Does Pottery Barn Really Predict The Next Popular Names? Part 2

pottery-barn-fall-gear-2013-pg29After repeatedly hearing the theory that Pottery Barn predicts the next popular baby names on the personalized items in their catalog, I set out to determine if this is true.

I sampled baby names from the Pottery Barn Kids online archives from 2010 – 2013.

What I learned from part 1, which featured names from the 2010 Autumn catalog, is that most of the names featured on personalized items in 2010 were—in fact—slightly behind the trends.

But before I draw any conclusions, I am going to sample names from the 2011 – 2013 catalogs.

This time, in part 2, I am examining names from the Fall 2011 catalog.

For the benefit of those who missed part 1, here are the guidelines:

Names used for girls are coded pink, boys are coded blue, and if the gender is undetermined (or cannot be assumed) the name is coded green.

For example, Chloe is always assumed to be a girl’s name, even if the decor in the catalog is unisex or even traditionally masculine. For a traditionally unisex name like Taylor, the gender is determined based on the decor in the catalog; depending on whether the decor is traditionally male, female or unisex, the name will be color coded accordingly.

Based on when each name peaked, each name is categorized as:

  • Current (on trend for the catalog year)
  • Traditional (never out of style)
  • Down-market (dated)
  • Up-and-coming (ahead of trends)
  • Original (unknown, invented or rare)

Names from the Fall 2011 online issue:

Current Names

These names from the Fall 2011 catalog peaked around 2011 (and in most cases these names are still at their peak):

Abby / Abigail*

*Abby and Abigail were used interchangeably in the same decor on the same page, leading me to assume Abby was a nickname for Abigail. In this case, I looked at the Social Security rankings for Abigail leading up to 2011.

Traditional Names

Name from the Fall 2011 catalog that have been fashionable for at least a couple of generations:


Down-market Names

Names from the Fall 2011 catalog that statistically were on the decline in 2011:


Now we are getting to the exciting part. The following lists of names are either up-and-coming or original, and were ahead of their time in 2011. If Pottery Barn predicts name trends, these lists should be the longest.

Up-and-coming Names

These names were on the rise and fashion-forward in 2011:


Original Names

And here are that names that were completely original in 2011—so uncommon they weren’t on many people’s radar (and in many cases are still under-the-radar):


Yup—that’s it, one original name that could be up-and-coming or current as a nickname, but since statistics on nicknames are very difficult to collect, I use the Social Security Administration statistics on given names. Cate as a given name never reached the top 1000 for any year since 1880, making it very unusual (as a given name on the Social Security card application).

Insights from Pottery Barn Kid’s Autumn 2010 & Fall 2011 catalogs:

Here’s how Pottery Barn names from 2010 and 2011 compare based on the samples I took from the online archives:

Autumn 2010 Fall 2011
Current 30% 25%
Traditional 16% 9%
Down-market 33% 42%
Up-and-coming 12% 22%
Original 9% 2%

In the Autumn 2010 catalog the down-market group was the largest, but only by a small margin. There were almost as many traditional names in the catalog.

There were even more down-market names in the 2011 sample. In the Fall 2011 issue, the number of down-market names grew while the traditional group shrunk.

However, there were also more up-and-coming names in the 2011 sample.

Never the less, Pottery Barn names appear slightly behind the trends based on the 2010 and 2011 fall catalogs. I have some theories, which I will share at the end of this series if the findings remain consistent in 2012 and 2013.

Readers: What do you think about the names used in the Pottery Barn Catalog?

Image credit: Pottery Barn Kids Fall Gear Guide 2013


  1. An interesting point is that traditionally the names on pre-made “personalized” items are on average behind the trends, as Laura Wattenberg attested in this post from a few years ago:

    Probably that is since those deciding what names should be made may not have young kids themselves, and before the SSA started publishing popularity lists it wasn’t as easy to see what names were popular and/or climbing. As Wattenberg shows in her sample, the bulk of the names chosen in that sample largely followed (at the time those items were made) the names you’d see in a typical workplace (hence my theory).

    On the other hand, for those who like “dated” names the overstocking (although it’s not as prevalent now since more stats are available) of personalized goods may be a plus for such a name.

    • Thanks for sharing that Baby Name Wizard post. I had never seen that one.

      I noted that the post was dated 2007 and Wattenberg mentioned coming across these kids’ nameplates in a deep discount store with “old” names like Alice. My daughter was born in 2007 and had a classmate named Alice last year. I checked the top names for my state in 2007 and remember that my daughter’s name, Fiona and Alice ranked around the same place, and for the U.S. in 2012 Alice ranks much higher than Fiona. They are both considered up-and-coming names. I was a little relieved to see Wattenberg acknowledge that Alice was coming back in style at the end of her post.

      FYI: I just noted that Alice has taken off big time. In 2007 it ranked #347 and in 2012 it ranked #127.

  2. I read a name blogger’s theory that the product line names are the fashion-forward choices while the personalization names are the names popularly ordered by customers. Maybe that’s why the names on the items are slightly out of date–they’re from the sales records of the previous year? And since we don’t always buy personalized merchandise for newborns, the kids in question were named as much as several years back?

    • I think you might be on to something. I was thinking the same thing, that the names are a little out-of-date because they are not all marketed to babies, but rather 3-15 year-olds. And that might still be the case, but I am looking at the 2012 names right now in preparation for part 3, and they seem to be getting a little more daring in their choices. I was excited to see some of the names. Can’t wait to share.

  3. They are not attempting to set a trend, because they are not selling names. They are selling products and want shoppers to recognize names they chose for their kids and feel validated by the advertisements and thus connected to the brand. So their strategy is to order names that were given to babies 3 to 10 years ago. Also, most personalized products will be for kids in that age range, so that’s what will be sell. They could simply look up the SSA list by year and do it that way. Maybe adjusting for zipcodes they find “desirable” for customer base. It’s a really smart strategy, actually

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  1. […] this series were: Part 1 which focused on 2010 (Names were examined from the Autumn 2010 catalog) Part 2 which focused on 2011 (Names were examined from the Fall 2011 […]

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