• Andrea Lillo

Williams-Sonoma looks to refocus on customer

Williams-Sonoma has a "renewed focus on customer acquisition" and is testing several strategies, including the use of "versioned catalogs," which are specific and sometimes smaller versions of its catalogs for various segments of its customer base, said Pat Connolly, executive vp and chief marketing officer.

This enables it to take a larger catalog and reduce the page count and then mail more of them to retail, Internet and prospect customers, he added, speaking to investors at the CIBC World Markets' Consumer Growth Conference.

Already off to a great start, Pottery Barn's newest concept, PB Teen, will have a distribution of 15 million catalogs this year, with the initial drop of three million in April. In addition, Web sites for both PB Teen and West Elm are planned for later this year, though a "PB Teen lite Web site" was launched July 7, allowing customers to view and then order from the catalog. A store for West Elm is being evaluated, said Pat Connolly.

Though Williams-Sonoma Inc. sees total store growth potential between 700 to 800 stores throughout its brands, it also looks to further square footage by expanding existing stores, while maintaining sales per square foot.

"Our strategy is to build bigger stores in our best locations," said Pat Connolly. "And we've been able to do that very effectively" as leases age and expire. With real estate opportunities across three brands, many mall developers consider the company a mini-anchor, and it has been able to find great locations, he said.

He added that the company sees multi-channel opportunities in expanding its assortment in both core and seasonal merchandise, as well as increasing its direct marketing efforts.

Though Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn have grown their store bases by 28 percent and 36 percent, respectively, over the last three years, their retail square footage has increased 44 percent and 48 percent, respectively, he said, while sales per square foot have been maintained.

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