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Williams-Sonoma’s Pottery Barn Makes Plans for Holiday

Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids nameplates are “ready to go, in-stock and headed forward” to tackle this year’s critical holiday season.

“You can expect to see in the Pottery Barn brand this holiday a great level of opening price point products,” said Sharon McCollam, evp, coo and cfo, during Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s presentation at the Piper Jaffrey Consumer Conference earlier this month. “I think it bodes particularly well, both for the holiday season and the environment overall.”

For “a good 18 months,” she continued, Pottery Barn has been working on this initiative, “so they are extremely well positioned, ready to go, in-stock and headed forward.”

The effort will be obvious, though, at sister nameplate Pottery Barn Kids, where “after the nursery products, the merchandise mix is more discretionary,” she said.

Building on the results so far “that we have seen in Pottery Barn with this strategy of shifting the mix a little bit to the better price points — “and by the way that is not having an impact on our initial margins,” she said —is providing what she called the roadmap for Pottery Barn Kids “to make that happen.”

Starting this fall and into spring 2010, the chain will see “a substantial increase in opening price point products.”

Home textiles are playing a central role in the company’s refocused introductory pricing efforts.

By being “intensely focused on merchandise” that answers to competitive pricing pressures, Pottery Barn has anted its merchandise mix with new assortments that are “engineered and built from the ground up to achieve these price point while retaining our margins,” explained Patrick Connolly, director, evp, chief marketing officer “We have gone back to ’03 and ’04 and analyzed the price points that drove volume and attracted new customers, and worked hard with our suppliers to achieve them.”

Examples include quilts and pillows. In quilts, which Connolly described as “always having been an iconic business” for the nameplate and conveniently also “representing the heart of what the consumer is looking for today—easy ways to update the home at a great value,” the chain is making “clear value statements at great introductory price points.” In addition, an expanded assortment online is being added to the quilt mix.

“Pillows,” he said “get the same treatment” as well as free shipping online for pillow covers.

The chain is also offering “tremendous value” on upholstered and slip-covered furniture and occasional furniture pieces as well.

Pottery Barn Kids and PB Teen are on the same page, Connolly said.

Another nameplate where home textiles have been in the spotlight is at Williams-Sonoma Home, whose “higher-end consumer appears to be most impacted by this environment,” Connolly said.

As such, the company is “currently very focused on profitability over growth. But we’ve seen many opportunities to connect with our customer and attract new ones.”

He singled out the brand’s home textiles assortment as one such opportunity, “allowing us to flow newness to the assortment through the season. And in light of the current economic climate, it has proven to be a great way for our customers to update their homes without a large investment.”

He added that the “quality of the craftsmanship, from hand embroideries and needlepoint to expertly printed linens, is exceptional” among new items in the assortment.

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