Cath Kidston spreads ‘like ivy’

August 18, 2009

Recession-proof Cath Kidston has defied the crumbling economy with her ‘kitchenalgia’ empire (apparently this is ‘kitchenalia’ blended with ‘nostalgia’, in case you are as confused as I am). This year she has sold more polka dot tea towels and chintzy fabrics than ever before and has smugly recorded profits of £4.6m, up from £2.9m in 2008.


This is a big deal in the interiors industry. Other homeware brands have been hit hard by the recession – The Pier has disappeared. High street favourite Woolworths is a gonna (which of recent years was yawns-ville but in the past brought us such classics as the Ridgway Homemaker tableware collection) and MFI has tragically died. So, for Cath Kidston’s sales to rise from £19.2m to £31.3m is pretty impressive. She’s going from strength to strength and now has 27 stores in the UK and Ireland, with 10 new openings in the last year. And it’s not just us Brits who go crazy for her cute, floral style – she’s also huge in Japan and now has shops in Tokyo, Nagoya and Yokohama.


There have been articles in both The Guardian and The Sunday Times recently charting Kidston’s amazing growth and discussing what the secret of her recession success is. Do women turn to her cheerful designs for comfort in hard times? Do her vintage patterns remind us of our grandmothers, idyllic childhoods and homespun rosy days? Is the CK lifestyle ‘a way to nest, but without all the hard work involved in nesting’? In the Daily Mail recently, Leah Hardy, a self-confessed Cath-addict summed up why she’s obsessed with the brand: “In Cath Kidston world, surrounded by my Cath Kidston things, I can believe I am the perfect housewife. I live in a mullioned rectory. There are perfectly behaved, rosy-cheeked children and well-trained dogs at my feet. Carrots are growing in my garden and there’s a homemade cake cooling in my kitchen. The reality, of course, is somewhat different. I’m a harassed working mother living in a South London semi, with cats and urban children, at whom I sometimes shout, especially when I’m on a deadline and they are fighting over the TV remote control. There are no roses around my door, I wince when my bank statements arrive and my ironing pile is a disgrace. In my retro-styled sewing box I have a Cath Kidston floral-print tin button box but I can’t remember the last time I sewed on a button.”


So, Cath allows us to fantasise and escape reality. But can she peddle this dream forever? There have been rumbles in the press that she’s grown too big – that her ‘pinny porn’ has spread ‘like ivy’ – that fashion will turn against her as it did with Laura Ashley in the 1990s – that selling spotty bags in Tesco, phones for Nokia, tents in Millets and opening an outlet store in Bicester is a bit too much and somehow, well, chavvy. It’s like when you hear a song you like on the radio. Every day. Twenty four times. It soon loses it’s appeal and becomes a bit annoying. It’s overload. Controversially, a former Cath-fan recently referred to Kidston as ‘a bit of a tart’ in the Daily Mail. She explained: ‘Cath Kidston is everywhere now – and there’s nothing more annoying than finding your hidden gem is suddenly a cheap bit of costume jewellery available on every high street.’

While I’m sure Cath won’t relish being labelled ‘a tart’, she might be glad of all this convenient media attention, as there are rumours flying around that she’s planning to sell her empire… so, what do you think? Have you had your fill of sugary florals? Are you all Cath Kidston-ed out? Or are you a complete convert? Do the new CK  images here still give you a thrill? Will you be rushing out to buy the new Cath Kidston Roberts radio (above)? So many questions! Let us know what you think! – Ellie

4 Responses to “Cath Kidston spreads ‘like ivy’”

  1. really fantastic post, and very interesting for a new independent retailer like myself, who dreams of the success of Cath Kidston.

    While my own love affair with CK has not quite fizzled out just yet, I do always find myself searching for things elsewhere that are ‘different’ because suddenly all my friends have the same CK towels I have, and yes, therefore the appeal has been slightly tainted.

    While I might not be making the 13m Cath is, and am still happy in the fact that my little shop is going well, and that hopefully my customers think of it as their own secret little gem!


  2. Vera Prebble Says:

    I still love Cath Kidston with all my heart, but I do think it’s a shame that she got so greedy and spoiled her brand – I see so many Cath Kidston bags every day now that they’re not special anymore! I do like the new designs though, especially the string tin and the pretty radio…it will be on my wish list for sure!! PS If your whole house is full of Cath, it can look a bit OTT! I learnt that lesson the hard way 😉

  3. Cath Kidston fan Says:

    I could never get tired of Cath Kidston’s pretty products! I am completely addicted. My next buys is going to be the Cowboy bed linen – so cute. Love your blog by the way! Amy x

  4. steffiw Says:

    love your post,i suppose in these days of recession,dog-eat-dog lifestyle and general frantic living,ck does indeed take us back to a more gentle relaxed way of life,i admit i am a fan,but the fairytale doesn’t always happen in real-life!!(not mine anyway,pretty floral anything is not compatable with a 5yr old boy and his “macho”father;)

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