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Williams-Sonoma has brand new plan

NEW YORK — Williams-Sonoma is firing up brand expansion this year — opening more stores, increasing catalog circulation across nearly all of its properties and, in some cases, expanding the footprint of existing retail stores.

The company also believes that its fledging West Elm brand, which opened its first store just last year, may become the single most important brand in its portfolio, executives said during the Lehman Brothers Retail Seminar here.

"Our research shows that Americans have never been more focused on their homes than they are today," said Patrick Connolly, executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

West Elm, which debuted in early 2002 as a catalog, will open just two additional stores this year (Manhattan and northern California), bringing its store count to three. However, Williams-Sonoma has already expanded its vision of the core customer beyond the urban dweller, Connolly said.

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