Coincidence? Of course.
But when you sit down with CEO Gary Friedman you begin to wonder whether his catalog and bricks-and-mortar throwback approach to business isn't better than the Web. After all, only 8% of retail is done on the Web. Why not figure out how to master the 92% that's left.
That's exactly what Restoration Hardware, with its high-teens comparable-store numbers is doing. RH has developed a hybrid approach to retail that seems very 21st century, kind of the way that a Cezanne may have been to a Rembrandt, a breakthrough look at the art of retailing that is no longer constrained by the old model.Don't sniff at this notion. It is not high-minded. We know the mall has become a challenged place to shop. Some, like Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz, say that it is a fact of life because online shopping is easier and faster and often cheaper Friedman, on the other hand, says that perhaps it is just soulless. Who wants to go to windowless box that couldn't even sustain plant life and spend a lot of money in a totally dreary session? Who wants to go on the Web where every retailer is created equal because of the size and flatness of the computer screen? Why not design stores that look and feel different than all others, that look and feel like an art gallery and a home. Why not have terrific-looking catalogs, even if some got more than they asked for -- or didn't even ask for -- when the tomes arrived. I think that Friedman is on to something. I think that his vision and his desire to disrupt the model -- including even some of his own earlier stores -- is visionary and, yes, will be successful. Will the stock market give him a chance to build out the stores he needs? I think until this most recent quarter the jury was out. Now it is back. It says he has the time, the inclination, the vision, the smarts and the cash to pull it off.