Identifying Williams-Sonoma's X Factor
Home furnishings and housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma is enjoying profitable growth in a competitive marketplace. What's its secret? Pat Connolly, chief strategy and business development officer for the San Francisco-based company, provided some insight into that question for the audience at NEMOA's directXchange Fall Conference in Groton, Conn. yesterday. Specifically, Connolly outlined six beliefs that Williams-Sonoma holds as integral to its success.
1. Product: Williams-Sonoma creates, designs and manufactures about 85 percent of the products it sells, Connolly said. The company has created a global supply chain, importing merchandise from around the world, particularly Asia. In addition, Williams-Sonoma has three manufacturing facilities in the United States — one each in North Carolina, Texas and California. We have control over our product, said Connolly. This has helped Williams-Sonoma to build its most valuable asset, its brand.
2. Lifestyle merchandising: The best to way sell home products is to show them in peoples’ homes, Connolly said. Williams-Sonoma goes to great lengths to make that possible. It scouts out and rents homes in markets as far away as Mexico and Canada, then transforms those homes — e.g., paints walls, replaces furniture — into the perfect canvases for its catalog photo shoots. "It's like making movies," said Connolly. While Williams-Sonoma does have the ability to use CGI technology that can digitally put products into photos/rooms, it doesn't plan on abandoning its on-site photo shoots. It's who we are as a brand, Connolly said.
3. Multichannel retail: Today's consumers engage brands and make purchases in more than one channel. For Williams-Sonoma, that includes its 600-plus retail stores, e-commerce site and catalogs. Successful retailers going forward will need to perfect more than one channel, Connolly said. Williams-Sonoma's history as a catalog brand is the foundation for its success. We believe our catalog heritage is the primary driver of results, Connolly said. Williams-Sonoma will mail a quarter-billion catalogs this year. Nothing conveys our brand better than our catalog, Connolly said.