2021 Retailers To Watch: Crate & Barrel

From new formats to game-changing omnichannel strategies, and with the coronavirus pandemic impacting all aspects of the industry, the world of retail continued to evolve in 2020 as a number of leading chains and e-commerce pure-plays launched a range of key initiatives in an effort to enhance differentiation from their competitors.

Housewares and home were a focal point for many of these omnichannel-oriented retailers, which worked with leading vendors to launch new assortments ranging from kitchenware to home furnishings.

HomeWorld’s fourth annual Retailers To Watch, in the November 16 issue, takes a look at eight retailers that have made moves to further strengthen their respective businesses heading into 2021 through a range of initiatives, from new omnichannel directions to new retail formats. Selected by the HomeWorld editorial staff, each retailer selected is taking aim at growing top-level sales in the coming year and placing housewares and home at the forefront of their respective growth strategies.

Overview

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 2020 figured to be eventful for Crate and Barrel, which began the year with the announcement that Neela Montgomery would leave her CEO post in August. Montgomery had spearheaded the retailer’s digital and new customer development progress with the integration of store and online channels; an expansion of the CB2 brand; exclusive, on-trend designer and brand alliances; the 2019 acquisition by Crate parent Otto Group of San Francisco-based home products boutique Hudson Grace; and the launch of Crate and Barrel’s first full-service restaurant, The Table at Crate.

The subsequent announcement of a successor to Montgomery with highly accomplished credentials in the home specialty retailing space— former Williams-Sonoma brand chief Janet Hayes— likely eased concerns that Crate and Barrel’s momentum might be slowed by a leadership transition. Hayes directed a successful renewal of Williams-Sonoma’s position as a trend-leading authority for high-performance, fashionable cooking and dining tools for an emerging generation of consumers by curating key selections of premium nationally branded product complemented by an expanding assortment of exclusive Williams-Sonoma-branded goods. Hayes also presided over Williams-Sonoma’s pioneering omnichannel development.

What To Watch

Hayes is a strong brand builder who will bring a fresh look to Crate and Barrel’s already progressive private-label development and marketing, an opportunity to adapt Crate for home lifestyle necessities and indulgences shaped by the pandemic.

The appointment of Cathy Beaudoin, former president of Amazon Fashion, to Crate’s supervisory board shortly after Hayes was announced as CEO signified the retailer’s move to further advance its digital commerce, technology and marketing operations.

With nearly 60% of Crate and Barrel’s traffic coming from mobile, the company has streamlined several of its e-commerce capacities, including expansion of AR viewing capabilities and the development of new online options for purchasing decisions that previously would be made in person. In another sign of its digital-driven pivot, Crate and Barrel recently issued its “Crate&kids” catalog on Pinterest, marking the first time the retailer has issued a catalog as a digital-only offering.

Crate and Barrel recently announced it is developing a new 736,000-square-foot regional warehouse and fulfillment center in North Carolina.

Crate and Barrel also plans to grow the Hudson Grace brand through retail expansion into niche markets and an expanded online presence. Curated Hudson Grace collections also are expected to be offered in select Crate stores. —Peter Giannetti

2021 Retailers To Watch (click on name for profile)

Crate & Barrel

Lowe’s

Ocean State Job Lot

Macy’s

Kohl’s

eBay

Dollar General

Bed Bath & Beyond