Second CB2 separate from Crate

Carole Sloan, August 30, 2004

CB2, the fledgling business catering to a younger, hipper customer than its parent — Crate & Barrel — opened its second unit here earlier this month.

Unlike the debut unit, the new CB2 reflects the change in thinking that has emerged since the original store made its debut in 2000. The new store and the revamped merchandise mix in the original store on Chicago's North Side "no longer has shared product" with its Crate sibling, said Barbara Turf, Crate's president.

As a result, there are two dedicated buyers working on the CB2 product mix, she said. But they are divorced from the influence of the Crate organization which provides information on design direction.

"We learned from the first store that in no way should we imitate the look of Crate," she related.

"The CB2 customers don't want basic products; they want the new and different in product with a pleasant environment."

To this end, the new CB2 is bright, white and colorful — a far different environment than the first which was more woody.

While furniture is the biggest piece of the merchandise mix, said Barbara Turf, president of Crate, "We have an awfully huge home textiles offering" — more than in the original store. Much of the furniture mix is "pick-up items" as it is throughout the store. After home textiles, bath shop is next and tabletop is fourth, she said.

Both bedding and bath merchandise is designed domestically and sourced offshore, Turf stated.

The biggest design influence, she pointed out, "is that the '70s are coming back so strong — but not too severe."

The new store moves into a neighborhood inhabited by a full-scale Crate & Barrel, a Crate outlet and a Land of Nod unit — a kids retailer 50 percent owned by the company. The site is on heavily trafficked Clybourne Avenue with all four units in a few block line.

The store opened quietly, with little fanfare, atypical of Crate openings in locations across the country. Marketing efforts, Turf said, will be outdoor advertising, local papers and local festivals. CB2 also has its Web site,, that is up and running and taking orders, she added. The site uses icons — live, eat, work, sleep, splash, party, me and look — to guide users to the product areas of interest.

While the first CB2 opened in 2000 — and in 2002 Crate's CEO Gordon Segal announced plans to open three additional units that year — expansion plans were tempered by the need to tweak the format and get it right, Turf said. The company plans to open more of this format, but the right real estate now is the critical issue.

Looking ahead, Turf said, "Now we think we got it right and we're talking about two stores in the next 18 months, one on the East Coast, the other on the West Coast."

Among the major changes is the size of the second unit — 9,000 square feet, compared with the first unit at 6,000.

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