RH Opens SF Gallery in Historic Bethlehem Steel Building – WWD

When it comes to retail, RH doesn’t know the meaning of the word “small”.

True to form, the brand, perhaps best known by its former moniker Restoration Hardware, opened its newest gallery in San Francisco’s Bethlehem Steel Building on Thursday, inviting the public into the historic, 80,000-square-foot neoclassical space.

Located in the city’s trendy Dogpatch area, the building was designed by famed American architect Frederick H. Meyer and built for Bethlehem Steel in 1917.

“We are both honored and honored to play a role in restoring San Francisco’s historic shipyards and making the iconic Bethlehem Steel Building a site open to the public for the first time,” Gary Friedman, Chairman and chief executive officer of RH said in a statement. “This was a rare opportunity to do what we love in a city we love and call home.”

In fact, the new gallery is just minutes from the company’s headquarters in the city’s Design District. The backyard location was convenient, but not the motivation. The building’s history and industrial and artistic roots were compelling to Friedman as they fit his vision of transcending traditional retail environments.

Meticulously restored, the sprawling SF Gallery took years to build with a careful eye to offer opulence and glamor across its five floors. RH’s signature neutral palette offers a classic yet modern luxury sensibility.

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

Interior view of the restored Bethlehem Steel Building.
courtesy photo

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

One of several areas where visitors can relax and enjoy the surroundings.
courtesy photo

The attention to detail extends to services as well, with a RH Interior Design Firm & Atelier, the largest yet at 10,000 square feet, located on the lower level. The space is home to the company’s in-house designers and serves as a creative space where customers can customize products and see patterns and materials – such as wood finishes for furniture, stones, upholstery and fabrics – as well as a showroom for RH carpets.

The company’s two brand extensions, RH Interiors and RH Modern, also welcomed a third exclusively to San Francisco. Conceived as a way to bridge the gap between the two, with the more traditional aesthetic of the former and the modern design of the latter, the new RH Contemporary brings a global lens to home decor. It marks its spring 2022 debut at the Bethlehem Gallery, which is currently the only place the public can view the collection.

But promoting or promoting products is never quite the point for RH establishments. Hospitality is just as important, if not more so.

Here, the space is anchored by the Palm Court Restaurant, a live fine-dining establishment with a glass roof or skylight, while two on-site wine bars tempt guests with global selections, including offerings from acclaimed winemakers from nearby Napa Valley. Guests can also stroll through the indoor and outdoor spaces, including a rooftop park, to enjoy the breathtaking water and city views.

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

wine bar
courtesy photo

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

Palm Court restaurant
courtesy photo

The effort commemorates RH’s landmark opening in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District four years ago. Since then, the space has become a notable New York destination, and it’s clear the company hopes to replicate that success in its native Bay Area while staying true to the CEO’s long-standing vision.

As Friedman told WWD in 2018, RH’s commitment is to “create a deeper connection and experience,” with a focus less on selling furnishings and more on making people feel at home. This theme now extends to a growing portfolio of dozens of galleries across the US and Canada.

It comes down to “our ability to transform our legacy stores into multi-dimensional design galleries that double our retail sales and profitability in each market,” he said during his first-quarter 2021 earnings call.

In later conversations, he shed more light on this business ethos. The CEO believes that offering inspirational experiences in physical locations creates a greater sense of value for the products. It also increases brand awareness and allows the company to capture more market share at a lower advertising cost.

The sentiment isn’t new to Friedman, but it’s striking right now as the retail sector as a whole is rethinking its approach to brick-and-mortar locations. Opinions differ on whether stores should be scaled down or closed, converted into showrooms, or merely serve as glorified fulfillment centers for a booming e-commerce economy.

In this context, Friedman’s bet on physical spaces and his focus on unique experiences that cannot be replicated online can be an important test. But analyzing how successful this strategy has been has been a challenge, especially recently.

The sector boomed during the pandemic as people stuck at home focused on getting their spaces in order. Spending on furniture, appliances, and equipment increased $12.1 billion — and that’s just for the second quarter of 2020, according to a Comscore study measuring e-commerce and m-commerce. Research firm Earnest forecast growth five times from pre-pandemic levels, with growth up to 50 percent over the period.

But these days demand seems to be waning. Meanwhile, issues like supply chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have disrupted several industries. It remains to be seen what consumer appetites will look like as more vaccines hit the market and more restrictions are eased.

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

The neutral palette extends to indoor lounge areas and outdoor spaces.
courtesy photo

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

Nice views can be enjoyed from the outdoor seating areas
courtesy photo

Last year, RH’s annual revenue rose 32 percent to $3.76 billion, with fourth-quarter revenue rising 11 percent to $903 million — showing growth but falling short of expectations. What happens next seems unpredictable.

On the other hand, when consumers want to go out, it’s quite logical to offer them unique experiences and destinations.

Anyway, Friedman plows forward. In the most recent earnings call in March, he pledged that “our plan to open immersive design galleries in all major markets will unlock the value of our vast assortment and generate revenues of $5-6 billion in North America and $20-25 billion globally.” will generate.”

He remains convinced that the galleries offer a major competitive advantage for the brand, as he now welcomes the “most extraordinary new bespoke gallery to date” in San Francisco – which, successful or not, proves one thing: Friedman appears to have nerves of steel .

RH opens SF gallery in Historic

roof park
courtesy photo RH Opens SF Gallery in Historic Bethlehem Steel Building – WWD

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