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Do The Next Big Names Appear In Pottery Barn Catalogs?

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By Angela Mastrodonato, Upswing Baby Names

For years there has been a theory floating around the name world that names appearing on personalized items in the Pottery Barn Kid’s catalog are up-and-coming names to watch. The topic has come up on the Nameberry forums.

Being a big time name watcher, I’m curious of course.

To test this theory, I perused some Pottery Barn Kids online catalog archives this past summer. The online catalog archives go back four years. I sampled one issue for each year:  2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. For every catalog, I included every name that was legible in the sample.

Issues Sampled:

Autumn 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Summer 2013 Best of Summer

Every name in these issues was assigned a status based on how each name’s popularity was trending for the catalog year: Current, Traditional, Past-peak, Up-and-coming, and Original.

Current Names – are on trend or at a popularity peak for the catalog year based on Social Security list rankings.

Examples of “current” names that appeared in more than one catalog:

Blake

Brooklyn

Charlie

Chloe

Ella

Emma

Georgia

Jack

Logan

Luke

Max

Mia

Natalie

Noah

Olivia

Traditional Names – are never out of style or have not experienced huge popularity peaks or troughs for at least 30 years.

Examples of “traditional” names that appeared in more than one catalog:

Allison

Andrew

James

Matthew

Past-peak Names – are dated or trending downwards.

Examples of “past-peak” names that appeared in more than one catalog:

Alex

Anne

Bradley

Cameron

Clayton

Devon

Drew

Hayley

Jake

Jennifer

Jenny

Patrick

Peter

Riley

Ryan

Tanner

Taylor

I expect to get flack for some of these. “But aren’t Alex and Anne considered traditional?” you may ask.

Any name that has gone down in rank for the past 5-10 years was put in the past-peak category, regardless of style. Anne has actually gone up slightly the past couple of years but not enough to indisputably show a comeback and put it in the up-and-coming category.

Up-and-coming – Are ahead of trends or trending upwards.

Examples of “up-and-coming” names that appeared in more than one catalog:

Asher

Blair

Carter

Charlotte

Graham

Henry

Oliver

Owen

Reagan

Tucker

Zoey

Original – are unknown, invented, rare or outside the top 1000.*

* All names outside the top 1000 were classified as “Original” including nickname-style names like Addy, Cate, Lizzy, and Maddy. While common nicknames, these names are rare as given names.

Here are some examples of “original” names, excluding nickname-style names. The only “original” name to appear in more than one Pottery Barn catalog was Penn.

Barker

Blythe

Celia

Leela

Mallery

Penn

Here’s how the Pottery Barn catalog names compare from each year to the next based on my samples:

Pottery-Barn-Chart-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a summary of all Pottery Barn names in my sample from 2010 – 2013:

Pottery-Barn-Chart-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on these findings, Pottery Barn more likely follows the trends than sets them.

While there was an increase in up-and-coming names in 2011 and 2012, these names dropped in 2013 (based on the sample). And the number of truly off-the-grid, completely original names remained small each year, especially when nickname-names are excluded.

I speculate that Pottery Barn tries to represent the mix of names found among their customers.

Something to keep in mind is that Pottery Barn Kids doesn’t offer products limited to babies and toddlers, but also offers products for older kids, probably between the ages of 5-12. (For kids over 12, there’s PB Teen.)

This is meaningful because older kids were most likely given names that were current or up-and-coming when they were born 5-12 years ago, but might be past-peak at the moment or when the catalogs were published. This probably explains the large number past-peak names.

Imagine you are a typical Mom of a 10-year-old. You are looking at the Pottery Barn Kids catalog. What kind of names would you expect to see?

I would expect to see mostly names of my child’s peers. Even some names that seem very dated now, could be more popular on a 10-year-old than one might imagine.

An example of a name that might be surprisingly popular on a 10 year-old is Jennifer. In 2012 Jennifer was at #163 and has been trending downwards for decades, but was still in the top 30 in 2002 at #28.

The next question is where does Pottery Barn get the names for their catalogs?

Some people think the names come from the most popular names requested by customers for personalized items.

The appearance of Penn in more than one catalog (there were only 46 born in 2012) made wonder if Pottery Barn used names of real people, most likely staff members or relatives of staff members.

We may never know the answer.

And while, by the numbers, most of the sample names can’t be considered fashion-forward, there were a respectable number of “up-and-coming” names and a couple of gems.

One is Anne, which I sense is about to turn-around after a decades-long decline to its lowest-ever rank at #606 in 2010. The other is Blythe, which has never been in the top 1000 but its small birth numbers have been growing in recent years.

Anne and Blythe are going on my next Watch List report, a list of names I’m watching that I update every year. The next Watch List report will come out after the newest top 1000 US baby names become public in May.

This was revised for Nameberry from a four-part Upswing Baby Names series examining the theory that Pottery Barn is a baby name trendsetter.

Readers: Where do you think Pottery Barn gets the names they use for the personalized items in their catalogs? Which sampled Pottery Barn names do you like?

Angela created Upswing Baby Names to help parents find names ahead of the curve. A big time name watcher, she has a list of names she’s watching which she adds to every year. You can download your Watch List Report (and get on the list to receive next year’s Watch List report) here.

 

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About the author

upswingbabynames

Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.
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