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On the brand wagon

New York — Williams-Sonoma has concentrated on growth in all of its channels, as shoppers use many means to purchase items.

"We can't look at any channel in isolation," Patrick Connolly, director and executive vp, chief marketing officer, told analysts at the Robertson Stephens conference last week. He added that 30 percent of its customers shop more than one channel, including 56 percent of its catalog shoppers who also purchase in the stores. "We can surround the customer with our brand — on the Internet, in the stores, in catalogs."

Catalogs are a major advertising vehicle, he said, with 3.8 million and 8.4 million catalogs for Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, respectively, going out to consumers. A $650 million business, catalogs provide the ability to test products with minimal risk, as well as display every bed and bath product — an area that does well in the catalogs — which is impossible to do in the stores.

Store expansion remains important as well, and Williams-Sonoma will number 212 locations at the end of the year with 20 new and expanded stores. Its new 10,000-square-foot format is extendible to all markets and is "a significant merchandising opportunity in larger stores," Connolly said.

Pottery Barn will total 146 locations at the end of the year with the addition of 15 new stores. The company's Next Generation format for Pottery Barn, which has an extended bed and bath section, will debut next month in Palo Alto, CA.

The PB stores and catalogs have also been re-merchandised, Connolly said. The company plans to reset 15 to 20 stores by the end of the year, and sales have increased 30 percent in such stores.

Pottery Barn's business has grown so dramatically over the past few years, Sharon McCollam, senior vp, cfo, noted, that the company now does business with several vendors for many programs.

The company's websites have also netted $120 million in sales this year. The wedding and gift registry is a "multi-channel success story," and 82 percent more brides have registered since the registry went on the Web. Connolly said that the company is pleased with the results, and "the marketing is done by the brides." He also noted that the Pottery Barn wedding and gift registry will launch this month.

McCollam added that the company is rolling out a new POS system in all but 35 to 50 store, and a new warehouse management system should also improve efficiency.

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