By Aimee Chanthadavong

Williams-Sonoma Inc continues to expand in Australia opening up its home furnishing brand West Elm in Melbourne.

The store will be located in the city’s shopping strip of Chapel Street. It will be the first company-owned stand-alone West Elm store to open outside North America.  

Craig Nomura, Williams Sonoma Inc senior vice president of global development, told RetailBiz the company is confident that West Elm will be a great appeal to the design savvy Melbourne customers.

“We thought with this location, West Elm would suit the demographic of the customers we are trying to target,” he said.

Housed within a refurbished two-storey heritage building, the store will have 744 square metres of retail space, including a West Elm Market coffee shop on the ground floor. The store will employ 30 full-time and part-time staff.

“We started West Elm Market in Montreal and Brooklyn and we found the neighbourhood reacted nicely to the coffee bar as we opened at 8am so people could grab a coffee on their way to work,” Nomura said.

“But it’s just another lifestyle component we’ve added to the store.”

The new store follows the openings of four Williams-Sonoma Inc stores – West Elm, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids—in Sydney and precedes the opening of the first West Elm European store scheduled to open in London in October, 2013.

“One of the things with our Bondi store opening is that we’ve learnt we like having all four brands to open together,” Nomura said.

“This is because we found in the case of Australia there was a great awareness of Pottery Barn and that helped build awareness with all the other brands, including West Elm.”

Nomura also said while the company is aware of the current soft retail environment, the company will continue to focus and maintain its customer service and product offerings.

“The feedback from our Bondi store has been really amazing,” he said.

“Customers have reacted really well with sales of the Williams-Sonoma branded products like food and soap doing quite good. We’re also really pleased with the foot traffic as each brand has been able to leverage each other.

“Also, people have really warmed up to our complimentary in-home design services. I think it’s because they really trust our staff, who are all properly trained in design, and it’s a popular feature that customers have really appreciated.”