The vision thing
February 26, 2001-- Home Textiles Today,
Sitting with Gordon Segal of Crate & Barrel is always like letting in a huge breath of fresh air into an environment that sometimes feels stale and ho-hum.
And visiting with him earlier this month amid all the hubbub that surrounded the opening of his new flagship in San Francisco was no exception. He exuded enthusiasm about the store, the future and even what many pundits are calling a serious business slowdown. Passion is a word he uses frequently. All too few retailers today have a passion for their business. It's more a bean counter mentality.
It takes a big person-yes, Gordon is tall and imposing-big in other ways to enscapsulate what happened in the business world in the last few years as, "We had gigantic comps in 2000. We all thought we were geniuses."
And while he admits to a slowdown in growth, he said, "There's been an adjustment, but we're still on an upward move from the late 1999/first nine months of 2000 ebullience."
One of the fascinating things about Crate is its dedication to the architecture of the stores it inhabits. It's a definite throwback to Sir Terence Conran, whose stores around the world are noted for their singular architectural statements, each one different from the next.
The San Francisco store, just off Union Square, incorporates the architectural details into the store's personality. Just as the Macy's a block away built a new store with soaring glass windows, Crate took advantage of the windows that were part of the original building and used them to enhance the environment inside.
And probably one of the most interesting things about Crate is the deliberate way it moves into new arenas. Talking about CB2, its fledgling business dedicated to a younger customer, Segal discussed how the merchandise mix moved from a 50 percent commonality with Crate to what is now 20 percent and probably will be 10 percent when the new stores open.
"It took us nine years to get the housewares business and the furniture business right. We're going to take the time to get CB2 right" before the company moves into a major rollout, he said.