The Quiet Closure of Chef’s Catalog

Everything we could possibly want for our home, kitchen and garden is one click away. Whether we’re in urgent – Prime – need of a new mixer or are looking for unique bits and bobs to add to the garden design, the internet caters to all our shopping requirements.

Back when online-shopping was not yet a thing, people had other ways to avoid going to brick and mortar shops, and they felt the same excitement we do after hitting the Buy Now buttons next to our Amazon trolleys.

And many of us still stay true to the possibly outdated and yet wonderfully nostalgic tradition of the mail order catalogue. For many, turning a printed page with beautiful photographs and great copy, is still much more attractive than browsing web pages on a screen.

According to a 2017 Retail Dive article by Ben Unglesbee, “the paper catalog was the internet before the internet was. While the sheer volume of mailers has declined, savvy retailers are still using catalogs to push their brands and make sales. “

In fact, Unglesbee insisted, “by some measures, in some sectors of retail, it’s thriving.” While this remains true for the furniture and beauty sector, for example, specialist catalogs are having a difficult time competing with the online shopping market.

One of the most beloved specialist brands to have made their move from mail order catalogs to online shopping experience, was Chef’s Catalog – the go-to for all things kitchen related.

Chefs Catalog: An Historic Brand

Originally founded by Marshall Markovitz in 1979, Chefs Catalog was a dream for home-chefs, granting easy mail-order access to top-of-the-line, pro-quality cookware by the best brands.

It quickly grew into the leading resource for all things cookery related, with its well-designed catalog introducing loyal and potential customers to all the latest appliances and design ideas for the kitchen through engaging, inspiring copy and attractive product photography.

Operating under the tagline, “the best kitchen starts here”, Chefs Catalog offered a grand selection of innovative bakeware accessories, kitchen utensils and upscale cookware designed for optimal results and durability.

Home to popular kitchenware brands including Chefs Essentials, Wüsthof, Cuisinart, Lodge, Scanpan and Le Creuset, hobby chefs and aspiring professionals were offered a fantastic selection of all the latest and basic gear.

A Short-Lived Online History

In 1998, Chefs Catalog was sold to Neiman Marcus for $31 million, who then sold the company on to Target Corp in 2013. Much to the disappointment of a loyal customer base, Target Corp., which had also bought, announced the liquidation of both companies in 2015.

The reaction to its closure across the home as well as professional chef community spoke volumes about the quality of Chefs Catalog’s products and services, and the excitement was great when, in 2016, it was announced that the company had been acquired by a small group of investors.

David Sabin and Eric Salus brought the Chefs Catalog back to life for a short window of time, with a new direction in mind: they were trying to revive an old model in the modern world of online shopping – one that had all the potential to work.

Right away, the online community was abuzz with news about the Chefs Catalog moving online when existing customers started receiving new catalogs in the mail in 2017. They found new hope in engaging in their habitual shopping habits, only now via the company’s web shop.

With a slick and well-organized design, the website offered everything one could have possibly wanted from an online shopping experience. Each product was presented via high-resolution, authentic photographs that could be enlarged with one mouse-click.

The descriptions of every product were detailed and gave buyers a good idea of what to expect, and genuine customer reviews and FAQs answered any other questions customers may have been left with.

The fantastic website design and an entire section of fun recipes made for a great user experience. What the reborn Chefs Catalog lacked, however, was the same, large selection of trusted brands.

Customers who had grown to know and love these specialty items and products were disappointed to find they were no longer available. It is unclear whether this was due to a non-compete clause with their original sales agreement with Target.

A Staple in Cookware that is Sorely Missed

Whether we’re shopping for groceries, clothes or kitchen utensils, we are all creatures of habit, which takes us back to the same shops time and again. Once we find a brick and mortar or online shop we like and trust, we are confident in their ability to continuously cater to our needs.

Hence, it’s a real shame when a dependable company such as Chefs Catalog does not survive the transition from one sales concept to another. Fortunately, we can still reminisce about the many successful shopping experiences we had with the former mecca of cookware in the past.

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