Economy

Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn opening in Australia: Six things you can learn from the American homewares giant

Engel Schmidl /

Another international retailer is opening its doors in Australia with Williams-Sonoma, the owner of the brands Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma, confirmed as the latest arrival.

The North American retailer, which has been widely referenced in television shows including Friends and Sex and The City, will open its first stores in Australia in early 2013.

Williams-Sonoma is opening four stores simultaneously which will all be located in the Exchange building currently under construction in Bondi Junction Mall in Sydney.

The stores will be the first retail locations outside North America to be owned and operated by Williams-Sonoma, as part of the company’s global expansion strategy.

Brian Walker, managing director of The Retail Doctor Group, told SmartCompany Williams-Sonoma has researched the Australian market thoroughly, undertaking extensive due diligence over the past two years.

Here’s six things you can learn from Williams-Sonoma:

1. Spot a gap in the market

Williams-Sonoma hopes to plug what it sees is a gap in the market, as its homewares offering is more high-end than Australian homeware retailers.

“In contrast to some of the homeware businesses, and even Country Road’s homeware, they sit at that point and slightly above. They clearly believe there is an opportunity slightly above the mid-market,” says Walker.

“They are not a low-end retailer. In that sense, they play at the value add, premium brand.”

2. Build an internet presence

All four brands currently ship a limited assortment of goods to Australia via their website and Williams-Sonoma used its internet sales to establish that there was demand in Australia for the product.

Although Williams-Sonoma only started shipping to Australia last year it quickly became the second biggest market for online sales outside the United States.

“They have seen business come through their online sites and see their particular brands have competitive opportunity as they believe their offering is unique,” says Walker.

3. Start small and then build big

While Williams-Sonoma’s initial tenancy over three retail levels of the Exchange building is hardly small, it is likely that this is just the beginning of the retailer’s plans for its Australian expansion.

Walker says given the ubiquity of Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn stores in the US the retailer will “absolutely” expand nationally.

“They are very strong in the US, they are literally in every mall in the United States,” he says.

Tracy Baker, Williams-Sonoma’s Australian spokesperson, told SmartCompany the retailer was excited about Australia.

“Williams-Sonoma is looking at it as a great expansion opportunity and are interested in expanding to Melbourne and other capitals,” she says.

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