retail watch | Apr 27, 2023 |
With a new Malibu design studio, CB2 is growing up

For years, CB2 lived in the large shadow of its big brother, Crate & Barrel. No more.

With the launch of its continuing collaborative launches with designers and brands, not to mention the ongoing elevation of the styles (and price point) of its merchandise assortment, CB2 is no longer the little kid on the home block.

That’s even more clear with the upcoming opening of the retailer’s first design studio, located in Malibu, on May 11. Though it is a smaller version of CB2’s traditional footprint, at about 2,200 square feet, the California store serves as the physical companion to its online design services and is directed at interior designers and consumers looking to do serious home redecorating. And while there will be some take-with product from its standard assortment, the studio will offer exclusive “few-of-a-kind” merchandise as well.

“Malibu is really an extension of our ongoing evolution,” CB2 president Ryan Turf tells Business of Home as the finishing touches are being put on the new location. “We wanted to develop our retail store as we have online”—including design services.

During the pandemic, consumers got more comfortable shopping online, but offering these services in person adds another dimension, explains Turf. “Our customers are really loving our design services online, and now, in the store, they can touch and feel the product. We have been offering that inspiration online, and now we’re doing it physically too.”

CB2 has found that when shoppers use its online design services, the average order size is larger—often by two to three times. “It makes sense,” says Turf, as that consumer is buying more furniture and full room collections, versus other customers who might just be looking for gifts, tabletop or other less expensive home decor items.

The other advantage of a physical studio is that it’s a place where interior designers can bring in clients and create in person, either at the worktables or the more informal seating area in the new store. “Our trade members can use it as a design hub,” says Turf. Staffed by interior design specialists, it will also hold a regular program of events and speakers.

In addition to the design bent of CB2’s new store, it will also carry some smaller gift and decor products that shoppers can buy there, and Turf says there will be a rotating display of monthly gift ideas.

The new studio will be across town from the existing CB2 store in West Hollywood, one of 25 the company now operates. Started in 2000 by Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal and its chief merchant—later CEO—Barbara Turf, CB2 began slowly, with a similar merchandise mix to its sibling, targeted at a younger customer with a tighter budget. Interestingly, competitor Williams-Sonoma had the same idea and launched West Elm around the same time as a younger, lower-priced companion to its Pottery Barn brand.

But unlike West Elm, CB2 languished for some time and has only come into its own in the past five years or so, opening more stores and moving decidedly upscale—and up-range in price. It takes a more stylish approach to home than Crate & Barrel’s classic looks, even as it starts to butt up against it in price.

Like Crate & Barrel—which opened its own first design studio in 2020 in Pasadena, California—CB2 has implemented collaborations with outside designs and brands like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, Lenny Kravitz and Los Angeles retailer Fred Segal. It has also added several reproduction collections from noted midcentury modern design names like Gianfranco Frattini and Paul McCobb.

“These have done well for us,” says Turf, the son of Barbara Turf, who died in 2014. “It’s an interesting way for us to bring these kinds of looks to our customers.” CB2 will continue to bring these to market, he explains, “but they have to be authentic and real and something that inspires our customers. It’s a way to bring more high design to more people.”

Privately owned by the German-based Otto Group, Crate & Barrel does not disclose financial information even as it has moved aggressively with its flagship brand under new CEO Janet Hayes, who came on board from Williams-Sonoma in 2020. Turf says CB2 has more studios in its plans, though not this year, as it learns from this initial location.

With multiple brands, the company needs “a strong vision for each,” he adds. “The CB2 aesthetics are very different from those of Crate & Barrel. The key is to keep it separate but keep it in the family.”

Homepage image: CB2’s first design studio is opening on May 10 in Malibu | Courtesy of CB2


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.