Thursday, July 02, 2009

Crabtree and Evelyn filed for Chapter 11- Who didn't see it coming?


Crabtree & Evelyn filed bankruptcy protection on Wednesday. According to WSJ, the company expects a 24.4% drop in retail sales for fiscal 2009 from 2008 (though online sales will probably increase 10% this year), and is over $24 million in debt.

Sad news, indeed, which leads me to try and remember when was the last time I shopped at Crabtree & Evelyn for anything other than their environmental oils. The answer was that I stopped buying their body products a few years ago. And apparently, I'm not the only one.

Last time I was at one of their stores I noticed those jumbo body wash bottles (they were selling three for the price of two, or something like that), but upon sniffing I realized they all had the same unpleasant plastic smell, which didn't much resemble the original labeled scent. I passed on that deal. New scents seemed to appear briefly, not impress anyone and go into oblivion. The Holiday trio (vanilla, chocolate and pomegranate, if I remember correctly) had shimmer in the bottles, seemed more like a BBW product and seriously lacked in the class department.

But the most annoying aspect and the reason I stopped shopping there was the discontinuing of favorite scent lines. I'm still hoarding half a bottle of the Rose Damask bath and shower gel which was so much better than the somewhat aquatic Rosewater. I also liked their Citrus body wash, the original Vanilla and the Azzemour home products. And there were lavender laundry detergent and linen spray that were sold for a brief moment. The point is that in the last five or six years you could never be sure a favorite product would still be there the next time you need it.

Since I refuse to pay inflated prices for a soap on eBay, I simply moved on. You'd think someone at the company would notice the crazy hoarding and the crazier bidding wars over some of the discontinued items and would come to a certain conclusion. Instead, they filled the store with those godawful Vera Bradley bags.

What do you think? Do you still shop at Crabtree & Evelyn?

Photo by G.M. Kowalewska

15 comments:

  1. I'm like you...I stopped shopping there years ago...their quality went downhill.

    Still, I'm amazed that this institution filed for Chapter 11!

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  2. Years ago one of my favorite treats was to go to C&E to pick out a soap or bath gel or both :-) Because of the beautiful scents and the high quality of the soaps and gels, I often included them in gift baskets. Gradually, the delightful and classic scents disappeared from the shelves and, in their place, trendy "spa" lines and a plethora of ugly totes and robes appeared. UGH! C&E filled a cozy niche. It's too bad they didn't realize that.

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  3. Stopped years ago when they stopped having the rose you mentioned.

    I honestly wonder about these companies and the people who run them. They might have MBAs but they just seem to have no sense at all. Never mind taste.

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  4. as both jamilla camel and yourself said ---i also stopped shopping there years ago . unfortunate but when quality goes way down hill it i s time to move on. sad that they had to file for chapter 11 though. sharon m

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  5. Veranda was my mom's all-time favorite smell. It's all she ever used - shower wash, bath bubbles, lotion, eau de toilette...she switched to Kimono Rose by Thymes but Veranda will forever be "mom's smell". I miss smelling it on her because, if you're mom smelled good, it's very pleasant to have that memory association.

    They had these bath capsules with oil in them that would be great fun to play with when I was 5. I'd for them to soften to the perfect point where, with the right amount of pressure, they'd explode in the most satisfying way.

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  6. Add me to the list of folks who stopped shopping at C&E...I wasn't a frequent shopper, mind you, but it was a happy place. Once upon a time. I, too, found that the quality of the scents changed.

    As for the "you think they'd sit up and take notice" element of online auction results, one of the scents I am always willing to stomp my foot about is BBW Sandalwood Rose. It was in their Aromatherapy line, but just a really nice, well, sandalwood + rose. (Thanks for another opportunity to toss that out there...perhaps one day, somebody will listen...)

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  7. @gretchen

    I totally remember those! I loved them when I was a kid! They did explode in the most delightful way!

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  8. Sadly, I am not surprised about this either, but what an iconic company!

    I stopped shopping there when their stores started disappearing from where I live - probably pressure from high rents and BB&W, but they used to have lovely things no one else had, and it's too bad they are in such dire straits.

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  9. hotlanta lindaJuly 06, 2009 5:11 PM

    My old flame-of-a-store! I`ve pieces from the 70`s! I still swear by the almond oil products,English florals, and some of the Naturals, but the older 3 rose scents,Persian Lilac,French floral and Oriental soaps, Spring Rain, Savannah Gardens, and Aberdeen heather,Veranda,freesia ,gardenia...SIGH! I`ve book-worthy catalogues from the 80`s and early 90`s for dreaming purposes. I pray they are rescued by someone w/ HEART!!!

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  10. Interesting comments! I worked there and I can tell you that quality is still integral to the product. Also you may like a fragrance but how often did you purchase it? Fragrances for any company stay in the line because people buy them in enough numbers. Lavender Linen Mist is a current item, Azzemour was repackaged as Nadira which was discontinued last year because it did not sell well. Patchouli still has a huge following but just because it has a following does not mean it would sell well enough to bring it back. Many of the products have been there forever like Nantucket Briar, Summer Hill, Lily of the Valley, Evelyn Rose.... Can't remember an MBA working there. Most are locals from the small town where the headquarters are and have little experence outside of Crabtree. People work there because they love the brand. They employ locals to manufacture the product and using a local workforce costs $ that you support when you purchase. So if you find the prices expensive I wonder what you are comparing their products to and who made it? Yes more expensive then Bath & Body and Victoria's Secret but their quality is not to the same standard. You could easily spend more at Origins or L'Occitane
    The real problem is a lack of informed product direction but hopefully that will change. Competition is fierce and there are so many choices but the brand is global and doing quite well globally. Rosewater in the Pacific Rim is huge!
    Personally I love Gardeners and Distillations and I intend to continue to support them becuase of what they stand for in the community, the quality of the product, and fragrances i really enjoy.

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  11. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Nantucket Briar, & always will. I always used Noel at Christmas time..nothing like it. C&E store here closed long ago and now it's even difficult to find a store that carries the brand. I get my Nantucket Briar online now..eBay, Amazon, etc. But, if you are looking for WONDERFUL soap, go to Trader Joe's & try their Almond Ginger. It is better, yes BETTER, than C&E's almond oil soap! The price is unbelievable & one cake of soap lasts forever. The other soaps they carry are great also. Bath gel suggestion is Shikai Cucumber Melon....yummy smell & lathers like crazy. It's still surprising that they are filing bankruptcy, but Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic just did, & that was a huge surprise. ~Sue~

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  12. The C&E just closed in the mall near me, too.

    Summer Hill makes me feel 13 again.

    I craved the scent of the Jojoba lotion when I was pregnant and ran out to buy some toute de suite.

    And, my all-time favorite scent that I'm so nostalgic for is Oakmoss. Would LOVE to find some of that. Also brings me back to being 13, I stole my mom's bottle.

    BTW, my first time here, love your blog!

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  13. Anonymous made the statement that most of the people who worked at Crabtree were local people who were not MBA's or worked outside of Woodstck, CT. I have to tell you that as a spouse of a worker, nothing could be farther from the truth. Many of the people hold degrees and have worked in several other companies, including international companies. The quality has gone downhill, but much of that is because of poor managerial decisions.

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  14. As someone who both shops at and works for Crabtree and Evelyn, I think the main mistake from the last 2-3 years was trying to streamline the brand too much. What certain (short-lived) Managers forgot was that the quirky Englishness of the company was its strength not its weakness and the company is certainly addressing this.

    However, your suggestion that the demise of C&E in America was due, at least in part, to the deletion of older product ranges is a ridiculous notion. At the end of the day profitability is the main objective of any company and removing globally underperforming products from the ranges offered makes (like it or not) good business sense. Whilst it may be inconvenient that you can't buy your one bottle of Lavender Linen Wash every two years, surely its more sensible for a company to focus its production on somthing that does sell rather that keep churning out products that don't. Also, to be entirely frank, many of the ranges you seem to think were "old favortites" (Vanilla, Azzemour etc.) were the ranges that sat...and sat...and sat...and sat on the shelves in my store, taking up space and barely selling a single unit. It came as no surprise that they were deleted as it made no sense whatsoever to keep them. Perhaps you're just unlucky, in that the fragrances you seem to like are the unpopular ones.


    If you can get to an actual store rather than an outlet, what you will find currently are the real old favorites ranges; the collections that remain popular and have loyal (and regular) repeat custom.
    And, if you look again over the coming year you will see many of the classic ranges being reinterpreted for the today's much more competitive market.

    I would heartily recommend you take your own advice and "move on" - Get over your fixation with what you can't get and look at what you can. You might be surprised.

    (F.Y.I., after their restructuring, Crabtree & Evelyn America recently "bucked the trend" and emerged from Chapter 11 Protection.)

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  15. I like C&E because their products are made in the USA unlike BBW who outsources their production to China. This was discovered last Christmas when I bought my aunt an expensive hand lotion collection from BBW for a present and upon her later discovery that it was made in China, she promptly deposited the entire collection into the garbage. With the tainted baby formula, lead painted Thomas the Tank toys, tainted Colgate toothpaste and many other quality control problems that have been reported in the news, including product fakes, one just cannot trust the Chinese manufacturers. Trust needs to be earned, and the Chinese manufacturers, as a lot, certainly have earned a very bad reputation. I will certainly not use Chinese bath and beauty products on my skin. However, I agree with everyone that Crabtree and Evelyn has much work to do to regain the customer base they once had. They need to be competitive in their pricing and maintain a product palette that appeals to a new generation, including product lines for children and teens.

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