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Williams-Sonoma Building Brands

San Francisco —Williams-Sonoma Inc. has more brand-building initiatives up its sleeve in the immediate term, including this week's unveiling of a Pottery Barn paint program with Benjamin Moore, next month's launch of e-commerce for Williams Sonoma Home, and the fall debut of three retail stores under the Pottery Barn Bed + Bath brand.

Last week also brought a re-ordering of the executive ranks.

Company ceo Ed Mueller stepped down effective July 14, but will remain on the board until the end of his term in May 2007. Chairman Howard Lester, who served as ceo from 1979 to 2001, has added the title of ceo.

Lester said last week it is role he intends to fill for only two years. Addressing the CIBC World Markets 6th Annual Consumer Growth Conference in Boston, he added that it is important to emphasize retail experience “at the top.”

In related shifts, Laura Alber was promoted to president, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. from president, Pottery Barn Brands. Sharon McCollam added coo to her titles of executive vp and cfo. Dean Miller was appointed evp, chief supply chain officer, from senior vp, global logistics and sourcing.

During the CIBC presentation, Patrick Connelly, executive vp and chief merchandising officer, said the company's brands are positioned to capture a greater share of the $112 billion “homewares” sector in the coming decade.

He pointed to three “life stage landmarks” to buttress the case:

  • This year, the first of 77 million baby boomers turns 60. “Contrary to popular belief, they're not downsizing, they're upsizing. They're optimizing their homes for entertaining,” he said. The casual elegance of Williams-Sonoma and Williams-Sonoma Home address this audience.

  • Some 51 million Gen Xers are now in their prime parenting years. “They're incredibly home-centered, with a focus on casual furnishings and rooms that provide space for both entertainment and education,” he said. The Pottery Barn brand and its offshoots target this demographic.

  • The first of 61 million Gen Y people turn 25 this year. “They're interested in a clean, modern aesthetic that is affordable.” West Elm takes aim at this group.

Further, he said, 70% of all home furnishings are purchased by the top two quintiles of demographic income, and the corporation's database captures 60% of all households with incomes over $100,000.

The Pottery Barn fall book that will drop this week is regarded by company as “one of the strongest catalogs we've mailed in a long time,” Connelly said.

Shipping to more than 15 million households, the catalog will debut Pottery Barn's partnership with paint giant Benjamin Moore, a move that extends PB's color authority, according to Connelly.

Some 70% of Pottery Barn catalog customers plan to paint a room in the coming 12 months, he said, and the most frequently asked, non-merchandise question recorded at the call center is: “What color is that room?”

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