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Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
Traded as NYSEWSM
Industry Consumer Retail[1]
Founded Sonoma, California in 1956
Headquarters 3250 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Key people
Products Kitchenwares, Housewares, Furniture, Home Furnishings, Linens and Specialty Foods
Revenue IncreaseUS$ 4.698 billion (FY 2015)
IncreaseUS$ 308.85 million (FY 2015)
Total assets DecreaseUS$ 2.33 billion (FY 2015)
Number of employees
8,700 (2015)[3]
Website williams-sonomainc.com

Williams-Sonoma, Inc., is a mid-range US consumer retail company that sells kitchenwares, furniture, and linens, as well as other housewares and home furnishings, along with a variety of specialty foods, soaps, and lotions. Its international corporate headquarters is located in San Francisco, California, United States.

The company operates more than 560 retail stores (2005) in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom under a portfolio of brands, including Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBTeen, Williams-Sonoma, Williams-Sonoma Home, West Elm, Mark and Graham, and Rejuvenation. 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. It has 98 million outstanding shares of stock.[4]


Williams-Sonoma was founded in 1956 [5] by Charles E. (Chuck) Williams, selling professional and restaurant-quality kitchenwares for home use. Chuck Williams is one of the titans of the American food revolution. He had a tough childhood made even more so by the Great Depression.[citation needed] By the time he was a teenager, he was on his own working his way through high school at a California date farm.[citation needed] During World War II he repaired war planes in East Africa and India. In 1953 took his first trip to France. He quickly fell in love with French kitchenware such as copper cookware, and is quoted as saying "I knew this was something that wasn't found in America, but thought people would want." Soon after, he formulated a plan to import French cookware into America. He settled in Sonoma, California in 1947 and taught himself how to build houses before opening his first shop several blocks from the town square. The store quickly became a destination. In 1958, at the suggestion of customers and friends[citation needed], Williams relocated the store to San Francisco[citation needed]. In 1971, along with—and at the suggestion of—regular customer Jackie Mallorca,[6] Williams began publishing a mail order catalog to expand his business beyond the San Francisco Bay Area[citation needed]. By 1972 he was sending out thousands of catalogs and had taken on partners, borrowed money, and opened more stores.[7]

Williams has credited the selection and merchandising of products in the store as primary contributors to Williams-Sonoma's success:[peacock term][8]

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's primary and West Coast flagship store on San Francisco's Union Square

Williams-Sonoma was incorporated in California on April 9, 1973,[citation needed] and brought on a management team[who?] to oversee the business. Beginning that same year, the company opened stores in several new locations, including Beverly Hills, California. The new management team soon ran the company into debt,[clarification needed] 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.[citation needed] W. Howard Lester, an Oklahoma entrepreneur[9] purchased the company in 1978, along with businessman James McMahan. Both men put up $50,000 to buy a majority interest in the company. Mr. Lester took an active role as president and chief executive, while Mr. McMahan stayed in the background as a company director.[10] At the time, Williams-Sonoma had revenues of $4 million and debt of $700,000.[11]

The company went public in 1983. In September 1986, Williams-Sonoma acquired Pottery Barn from Gap, Inc.. Pottery Barn 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[weasel words] 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 Toronto, Canada.[citation needed] Today,[when?] the Canadian division encompasses 15 stores representing the Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm brands in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Montreal, Canada. In 2008, the company opened Pottery Barn and West Elm stores at Plaza Las Americas in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, a district of the capital San Juan.

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

In November 2011, the company acquired Portland, Oregon-based Rejuvenation, Inc., a manufacturer and direct marketer of light fixtures and hardware with stores in Portland, Seattle, and Los Angeles.[12]

In July 2013, the company added David Jimenez as Senior Vice President, Visual and Store Experience.[13]

Though Williams-Sonoma has the word "Sonoma" in its name to indicate the lifestyle of Sonoma County, there are no Williams-Sonoma stores in Sonoma County. In 2012, Williams-Sonoma was in discussion with the City of Sonoma to re-open a store at the location of the original store at 601 Broadway.[14]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • Williams-Sonoma products have been featured numerous times on The Oprah Winfrey Show‍ '​s Oprah's Favorite Things specials. In 2004, Oprah selected Williams-Sonoma Home bedding to her list of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2004."[15] In 2005, Oprah selected Williams-Sonoma's croissants to her list of "Oprah's Favorite Things 2005."[16] 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."[17] Oprah again named the mini croissants (from 2005) and the panini press (from 2007) as her "Ultimate Favorite Things" in 2010.
  • In the television show Sex and the City (Season 1, Episode 3: "Bay of Married Pigs"), 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 another animated series, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (Season 6, Episode 7: "Used Car"), Greg Behrendt genuflects on a Williams-Sonoma four-slot toaster "with the two wide slots that make the natural leap from toast to toasted sandwiches."
  • 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 story arc in which two principal characters wrote erotic fiction as a marketing device to sell Williams-Sonoma products.[18]
  • In the television show Frasier, Daphne and Niles registered at Williams-Sonoma for their wedding in the ninth season. This is revealed in the 8th episode of the 10th season while Niles is on the phone with his ex-wife Maris.
  • In the television show Friends, Chandler Bing ruins one of Monica Geller's Williams-Sonoma pots. When Chandler complains about the cost of replacing it, she suggests that next time he break something she bought at Pottery Barn.
  • In Animorphs book 32, The Separation, Mean Rachel walks into a Williams-Sonoma store at the mall and is excited by all the different kitchen knives she sees.
  • In Weeds (season five episode 10) Nancy mentions to Andy that she is registered at Williams-Sonoma and that she and Esteban "could use a new tortilla warmer"
  • In the Usbekistani television show Zam Dosca (Together Forever, episode 1082), Jabasku in his first vacation to United States visited Williams-Sonoma to buy an ice machine. Not knowing the use of the product he threw it at his friend Bilek at the end of the episode
  • In The King of Queens (in the episode "Present Tense") Spencer tells Doug's cousin Danny in the car that they both should have bought Carrie and Doug an anniversary gift and that before he was about to buy a panini maker while shopping at William-Sonoma, Danny tells him at the last minute to not buy them an anniversary gift at all.
  • In the musical "Dear Edwina", one song references William and Sonoma as being people that sing along with the Fairy Forkmother to teach a chef how to set a table.
  • In the popular American TV show Gilmore Girls, while shopping for Christmas gifts, the main characters Lorelai Gilmore and Rory Gilmore mention that they purchased a gift for Loreali's best friend Sookie St. James from Williams-Sonoma.


  1. ^ "WSM: Summary for Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Common St- Yahoo! Finance". Finance.yahoo.com. October 21, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Executive Biographies". Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Williams-Sonoma, Inc - San Francisco, California (CA) | Company Profile". Manta.com. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Declares Quarterly Cash Dividend". DailyFinance. December 21, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Company Overview". Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Biography of Jacqueline Mallorca, the Gluten Free Expert". Glutenfreeexpert.com. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ "About". Williams-Sonoma. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ Tobias, Arlyn (September 1, 2003). "Chuck Williams Williams-Sonoma FROM POTS TO POACHERS, I SEARCHED FOR TOOLS THAT WOULD TRANSFORM AMERICAN KITCHENS. ALONG THE WAY, I DISCOVERED THAT GOOD TASTE CAN BUILD A BUSINESS. - September 1, 2003". Money.cnn.com. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Chuck Williams". Williams-Sonoma. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ Douglas Martin (November 18, 2010). "W. Howard Lester, Williams-Sonoma Owner, Dies at 75". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Shambora, Jessica (July 26, 2010). "Williams-Sonoma's Secret Sauce". Fortune 162 (2): 46. Retrieved July 17, 2010. 
  12. ^ Francis, Mike (November 4, 2011). "Williams-Sonoma buys Portland's Rejuvenation Inc., plans growth". The Oregonian. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  13. ^ David Jimenez will be joining the Williams-Sonoma brand as Senior Vice President, Visual and Store Experience.
  14. ^ "Sonoma May Not Welcome Back Williams Sonoma". NBC Bay Area. January 17, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
  15. ^ [1][dead link]
  16. ^ [2][dead link]
  17. ^ [3][dead link]
  18. ^ "Achewood § July 2, 2009". Achewood.com. July 2, 2009. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 

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