The Australian response to the arrival of US homewares retailer Williams-Sonoma has exceeded the company’s expectations says Pennie Rende, general manager of Williams-Sonoma Australia.
Williams-Sonoma opened four new stores in Chatswood Chase shopping centre today —Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm — spread over two levels. Across the four brands, the stores offer a mix of cooking classes, design advice and children’s activities; something Rende says sets the business apart from its competitors.
“It goes back to the experience, and the customers that we found in Bondi Junction — and it will probably be very similar here — repeatedly, week after week, come in to experience all the different things we have going on in the store. The reception has far exceeded our expectations.”
Today staff in Williams-Sonoma were providing customers with samples while demonstrating a Vitamix blender and a Breville Pizza Maker.
“It’s all about the experience. It’s about the aromas, through what we make every single day and then giving you the opportunity to taste something and drink something. So we really want to bring the experience to life.”
Williams-Sonoma opened its first Australian stores in Bondi Junction in May 2013, a decision made in part due to the number of online orders coming from Australia. “E-Commerce helps guide where we open our businesses and the Australian market proved to be the second most popular for our brands so we knew we needed to be here,” Rende said.
A further four stores —Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm — will be opened in Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne later this year. As well as retail space, the Chadstone operation is expanding into part of the centre’s car park, transforming it into a designer homewares haven.
When asked if the business had plans to expand into other Australian states, Rende said they were constantly on the look out for real estate.
Michelle Hummel, vice president of global merchandising for the Pottery Barn brands says Williams-Sonoma is all about bringing people together around food and entertaining with a passion of cooking and culinary skills.
Responsible for overseeing global merchandising strategies for all markets outside the United States, Hummel said the cooking classes and demonstrations do lead to an increase in sales.
“In the stores the experience is all about cooking demonstrations, tastings and classes. That’s how we bring people into the store and that’s kind of what sets us apart at Williams-Sonoma,” she said.
When it comes to the selection of appliances sold through Williams-Sonoma, Hummel said that many suppliers had long-standing relationship with the store.
“There are a lot of these appliances and name brands that Williams-Sonoma has been working with for a very long time. So it’s really the performance of the product, making sure the quality is up-to-standard.”
As well as gift and bridal registry services, Williams-Sonoma offers a free service where one of their ‘specialists’ will visit your kitchen, assess your needs and recommend products to set up in your home.
Retailer, kitchen showroom and mini food hall: Inside Williams-Sonoma’s newest store
And from another brand under the Williams-Sonoma umbrella, Pottery Barn Kids is starting children off early with this range of kitchen smalls.