- Williams Sonoma brand president Janet Hayes is stepping down, with her resignation effective Aug. 1, parent company Williams-Sonoma Inc. said Wednesday. A company spokesperson did not immediately return a request for more details.
- Hayes has been with the company for 12 years and has led the Williams Sonoma kitchen and home brand for six. Williams-Sonoma CEO Laura Alber credited Hayes with "significantly expanding its reach with new customers, chefs and food communities across the country" and described her as a "strong advocate for innovation, product exclusivity and entrepreneurship."
- Stepping into her place is Ryan Ross, executive vice president of emerging brands at the company. Ross had previously served in executive roles at the company's Pottery Barn brand from 2000 to 2008. He's also had lead roles at Harrods Direct in the U.K., Stylus Media Group and the Home Shopping Network, before returning to Williams-Sonoma in 2017.
The company's namesake Williams Sonoma brand traces its origin back to 1956, when founder Chuck Williams opened a store selling French cookware in Sonoma, California. Today the brand has fallen behind some of its parent company's other brands, especially that of West Elm, which appears to be the retailer's best path to growth.
The Williams Sonoma brand had comparable revenue growth of 1.7% in fiscal 2018, down from 3.2% growth the year before, according to the company's most recent 10-K. Net revenue grew 3.3% to nearly $1.1 billion.
However, net revenues fell 3% to $194.9 million at Williams Sonoma in a "disappointing" first quarter for the year, with comparable sales also dropping, by 1.6%. While growth slowed across Williams-Sonoma banners — which include West Elm, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids and Teen — Williams Sonoma's comps were the only to turn negative, making them the lowest of the group.
Albert told analysts in May that "although we knew we are up against the tough [Q1] comp of 5.6% last year, we expected our performance to be better than what we delivered," according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. She attributed this to an Easter that came late in the period and under-delivered, as well as reduced promotions.
"We are focused on increasing exclusive product offerings and more effective content, as well as reducing promotions and less productive inventory to drive incremental revenue growth and improved margins" at the Williams Sonoma brand, Alber said.
Its parent company describes Williams Sonoma as a brand that "bring[s] people together around food," selling cookware, appliances, cutlery and dining furniture. It also includes the high-end Williams Sonoma Home furniture and decoration concept, that extends the brand beyond the kitchen.
Williams-Sonoma acknowledges that the internet has brought an influx of new competitors, but rather than competing on price it competes on brand authority, service product quality, its websites and marketing, and the quality and location of its stores.