The Decline of Sur La Table. What Happened? 10 Marketing Tips

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The Decline of Sur La Table. What Happened? 10 Marketing Tips

The kitchen-supply chain Sur La Table Inc, known for selling high-end cookware joined a growing list of companies taken down by the coronavirus pandemic when they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early this month as discussed over at and However, the retailer was in trouble long before COVID-19, and this article will look to highlight 10 reasons behind their decline with the hope you can take marketing tips from the same and avoid the same fate.

Managerial upheaval

As the gurus over at  will tell you, companies that do well usually do so with the help of stability at the top. This is one area where Sur La Table was lacking in recent years, as they went through a period where they went through 3 CEOs in just under 2 years. This upheaval in the boardroom was one of the main reasons behind their decline as it prevented them from coming up with a long-term strategy that would have allowed them to navigate their financial issues, as discussed over at

The growth of online retail

Like many of its peers in the retail space, Sur La Table also suffered badly because sales have been slowly shifting from brick-and-mortar retailers to online retailers as discussed over at This meant that their stores suffered a reduction in store traffic, which affected sales and revenue. They were slow to react to this shift, and by the time they tried to get onto the online retail ship, it had seemingly already sailed for them.

The decline in popularity of the mall

At the height of their powers, the company was buoyed by the fact that their stores enjoyed high levels of foot traffic owing to the popularity of malls in the U.S. This trend has reversed in recent years, as more and more people prefer shopping online, which has meant that the mall isn’t as popular as it was before, as discussed over at Retailers like Sur La Table who were strongly linked to malls across the country have, therefore, badly suffered, and this is another factor that can be attributed to their decline and eventual filing for bankruptcy.

A decline in at-home cooking

Recent years have also seen a decline in at-home cooking, a topic that is covered in detail over at This is because most people, owing to several reasons including a busy schedule, prefer nowadays to order cookout or to eat out. This has been a contributing factor to the decline of Sur La Table as sales have reduced due to this in change, affecting both the retail part of their business as well as the side that deals with cooking classes.

Changes in consumer shopping habits

Other than the decline in at-home cooking, the retailer was also faced with changes in consumer shopping habits which they were unable to overcome. As is discussed over at, more and more consumers moved away from buying fancy kitchenware and, instead, focused more on functionality as technology began to play a key role in the kitchen. This saw their consumer base shrink, which led to poor sales and revenue and was another factor that led to their decline and eventual filing for bankruptcy.

Too many stores

The retailer’s voracious appetite for real estate also eventually caught up with them, as per the subject matter experts over at With about 126 stores, the store was carrying too many stores, and when foot traffic to said stores begun to decline, then that is when the rain started beating them. Paying rent became an issue, and this was only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic which led to them eventually filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Unsustainable business strategy

Their business strategy was also unsustainable, particularly when viewed under the lens of reducing foot traffic to their stores. This is because, as is discussed in detail over at, the retailer was being faced with substantial capital costs needed to not only outfit the commercial-quality kitchens for its classes, but also the infrastructure needed for its e-commerce site. It was a business strategy that wasn’t sustainable, and it was somehow inevitable that they would run into issues, which they did, eventually filing for bankruptcy.

Increased competition

At their height, La Table Sur was the only major player in the high-end kitchenware sector, and as such were faced with little to no competition. However, as is discussed in detail over at this has changed in recent times where they have been faced with increased competition in what is no longer a niche industry. Big retail brands have entered the market, offering products of the same quality at lower prices. This is yet another reason that has led to their customer base shrinking, and as such, it was always a matter of time before they filed for bankruptcy.

A large wage bill

On top of having a voracious appetite for real estate as already mentioned earlier on, the company also had a large wage bill because they had so many employees, over 3,000 as is revealed in discussions over at This was already a problem even before the coronavirus, but it was a problem that was made worse by the pandemic, leading to a situation where they had to lay off or cut back the hours of about 95% of their employees. This shows how important it is to keep your wage bill in check if you are to remain profitable.

Crippling debt

The bottom line as far as the decline of Sur La Table is concerned is that they were unable to service their huge debt, a problem only made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. As is discussed in detail over at, the company had at least $80 million in debt going into the pandemic, with an additional $37 million owed to vendors. The pressure of servicing this debt and paying vendors was one that the retailer was constantly under, and in the end, the pressure proved too much and they had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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