Restoration founder to head Sundance

Restoration Hardware’s loss is Sundance Catalog Co.’s gain. Stephen Gordon, founder/chairman of Corte Madera, CA-based home decor cataloger/retailer Restoration Hardware, in mid-January resigned to become CEO of Salt Lake City, UT-based Sundance.

Gordon founded Restoration Hardware as a single store 25 years ago; the company, which mailed its first catalog in fall 1998 and has had an e-commerce-enabled Website since 1999, now has more than 100 stores.

Founded 16 years ago by actor Robert Redford, Sundance Catalog sells apparel, home decor, jewelry, and gift items inspired by the American West. This past July the roughly $70 million cataloger was sold to two private equity firms, Boston-based Webster Capital and New York-based ACI Capital, with Redford retaining a minority share.

Gordon says he wasn’t looking to make a change. “I was very happy being at the company I built, but I heard about this opportunity through the grapevine,” he explains. “Sundance is a pretty nice brand with national respect. It’s small but has growth potential in direct-to-consumer and its future retail stores… [It] has room to have much more heightened appeal and visibility and be that much more stronger a brand nationally.”

Taking the helm at Sundance may give Gordon the chance to diversify the company’s marketing strategy, speculates Coy Clement, president of East Greenwich, RI-based consultancy ClementDirect. “Restoration Hardware is a strong multichannel marketer, and that kind of multichannel approach could be very powerful for Sundance,” Clement says.

One of Gordon’s strengths is bringing to market rare finds, or what Restoration Hardware marketing director Dave Glassman calls “discovery” gifts. For instance, the company’s best-selling gift item, an old-time record player it introduced spring 2001, was Gordon’s brainchild. “He’s a great merchant, he has a great vision, and Sundance is a great brand, so it already sounds like a great situation for both the brand and Stephen,” Glassman says.

Until a permanent replacement for Gordon can be found at Restoration Hardware, CEO Gary Friedman, who has handled the day-to-day operational leadership of Restoration for the past four years, will serve as interim chairman. The company is slated to post revenue of approximately $500 million for 2004.

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