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Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.

"We learned very quickly that we had no idea what we were doing." That's how Meredith Mahoney, senior director and general manager of Birch Lane, a home décor brand that's part of formerly online-only Wayfair Inc., bluntly assessed the company's start in the catalog industry. Tasked with starting a brand from scratch in seven months, Mahoney and her team at Birch Lane learned on the fly — and self-admittedly made some mistakes in the process. However, what's emerged is a growing brand that's positioned itself for future success.

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.

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