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Williams-Sonoma has plans for Elm

To boost sales, Williams-Sonoma will diversify the year-old West Elm brand to expand its appeal beyond city-dwellers.

Building on its flagship West Elm store in Brooklyn, N.Y., Williams-Sonoma Inc. plans to open two "prototype" West Elm retail stores during the third and fourth quarters, stated CEO Ed Mueller during the company's first quarter conference call last week.

Though the new locations — in the West Village of Manhattan and in Northern California — fall in line with West Elm's original urban strategy, "We believe that with broadening of the assortment, it has the potential to appeal to a much wider market segment and become one of our larger brands over time," he said.

Mueller also said that West Elm will be launching an updated version of its e-commerce Web site in the fall. Presumably that would include expanding online assortments beyond items available in the catalog, a formula employed by the company's Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma sites. "E-commerce continues to be an extremely strong driver for the West Elm brand," he said.

Along with Hold Everything locations, "We are aggressively seeking out places to put those two brands," he said.

The debut of Williams-Sonoma Home's first catalog — which will offer a full home-furnishings assortment — remains on track for a launch in the third quarter. "We are positioning this new concept as a premium lifestyle brand, offering classic furnishings and decorative accessories with enduring quality and casual elegance," Mueller added.

Upon the launch of the Williams-Sonoma Home catalog, the Chambers fine linens catalog will be retired.

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