achilles’ heel of late, said Vivian Ma, an analyst with CIBC World Markets.
It’s no secret that Pottery Barn has been hurt by lower-priced competitors, who have co-opted Pottery Barn’s modern, casual aesthetic at lower price points.
“It’s a tired brand that’s been very copied,” Ma said.
The latest catalog marks perhaps its most dramatic answer to that challenge to date.
The first third of the catalog is devoted to telling a bold color story, what Pottery Barn calls “color that defines your style.”
The mix includes pillows in citrus green, pineapple and kale for $25 and the Nora bedding line from $25 to $129 with a poppy print in “saturated” shades in red, gold and pink.
The retailer is also introducing an interactive online color wheel that enables shoppers to see the 28 Benjamin Moore wall colors featured in the catalog in actual furnished rooms.
Pottery Barn is sending the message, “Now we have color and we have pattern,” Ma said. She noted the preponderance of flower prints in both soft home and tabletop—atypical of the retailer that has favored solids and stripes.
“These prints look younger and hipper,” Ma said. “They are trying to make it less boring in some ways. It’s also more of a fashion risk.”
Beyond the color push, Pottery Barn is spicing up the mix with new wood finishes.
To that end, the new Bailey furniture collection comes in “gorgeous color and hand distressing for lots of character,” reads the catalog copy. The look is designed to emulate hand-carved planking.
“They’ve talked a long time about adding new finishes on wood furniture,” Ma said. “We [now] see them highlighting that.”
What’s more, “the retailer continues to make a push with improving the value proposition,” she said, noting $29 toss pillows and dining tables for $600.
The catalog includes nine winter sale pages, which feature price cuts on more than 65 items.
Pottery Barn is also packaging lifestyle themes in a new way with pages that tell decorating stories.
These include spreads that spotlight themed vignettes, such as “world traveler,” with a room setting “that never lets you forget the excitement of your greatest adventure.”
One “artists’ community” spread draws inspiration from London’s bohemian Bloomsbury era.
Pottery Barn purists will find its more traditional fare throughout the book with pages of home goods in the retailer’s signature neutral tones.
Although merchants can get a quick sales read on a catalog’s performance, the jury is still out on whether or not Pottery Barn’s new direction will revive the business, Ma said.
“Within 10 days [of the catalog dropping] they’ll know if it works or not,” Ma said. But, “it takes a long time to reposition a brand.”