Crate & Barrel, Fall 1998

Sep 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Crate & Barrel has its competition over the proverbial barrel when it comes to product selection, presentation, and organization. “There’s so much stuff in here, it gives you a good reason to visit the store,” a judge proclaims about the company’s Silver Award-winning Fall 1998 catalog.

And when you’re a cataloger/retailer, you want to drive customers into the stores as much as you want to compel them to place mail orders. “Crate & Barrel packs a lot of merchandise on its pages, which is great for retail response,” says one judge. “There’s a good mix of products and price points; products seem to present a consistent lifestyle taste,” another panelist adds.

It also helps that tableware, serving pieces, furnishings, and decorative items are presented in Crate & Barrel’s signature grid format. “Design is a major strength of this catalog,” a judge says. Great eye flow and pacing plus exceptional use of color help organize the spreads. The catalog also uses backgrounds and lighting “that makes the products look truly special.”

The catalog cover – depicting a buffet cabinet with the door slightly open to show a set of dishes inside, while on top sit a soup tureen, bowls, napkins, and candles – draws mixed reviews, however. Several judges deem it “boring” and say that it “lacks excitement.” Others describe the cover image as “warm and inviting.” “I like sneaking a peek into the cupboard,” says one judge. “That really made me open this book.”

While the catalog’s primary goal is to drive store traffic, the book embraces strong direct marketing concepts, a judge says. “For instance, the order form is well thought out and well designed,” and the quality of service is the same as that offered by catalog-only marketers, the judge says. In fact, the catalog is such a strong mail order vehicle that “it may have missed the boat by not talking about the stores and the retail services more.”

The company promotes its house credit card and gift certificates on nearly every page. “It also makes it seem easy to have items gift-wrapped, to use the gift registry, and to return products,” a panelist says. But best of all, the distinctive product presented in pristine, organized layouts makes this book stand out in what has become a crowded catalog market. “Crate & Barrel uses its own style to make this look unlike anything else I’ve seen,” a judge says.