🚨 New Brand Alert: Year and Day. How does this brand stack up against the Snowes and Parachutes of the world?

SAN FRANCISCO — When Dave Gilboa, Neil Blumenthal, Jeff Raider, and Andrew Hunt unveiled Warby Parker to the world in 2010, the debut marked a set of firsts: one, they only were one of the very first movers to spark to direct-to-consumer wave; and two, they were also the only such brand of consequence in the eyewear category. With clever branding, a savvy roll-out, a consumer-first focus — and no comparable competition — they instantly shot to the top with shoppers.

Nearly eight years later, the scenario for new brands launching today is quite different. Most categories from food to beauty to mattresses are now spilling over with modern brands that are each  able to confidently stake their claim. The home, a category that’s on the rise in the modern luxury space, is no different. Proof in point: Year and Day, a tableware brand that debuted — very quietly — in October.

Nearly eight years later, the scenario for new brands launching today is quite different.

Founder Kathryn Duryea and team are jumping into a market where Snowe and Parachute already have big footprints. These are two large headliners that are, relative to Year and Day, veteran players at this point, with an existing base of shoppers. While there are some distinct differences between these three brands, they’re more similar than they are different. All of them sharing a mission of addressing home goods from a sharp, modern luxury lens, and like Warby Parker before them, each is also online-first, DTC, meticulously branded, and undeniably consumer-centric.

The big question, however is this: In a space that’s still emerging, and with Snowe and Parachute already well ahead of in brand recognition and in operations, what makes Year and Day a good bet to not only compete, but position itself to capitalize on growing consumer interest in homeware brands alongside these two? Let’s start with the basics.

So what are the key details on Year and Day?

  • Where and what: Based in San Francisco, Year and Day offers one simple thing: tableware. This is an important distinction. Both Parachute and Snowe offer solutions for the bathroom, bedroom, and dining room, but Duryea makes it clear that she intends to keep the brand in one room, so to speak –– the kitchen-dining room area. This specialized approach could be their biggest weapon and turn out to be a true calling card.
  • The product range consists of three primary product categories: ceramics, flatware, and glassware. Prices are premium, but approachable — $52 for a set of 4 large plates, and $280 for a set of 20 (matte black!) flatware settings are the types of ranges shoppers should expect. Everything is manufactured in Europe, and the ceramics come in a color palette of four, with an emphasis on both mix-and-matching, and ordering complete sets.
  • The problem and solution: Duryea tells Lean Luxe that the product discovery process is broken, cumbersome, and dated. It’s a common refrain, but not an unjustified one. Consumers are faced with far too many choices at traditional retailers, Duryea insists. There’s no reason, she argues, to force shoppers to have to sort through ten or twenty plain white plates — it simply makes for an overwhelming process. And Amazon — with tens of thousands of brands to choose from — is arguably even worse.
  • Duryea’s background: A Stanford MBA grad who previously worked at Tiffany and L2. The branding and strategic background, in other words, are certainly there. In some sense, it’s hard to (truly) value credentials in a startup era where innovation and breaking the mold are weaved into the very fabric of the culture, but Duryea certainly has the pedigree to tackle this particular market.
  • Launch strategy: Slow, steady, and deliberately quiet. Quite different from what we’re used to from the Harry’s, Warbys, and Glossiers of the world. The brand launched in October, and Duryea sent an email to 500 friends and family. No wild launch party. No clever email signup campaign. No major PR push. No funny, tongue-in-cheek video. Just a quiet debut, and a continued refinement process.
  • Bonus round: Having taken on a small friends and family round, the total of which she chose not to disclose, Duryea’s currently in the process of raising a seed. Expect an announcement on that round soon.

Our initial thoughts.

The biggest question for us — which also helps, in part, to explain why Snowe and Parachute have expanded their product selection beyond the dining room — is just how ‘sticky’ of a category tableware actually is. Entertaining at home is certainly on the rise, but are consumers, en masse, hoping and praying for better table settings? Is replacing your hand-me-down plates, glasses, and silverware as big of an opportunity as, say, creating a better shaving system that eradicates ingrown hairs (Bevel), or creating affordable basics that undercut wholesale margins and make it convenient to buy online (Everlane)?

The biggest question for us is just how ‘sticky’ of a category tableware actually is.

In a sense, that comparison may be unfair. Then again, it might not. Some (very) cursory market research on our part yielded a tepid reaction to the brand. When asked her thoughts about Year and Day, one shopper, who should very much be in Year and Day’s line of sight, responded by text with something of a shrug: “I’m pro tabletop. Looks nice. But as someone who loves cooking/kitchen [stuff], I’m not running to buy.”

As a survey of one, that’s both a tiny sample size and anecdotal. But it does offer a sense of the level of consumer excitement for both brand and sector. We can’t help but notice, as well, that there’s a natural remove to tableware that makes it hard to imagine a tableware brand being able to generate legitimate, widespread excitement among a broad base of consumers.

Perhaps that’s not much of a problem, though. We’re finding that modern luxury founders today are just fine with building a healthy company with solid revenues, and growth that’s steady, but perhaps not unicorn-level growth. And we get the impression Duryea might be more than happy with getting Year and Day to the $20M revenues plus range, rather than grasping for that once-coveted unicorn label.

Another challenge Year and Day faces here, from a category standpoint, is the inherent limitation of table settings. This is a luxury item that you don’t get to show off in public. It’s a private luxury, and the only time consumers get to show it off is by hosting dinner at gatherings at home. What’s clear is that today’s modern shopper is stepping away from the logo as a personal statement — being in the know is becoming the real status symbol these days. But being able to display their luxury goods in public — be it affordable, high-end luggage from Away, unique fragrances from PHLUR, or custom water bottles from S’well — is a joy that’s still very much in play today.

All that said, we’re bullish on Year and Day — but moderately so. The branding is impeccable for a company so young, and the fact that they’re handling it in-house — rather than outsourcing to branding firms the likes of Red Antler, Pentagram, Gin Lane, Dynamo, or Partners & Spade — is also rather impressive. But there are some very obvious and difficult mountains for Year and Day to climb just by the nature of their category. Still, the early start is unquestionably an encouraging one for Duryea and her team.

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