Crate & Barrel Home Book, Fall 1999

Pristine product shots balanced against just the right amount of text and white space make the Silver Award-winning book from home gifts and furniture cataloger/retailer Crate & Barrel a pleasure to shop from. “The catalog accomplished its mission of developing a personality. The merchandise appears to be upscale and high-quality,” said one judge.

With graphically compelling images, everything seems to fall into place perfectly in the catalog. “Each spread on its own has been designed to be distinctive to Crate & Barrel. They’re clean, sharp, and well proportioned,” one judge said. Another judge commented that “the pagination and flow is a logical progression; it feels like you are walking through a house.”

Copy is used sparingly, taking a back seat to the spectacular photography. Concise phrases, such as “Elegant efficiency in a rich chocolate-hued home office suite, the essence of polished professionalism,” used to describe a desk set, are themselves elegantly efficient. “Crate & Barrel uses a succinct minimalist style of copy. Items and prices are highlighted. Information is adequate. The pictures do most of the selling,” observed one judge.

In fact, some judges felt that Crate & Barrel relies too heavily on the photos to do the selling. Several panelists argued that more descriptions of product features and benefit-laden subheads would have been helpful. And some judges complained that key codes identifying which copy blocks go with which photos can be hard to read.

The catalog maintains its brand identity throughout, with a wide but distinctively clean-lined selection of tableware, linens, furniture, home accessories, and cooking appliances. But while judges agree that the catalog clearly drives sales and store traffic, some believe it doesn’t address another of the company’s stated missions: “to establish a furniture store image.” Indeed, the furniture section is buried near the back of the book. For the same reason, the cover’s emphasis on a tabletop item, rather than furniture, elicited mixed reactions.

Customer service is paramount at Crate & Barrel; one judge observed, “the catalog establishes confidence in the ordering process.” Services include gift packaging, overnight shipping, 24-hour ordering, 48-hour shipping, and an unlimited return policy. “This catalog is customer-centric,” said one judge. But at the same time, it manages to make the merchandise king.

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