By Aimee Chanthadavong

U.S-based kitchen and home furnishing retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc has opened its first company-owned stores – Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm – outside North America.

Following over a year’s worth of planning, the stores have been constructed to sit side-by in a newly constructed building in Bondi Junction, Sydney. They occupy a combined retail space of 2,040 square metres across three levels.

Speaking to RetailBiz, Craig Nomura, Williams-Sonoma Inc global development senior vice president, said the decision to house all four brands under one roof is a global first for the company and was fitting given the real estate opportunity.

“We wanted to leverage all the brands’ power so we felt housing all brands we call leverage four brand power instead of one brand. There was also a unique opportunity to try all four brands under one roof,” he said.

According to Nomura, Australia is the largest e-commerce market outside of North America, which gave the company data on what sells in and how much has been sold and a key reason to open up.

“We also know Australians have a high percentage of home ownership with about 70 per cent of Australians own their home so we felt like bringing a homeware and home furnishing business into this market would be appropriate,” he said.

The products across all stores are sourced from around the world, with many designed either in their San Francisco or New York offices. But there are also familiar brands like Simon Johnson and Breville sitting on their shelves.

“We always use this term that we’re going to go global but we want to be local, meaning we want to make sure the local consumer feels like we’ve catered to them, so we’ve tried to do that with William-Sonoma and here we have a lot of local foods that we’ve brought it. In West Elm we’ve partnered with local artists and they’re part of our give away bags and we’ll continue to do that as we get comfortable with the market,” Nomura said.

On the topic of price, Nomura said: “Our prices reflect the additional costs we incur doing business in Australia, which are primarily around payroll, tariffs and taxes. But other than that we want to be fair and competitive in the marketplace.”

Nomura emphasised the key point of difference Williams-Sonoma Inc’s stores have is their service model, which saw its Bondi Junction retail staff trained by U.S representatives almost three months in advance of the store opening. 

“What’s going to make us different and something we feel very comfortable with is our service model. We hope our service model differentiates us from the competition. We have complimentary in-home blind service, we do monogramming, we also now have our first cooking school and in-store demonstrations so we just feel very comfortable with that part of the business,” he said.

At opening day, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell also acknowledged entry of Williams-Sonoma into the retail space will benefit the Australian economy.
“I thank them for this investment and for choosing Sydney to be the first place for these stores to be located because that investment creates jobs where 135 staff have been employed,” he said.

“I’m really excited by these four brands in their physical presence and they’ve chosen Sydney for their launch and no doubt provide good competition for the homewares market in this city.”

A second Australian Williams-Sonoma store is due to open later in the year in South Yarra, Melbourne.