Santa Clara University


A Glimpse Inside Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Pottery Barn

by Timothy Kenney ’12

For some time now, retail companies have made considerable investments in technology that have allowed them to compete with the increasing customer demand for online shopping. With nearly 600 stores across the globe, Williams- Sonoma, Inc. is no exception to this growing consumer trend.

Williams SonomaOn March 7, Santa Clara University students had the privilege to visit the Williams- Sonoma corporate headquarters in San Francisco, CA to listen to Patrick Connolly, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, and Vicki McWilliams, executive vice president of Stores, speak about their first-hand experiences working for the company. Connolly spoke highly of his nearly 30 years with Williams-Sonoma, specifically highlighting the growth of e-commerce and mobile shopping.

Recently, Williams-Sonoma has made investments in mobile point-of-sale systems that authorize a customer to check out via iPhone or iPad. These investments allow Williams-Sonoma’s sales associates to better cater to customers to create a seamless shopping experience, especially in busy seasons when traffic is substantially higher than normal.

McWilliams stressed the need for traditional brick and mortar locations to become more of an experience for the consumer. She believes that as online shopping patterns continue to grow, traditional brick and mortar stores are going to transform into showrooms rather than sales floors. Therefore, she believes retailers must make a substantial effort to drive consumers into the store through visual merchandising and exceptional customer service. She stresses her belief that employees who are passionate about the product are the heart of a retail company.

The day culminated with a tour of Pottery Barn’s headquarters and product development floor, located at the Ice House offices on Battery Street. Students saw the Holiday 2012 floor sets and the merchandise development process. This rare glimpse inside Pottery Barn’s headquarters was a fantastic opportunity for aspiring students.

As Williams-Sonoma continues to push its online and global expansion, consumers are sure to see significant changes in the retail marketplace in the years to come.

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