Do The Next Big Names Appear In Pottery Barn Catalogs?
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.
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:
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:
Past-peak Names – are dated or trending downwards.
Examples of “past-peak” names that appeared in more than one catalog:
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:
Original – are unknown, invented, rare or outside the top 1000.*
Here’s how the Pottery Barn catalog names compare from each year to the next based on my samples:
And here’s a summary of all Pottery Barn names in my sample from 2010 – 2013:
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.
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.
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.
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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on January 3rd, 2014 at 12:23 am
Glad I’m not the only name nerd that scours the Pottery Barn catalogs looking for baby names 🙂 What a cool post!
on January 3rd, 2014 at 4:48 am
Great post! I’ve often thought that they use names of employee’s kids. Or maybe even just children that the people in the art department know. My favorite part of the catalog is when personalized items are displayed together and I wonder if it’s a sib-set! My favorites from PB are: Henry and Oliver.
on January 3rd, 2014 at 11:37 am
Why is the picture of the name Brynn when the name isn’t listed as being used in the catalog?
My guess is that they get the names from the staff. Perhaps from their own children’s names or ones that they suggest. Penn probably came from a Gossip Girl fan. The names are not very adventurous or old fashioned. They seem like names that the average Joe or Joanna would know.
I am not sure why they would use Jennifer. Maybe someone wanted to use their own name? Jenna would have been more appropriate. Other than that I think they are spot on with 10 year old names. My niece is 10 and her name is Allison. (Allie)
on January 4th, 2014 at 6:16 am
I’ve always assumed they used the names of actual customers. I doubt they are purposefully trying to set baby-naming trends.
on January 4th, 2014 at 8:08 pm
Maybe from Pottery Barn staff – seeing Zoe and Tucker makes me think that someone there is really into ‘Hart of Dixie’. And a ‘Gossip Girl’ fan would also cover Penn, Blair and Jenny….
on January 5th, 2014 at 4:25 pm
I bet that Pottery Barn would have done an interview for this feature. I really like your charts illustrating the various name styles!
on January 5th, 2014 at 5:58 pm
on November 29th, 2014 at 9:55 am
Maybe someone could just call and ask?
You’d be surprised what gets done by asking.
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