Custom Catalog: Williams-Sonoma Outfits the Well-Dressed HomeBy Jura Koncius(c) 2004, The Washington Post Williams-Sonoma, the California retailer that has outfitted America’s kitchens with sophisticated European style since 1956, is expanding its flagship brand into the high-end living room, bedroom, dining room and bath. Williams-Sonoma Home, which will mail 3.1 million copies of its first 80-page catalog the week of Sept. 13, is aimed at the upscale home furnishings consumer looking to add custom upholstery, silver-plated bath accessories, crystal and nickel table lamps and glove-soft suede quilted pillows to their interiors. “We think of it as accessible luxury,” says Dave DeMattei, president of emerging brands at Williams-Sonoma. “The product has a broad appeal. We have focused on quality and differentiating ourselves, not just taking the upscale brand and putting a new label on it.” Williams-Sonoma Home incorporates the company’s luxury linens catalog Chambers, which will now cease to exist. Williams-Sonoma Home products will be available only by catalog until next spring, when online shopping will be added. The first Williams-Sonoma Home stores are planned for fall 2005. They will join the roster of the company’s growing stable of retail shops that also include Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Hold Everything and West Elm. Store executives say they are reaching for the “underserved” market of consumers looking for traditional custom home furnishings, as well as those aspiring to designer products, from decorators or to-the-trade design centers. According to Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retailing Consulting Group, which forecasts industry trends and consumer spending patterns, “Williams-Sonoma Home is a store designed for a very specific customer – the wealthy customer. They are doing something which makes a lot of sense, they are going after a customer who has not been hit very hard by the recession and who has a fairly significant income.” Barnard believes Williams-Sonoma, a $3.1 billion company, has a lot going for it in the new venture. “Williams Sonoma is a very inventive and creative company. They know how to attract customers and they have a good reputation for coming up with a fine assortment of merchandise that tickles the palate of the well-to-do.” DeMattei, formerly president of Coach North America, pulled together a new design team for the venture last fall headed by Stephen Brady, who had been a senior vice president for home at Ralph Lauren. (Yes, this new stuff does have a bit of that classy leather-tweed-and-cashmere Ralph style to it.) The look is luxe, without being flashy. There are stately lacquered wood armoires ($4,200), cayenne cashmere pillow shams ($98), Portuguese damask napkins (set of four $65) and upholstered leather beds ($3,500.) In one casual room setting shown in the first Fall 2004 catalog, framed black-and-white botanical photographs (set of four $250) over a minimalist metal fireplace decorate a room furnished with an almond braided wool rug from Belgium ($3,000 for an 8-by-10), a sand-colored linen sofa ($2,800) and a large pewter-rimmed Italian glass hurricane ($165). According to DeMattei, custom upholstery will be a major part of the mix. The first assortment includes four sofas, two ottomans and 14 chairs. The pieces will have a 45-day turnaround from time of order to date of delivery, he said, and customers can choose from 64 fabrics that range from mohairs to paisleys, chenilles to leathers. Fabrics will be pictured in each catalog and swatches can be mailed at the customer’s request. The catalog will be available at the 250 Williams-Sonoma retail stores beginning Sept. 10. It may also be requested at http://www.wshome.com or by calling 1-888-922-4110. The catalog will be available at the 250 Williams-Sonoma retail stores beginning Sept. 10. It may also be requested at http://www.wshome.com or by calling 1-888-922-4110.
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