Maybe it was need (we really do need some new sheets), but I’m inclined to think it was the Saturday morning mimosa that accelerated my hunger for some retail therapy more than anything else. Whatever it was, I was ready to shop when I wandered into Restoration Hardware’s new Melrose Avenue gallery recently.
The upscale temple to good taste takes up 40,000 square feet of prime West Hollywood real estate in the heart of L.A.’s design district. The open-air floor plan is breathtaking, really. The layout encourages wandering from room to room; each space carefully designed and curated to bring drama while still offering simplicity. Retail theater at its finest, and a masterful example of Restoration Hardware’s reinvention.
And while I enjoyed the wandering and the general oohs and ahhh’s, I was even more excited to get some new sheets. A sign at the entrance advertising a 25% linen sale was pretty enticing. But, at this RH location, there are no sheets leaving the building. No sheets, no towels, no lamps or even chairs. Everything in Restoration Hardware’s handful of Design Galleries has to ordered through a sales associate, a catalog or online.
My afternoon at Restoration Hardware reminded me how much the retail experience has changed in the last few years. Online continues to convert more and more shoppers from brick and mortar transactions. In-store experiences now involve iPhones, responsive fitting rooms and paperless receipts. Each store or brand must figure out the right way (or combination of methods) to reach their core consumer. The answers don’t always come easily. Who knew that a shopping trip of the future would see us arrive back home, bag-free, with nothing to satiate that desire for instant gratification?
On a macro level, sales have slowed .14% at retail at the start of this year. There are always bright spots, though, which includes growth in the furniture and bedding category; a segment projected to grow 15.5% in the next five years to reach $11.3 billion. Restoration Hardware’s last earning report showed the chain’s sales up 24% in Q4 of their fiscal year, on top of a 24% increase from Q4 2013 fiscal year. Annual revenues reached new heights in 2014 to $1.868 billion, the fifth consecutive year of sales growth in excess of 20% annually. In today’s sluggish retail environment I would call that a resounding success…..maybe even a landslide. And while they weren’t able to satisfy my craving for new sheets that day, the fabric samples that I got in the mail last week delighted me enough to place an order. Good for them for changing the recipe.
Photos taken, with permission, at RH West Hollywood.