In 1947, Florida native Charles E. (Chuck) Williams moved to the small town of Sonoma, California, where he opened a hardware store and started working as a building contractor. After a trip to France, however, he fell in love with French cuisine and especially the cookery it was prepared in. Williams, who is considered one of the revolutionaries of the American diet, converted his business into a cookware shop, where he sold imported cooking and serving equipment. The store, named Williams-Sonoma, was later moved to San Francisco, where it had a larger customer base, including some of the most prominent chefs and cookbook authors of the time. In 2015, the Williams-Sonoma Corporation had over 600 stores worldwide, belonging to its various brands and global net revenues amounting to about five billion U.S. dollars. The company has expanded its profile to include a wide array of products, such as furniture, textiles, light fixtures, gifts and cookbooks, mainly aimed at affluent consumers.
As of 2016, Williams-Sonoma’s portfolio includes a number of world-renowned brands, such as Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, Williams-Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma Home, Rejuvenation Mark and Graham and West Elm. Retail stores from these brands are found across the United States, Australia or the United Kingdom, as well as, as third-party franchises, in the Philippine’s or the Middle East, to only name a few of its locations. Additionally, the company sells its products through direct mail catalogs and has a strong online presence, placing third among the leading home goods retailers in the United States in 2013, based on their online retail sales.
The home furnishings retailer Pottery Barn is by far the company’s most important source of revenue, with 2015 global net revenues worth over 2 billion U.S. dollars. These figures do not include the Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen speciality spinoffs, which showcase the same design aesthetic as the mother-brand, but geared toward younger audiences. All three offer upscale home furniture (indoor and outdoor), bedding, rugs and curtains, and many other decorative accessories. The Williams-Sonoma stores similarly offer home furniture, but also strive to continue the legacy of the original Sonoma, California shop, focusing on all things cooking and dining, with products including cookware, cutlery, food processors and many cookbooks, some written by the company’s founder himself.
West Elm, which was launched in 2002, is similar in scope with Pottery Barn and its specialty versions, while aiming to offer customers more exclusive designs, resulted from collaboration with both global and local independent designers and craftsmen. The most recent additions to the Williams-Sonoma portfolio are Rejuvenation, a Portland, Oregon manufacturer and retailer of vintage lighting and house decorations, and Mark and Graham, a manufacturer of monogrammed and otherwise personalized apparel, home ware, jewelry and gifts.
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