Merch Mishap Gets `Whacked’

What seemed like a brilliant merchandising idea at the time turned out to be a production nightmare for Corte Madera, CA-based Restoration Hardware. But thanks to fast thinking – and even faster acting – the cataloger/retailer of retro home furnishings and accessories was able to make a quick change to its holiday books and avoid disappointing thousands of customers.

It started with the company’s idea to resurrect the highly collectable Jade-Ite Fire-King line of restaurant tableware that was popular in the U.S. from the 1940s through the 1970s. “We hoped to introduce the product to a new generation without spoiling the value of the original line for its collectors,” says Dave Glassman, Restoration Hardware’s director of marketing.

So the cataloger proposed the idea to the original line’s manufacturer, Anchor Hocking, which agreed to produce an exclusive line for Restoration Hardware. Anticipating a big response to the line, the company devoted a full spread to the pale green tableware in a remail edition of its Holiday 2000 catalog.

Quality control problems Unfortunately, product samples of the reproduced Jade-Ite that arrived at Restoration Hardware weren’t “up to snuff,” Glassman says. With some pieces, he says, the color was off; other pieces were pitted. Overall, “The quality just wasn’t there to be able to sell the product,” Glassman says. (As of press time, Anchor Hocking had not returned Catalog Age’s calls.)

By the time Restoration Hardware received the goods, however, thousands of the 80-page holiday catalogs were ready to mail. The company was able to have its printer pull the Jade-Ite spread from about 80% of its planned mailing. But the remaining 20% of the catalogs had already been printed and bound. So Restoration Hardware had the printer place on all Jade-Ite spreads dot-whack stickers noting that the product “can’t be delivered at this time.”

“I don’t think a single catalog [with the Jade-Ite spread] went out without a dot whack,” Glassman says, adding that placing the dot whacks didn’t delay the catalog mailings.

Jade-Ite fans out of luck Although the dot whacks proved to be a short-term fix to avoid disappointing customers who might have wanted to buy the Jade-Ite for the holidays, the merchandise quality control issues will be much harder to fix. In fact, the product line will not be available to Restoration Hardware customers any time soon. And Glassman says it’s unlikely the exclusive line will ever be available to consumers: “A lot of money was put into making the molds, but the whole thing is shelved for right now. It’s unfortunate, because we were pretty psyched about it.”

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