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West Elm Maintains Local Focus While Expanding Brand

retailers to watch_westelmIn a year that many have labeled as disruptive, retailers large and small in 2017 have worked to develop new initiatives that serve to further merge store and e-commerce operations while also meeting the ever-changing needs of a more fickle and educated consumer base.

While some retailers have struggled to meet current-day challenges, others have taken positive steps forward to establish foundations upon which they hope to boost sales and gain market share in 2018.

HomeWorld’s first annual Retailers to Watch, in the November 6 issue, looks at eight retailers from various channels making big moves to reinforce their futures. Selected by the HomeWorld editorial staff, each of the retailers chosen are taking aim at top-level sales growth in the year ahead with housewares and home at the forefront of their growth strategies.

Williams-Sonoma/West Elm

Total Stores: (as of Q2 FY 2017): 629

2016 Total Sales (in millions): $5,084

2016 Total Housewares Sales (in millions): $3,995

OVERVIEW: In considering Williams Sonoma’s prospects, the advancement of West Elm has to be considered both as a critical growth vehicle in store terms and the company’s vehicle for engaging younger consumers.

The company is planning to open 11 West Elm locations in this fiscal year. West Elm is in the process of breaking the 100-store barrier and should close the year with 106 locations.

West Elm isn’t only gaining by expanding the chain, as its existing stores are generating significant incremental sales. In the second quarter, West Elm led all Williams-Sonoma brands in comparable sales, up 10.1%. In fiscal 2016, West Elm also was the top Williams-Sonoma banner in comp sales terms, up 12.8%, while posting net revenues of $972 million.

WHAT TO WATCH: West Elm’s impact will become more powerful as it continues to expand, especially outside major metro hubs in the U.S. such as New York City. In October, a new 10,525 West Elm store opened in Albany, NY. The store debuted with a range of locally and regionally produced products as part of an ongoing Local initiative to incorporate such items throughout the store portfolio.

The Albany store debut followed the September opening of an 11,000 square foot West Elm in Des Moines, the company’s first in Iowa. Also in September, West Elm opened a 1,100 square foot boutique location inside the Arnotts Department Store in Dublin, Ireland. West Elm has a wholesale partnership with John Lewis department stores in the United Kingdom, but, in August, the retailer opened its second full-scale store in the country, an 8,000 square foot location in the London suburb of Kingston-Upon-Thames.

West Elm also recently had a change of leadership. Alex Bellos, who headed the company’s Rejuvenation and Mark and Graham brands, became president of West Elm. Bellos now is directing West Elm’s ambitious growth strategies including expansion of hospitality and office furniture operations.

Still, retail is the heart of the brand, and West Elm continues to find new ways to satisfy its target Millennial customers. For example, West Elm is building on its responsible retail commitments to include a goal of paying $3 million in premiums towards Fair Trade community development by 2020. In expanding fair trade activity, West Elm has identified that its customers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on social and environmental impacts.

2018 Retailers To Watch (click on name for profile)

The Home Depot

Overstock

Target

H.E.B.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet

Burlington

Kohl’s

West Elm