The Big Story
Furniture, Flagships, and the Future
Paul Alexander, CFA
The Restoration Hardware catalog arrived at my house last week, and as usual, it contained hundreds of pages of high-end furniture and décor items. However, the page that I found most interesting didn’t have any product on it at all. This season’s book leads off with a short letter from Gary Friedman, the Chairman and CEO of RH (the acronym that Restoration Hardware has been using in recent years as part of a subtle re-brand). Entitled “The Death of Retail Is Overrated,” Friedman’s letter outlines his vision for RH’s stores and makes an optimistic case for the future of physical retail. The letter announces a new 90,000 square foot RH flagship in New York City, complete with multiple galleries, an art installation, and a restaurant, and suggests that compelling stores such as this one are the future of retail. Friedman likely doesn’t mean for all retailers to interpret his letter as strategic real estate and merchandising advice. But since he doesn’t explicitly warn against that, let me do it for him: flagships and expensive experiential retailing are not for everyone.