A purpose-driven mindset focused on employees and customers has given Crate & Barrel Holdings (CBH) a mission to serve the community. The company wants to inspire its customers to build a home with a purpose and for employees and vendors to work towards the purpose of impacting a customer’s life in a meaningful way. CBH is conscious of the impact of its work on the planet by purposely building a more sustainable future. CBH includes the following brands; Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate & Kids and Hudson and Grace).
In an exclusive interview with Janet Hayes, CEO of CBH, it became clear the company leads with a modern mindset of human connection and purpose. As today’s consumers and workers are recentering their lives around what is important to them, the company is focused on providing its most important stakeholders with a more meaningful relationship. The interaction goes beyond trading dollars for products and has become less transactional. “Keeping up with the lives of our customers, many of whom have been part of Crate & Barrel for the past two and a half decades, is the cornerstone of our business,” Hayes said.
Leadership in a time of crisis
Hayes became CEO during one of the most challenging times in the company’s history. In August 2020, shortly after all physical stores closed during the pandemic, the company was grappling with the loss of revenue and looking for a way forward. Hayes was appointed CEO and approached the business by first empathizing with customers who were facing extreme challenges from the pandemic. The mental and physical effects of being on lockdowns with reduced socialization meant that customers needed something more from retailers.
Hayes used the data analytics from its customers to shape the company’s business decisions. Key findings during the pandemic were customers moving from urban to suburban areas and from high-impact to low-impact states. Customers were buying more sectionals instead of sofas to accommodate more people staying in the home. They went from small dining tables with six seats to larger tables with eight or ten. New in-home office space was needed, and many consumers welcomed adult children’s return. Consumers needed help decorating and putting their homes together, so design services accelerated across all brands. “Customers picked up more space in their homes, and their living space changed; they needed help transforming some of these spaces within their homes,” said Hayes.
Home for the holidays
Coming into the holiday season, consumers have shown signs of wanting to spend more time entertaining and being with family and friends. Customers have started earlier on holiday planning and shopping this year. “There is strength in entertaining and decorating this year, and consumers will spend more on quality gifts,” said Hayes.
“Crate & Barrel is centered on providing a meaningful shopping experience, re-engaging the design services, and getting back its rightful place in weddings,” said Hayes. The company emphasizes growing the wedding segment of the business and has focused on its corporate responsibility efforts, including the design process. The company plans to offer more private-label assortments that provide a better value for its customers, including products introduced by its design teams.
Servant leadership paves the way forward
“We empower the leaders with a clear vision and allow for a diversity of work styles to achieve the company’s goals,” said Hayes, who has worked in the industry since she was 16. Hayes discussed her ability to sense when to push employees and when to back off and give them space. She leads with empathy, saying, “I am not above doing any job. The customers are foremost in my mind, and I’m focused on how our teams can touch the lives of our customers in a meaningful and positive way.”
The common goals for all of its brands are providing the best service for customers, doing the right thing for the planet and being deeply invested in employees. Leading in uncertain times is the most challenging aspect coming through and out of the pandemic.