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Williams-Sonoma, Inc. ( ) is a high-end American consumer retail company that sells kitchenwares, furniture and linens, as well as other housewares and home furnishings, along with a variety of specialty foods and gift items. Its international corporate headquarters and primary offices are located in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker. The company generates revenue primarily through its retail-store and direct-to-customer channels (mail-order catalog and internet).

The company operates 560 retail stores (2005) in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker under a portfolio of brands, including 255 Williams-Sonoma, 180 Pottery Barn and 90 Pottery Barn Kids stores. Other subsidiary brands include Williams-Sonoma Home, West Elm, Pottery Barn Bed & Bath and PBteen. The company reported revenue for fiscal year 2005 of more than (U.S.) $3.539 billion and claimed more than 7,700 full-time employees.

Williams-Sonoma maintains a large centralized distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippimarker (suburban Memphis, Tennesseemarker). The . facility serves both its retail stores and direct-to-customer orders.

Williams-Sonoma also operates 2 call centers located in Las Vegas, Nevada and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and closed a 3rd call center in Camp Hill, Pennsylvaniamarker, on January 14, 2009.

History

Williams-Sonoma was founded in 1956 by Charles E. Williams (b. 1915) in Sonomamarker, Californiamarker, selling professional and restaurant-quality kitchenwares for home use. In 1958, at the suggestion of customers and friends, Williams relocated the store to San Franciscomarker. In 1971, along with—and at the suggestion of—regular customer Jackie Mallorca, Williams began publishing a mail order catalog to expand his business beyond the San Francisco Bay Areamarker.

Williams has credited the selection and merchandising of products in the store as primary contributors to Williams-Sonoma's success: [91071]

Not many people in this country had seen some of the things we were selling, so I thought you should see each pan in the best possible way.
I put them up on a shelf in size order, with all the handles facing the same way, ensuring that anyone walking in would see the display at its best angle.
If somebody wanted to buy something, he had to ask me to get it for him, thus creating conversation.
As in the upscale stores I had worked in, I tried to build the place so that it demanded that customers be served.




Williams-Sonoma was incorporated in California on April 9, 1973, and brought on a management team to oversee the business. Beginning that same year, the company opened stores in several new locations, including Beverly Hillsmarker, California. The new management team soon ran the company into debt, however, and Williams decided to sell his share, although he was retained to help guide the selection of merchandise and the production of the catalog.

The company went public in 1983. In September 1986, Williams-Sonoma acquired Pottery Barn, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1999, the company introduced Pottery Barn Kids, and it further expanded the Pottery Barn brand with PBteen in early 2003. Also in 2003, the company launched the contemporary West Elm brand. This was followed by the debut of upscale Williams-Sonoma Home stores in 2005 and specialty retailer Pottery Barn Bed & Bath in 2006. Williams-Sonoma Home is a high-end purveyor of home furnishings, while Pottery Barn Bed & Bath focuses on that brand's popular bedroom and bathroom furnishings.

October 20, 2001, marked the opening of the company's first international stores in Torontomarker, Canadamarker. Today, the Canadian division encompasses 15 stores representing the Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm brands in Toronto, Calgarymarker and Vancouvermarker, Canada. In 2008, the company opened Pottery Barn and West Elm stores at Plaza Las Americasmarker in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, a district of the capital San Juanmarker.

In 2005, Williams-Sonoma entered into an agreement with the CBS News weekday program "The Early Show" to broadcast a popular segment, "The 5-Minute Cooking School," which presents viewers with a variety of cooking techniques, styles and recipes. The special series is televised from Williams-Sonoma's East Coast flagship store at the Shops at Columbus Circlemarker in New York Citymarker's Time Warner Centermarker. (The brand's primary and West Coast flagship store is on Union Squaremarker in San Francisco.)

References in popular culture

  • In 2004, Oprah selected Williams-Sonoma Home bedding to her list of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2004."
  • In 2005, Oprah selected Williams-Sonoma's croissants to her list of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2005."
  • In 2007, Oprah selected Williams-Sonoma's melamine mixing bowls, measuring cups and measuring spoons; Perfect Ending Cupcakes and Breville's Ikon Panini Press (sold by Williams-Sonoma) to her list of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2007."
  • In the hit television show Sex and the City , the fictional character Carrie Bradshaw helped her date pick a "top-of-the-line cheese grater at Williams-Sonoma."
  • In the animated television show American Dad! (Season 2, Episode 16: When a Stan Loves a Woman, Stan tells Francine that he and Joanna are registered at Williams-Sonoma because 'she likes the finer things'.
  • In the film The Muse, all the kitchen supplies used to manufacture the wives' cookies were purchased at Williams-Sonoma.
  • The webcomic Achewood ran a storyline in which two principal characters wrote erotic fiction as a marketing device to sell Williams-Sonoma products.
  • In the hit television show Frasier, Daphne and Niles registered at Williams-Sonoma for their wedding in the 9th Season. This is revealed in the 8th episode of the 10th season while Niles is on the phone with his ex-wife Maris.


References

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