It's a sign of growing up that we're able to get meetings with people now that didn't even know us six months ago. For our first interview, we took a half an hour with Marta Calle, one of the two product managers for CB2, Crate & Barrel's new line for those that are too young and hip for Crate & Barrel.
What About Style?
Despite our protest that everything is going Bling and FAB, Marta says that the predominant trend is still modern and simple. What is happening to change this is COLOR. Plum, chocolate brown and shiny surfaces are creeping in to take the edge off of the simplicity. However, we have to ask, can a turned chair leg or carved finial be far behind?
And just who is the stylish CB2 customer? Marta says their target audience is young and active, say 20-40 years old, but we noted that we thought the CB2 crowd would be older as the modern, contemporary look is not just a youth look. True, Marta says; she shops at CB2 and admits she's not within the target audience.
"Value Driven" Is The New Black
Marta is in charge of creating the CB2 line, so what you see is very much her taste, style and hard work. She works with the designers as well as the factories where CB2 gets its stuff made, making sure that CB2 is modern, contemporary and value driven. "Value driven?" What's that mean? One of the most interesting points of the interview had to do with how affordable CB2 is driving to be in order to keep up with it's customers. Marta said that people tend to be looking for only two kinds of household items right now: super affordable and luxury. The middle is disappearing. With the advent of super affordable shops like Target, Walmart and Ikea (see H&H this past week), shoppers are looking for high style with really low prices and saving their money for a few luxury purchases with what they've got left over. That means it's all being made in countries like China, India and Turkey. Can we make it here? Marta tried, but she says she couldn't get the price point down low enough to where her customers would buy it. We Americans are tough shoppers and money seems to be tighter than you might think.
When Will We See CB2?
It's going to take awhile. However, they are putting out their first full-photography catalog in January and are looking at opening a store on the East Coast sometime in 2006, maybe. Why so slow, we ask? Unlike Starbucks, Pottery Barn or GAP, C&B likes to take its time, move slowly and "get it right." In such a fast paced market, we appreciate this sentiment. C&B is 43 years old and still growing slowly, but they seem far more limber than some other shops. After all, they're the first big shop we know of to find a blog and advertise on it.