Charles E. Williams established the first Williams-Sonoma store in Sonoma, California in 1956. The company began its direct-to-customer (DTC) business in 1972 by launching its flagship catalog, ’A Catalog for Cooks,’ which was marketed under Williams-Sonoma brand. The company acquired Gardeners Eden, a mail-order merchandiser of home gardening and related products, in 1982. A year later, the company purchased the rights of the catalog, Hold Everything, to offer household storage products. Williams-Sonoma became a public company in 1983. The first Hold Everything retail store opened in 1985.
Williams-Sonoma acquired Pottery Barn, a retailer of casual home furnishings, in 1986, from The Gap. In 1987, the company launched the first Pottery Barn catalog.The company launched Chambers, a mail-order merchandiser of high quality linens, towels, robes, soaps and accessories for the bed and bath, in 1989. Williams-Sonoma purchased California Closets, an operator of franchises who design and build custom closets, in 1990. Four years later, the company sold California Closets to a management and investor group.
The company sold its Gardeners Eden catalog business to retailer, Brookstone, in 1999.Williams-Sonoma then launched a special Pottery Barn catalog featuring linens and furniture for children and began selling merchandise online through its wswedding.com bridal registry website and through williams-sonoma.com.
The first Pottery Barns Kids store was opened in 2000, and its website followed a year after. In 2001, the company established five new retail stores including two Williams-Sonoma, two Pottery Barn, and one Pottery Barn Kids in Toronto, Canada. These stores marked the company’s expansion outside the US. In 2001, Williams-Sonoma launched its Pottery Barn online gift and bridal registry and Pottery Barn Kids online gift registry. The company launched its West Elm catalog in 2002 offering a broad range of home furnishing categories, including furniture, textiles, decorative accessories, lighting and tabletop items.
In 2002, Williams-Sonoma launched its West Elm e-commerce website and opened its first West Elm retail. In the same year, the company introduced the newest extension to its Pottery Barn brand, PBteen catalog.
PBteen offers exclusive collections of home furnishings and decorative accessories, specifically designed for the teenage market. In 2002, the company also launched PBteen e-commerce website. In 2004, the Chambers catalog was discontinued and was replaced with ‘Williams-Sonoma Home’. This catalog featured upholstered-furniture collection, in addition to linens, furniture and accessories.The first Williams-Sonoma Home retail store was opened in West Hollywood, California in 2005.
Williams-Sonoma closed all its Hold Everything retail stores and e-commerce website in early 2006. It also discontinued circulating Hold Everything catalogs during the same period. The company launched www.wshome.com, an online catalog for Williams- Sonoma Home brand, in 2006.
The virtual catalog featured custom-upholstered furniture, lighting, tableware, bedding and decorative accessories. In 2006, the company opened 18 net new stores including the expansion or remodeling of 28 stores.
In April 2007, the company launched its first outdoor collection. The company launched its first Williams-Sonoma gourmet cookware store in Vancouver in November 2007. In the same month, Williams-Sonoma also unveiled its expanded Pottery Barn outlet in Vancouver. Again, in November 2007, the company resolved the suit it had filed against Oracle Corp regarding order and inventory management systems. In December 2007, the company announced that it would pull out of IDS Center in Minneapolis at the end of January 2008 when its lease runs out. In February 2008, Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, a subsidiary of the company, announced that they would open stores at the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside in Western Massachusetts in 2008.
In May 2008, Williams-Sonoma signed a lease for 33,862 square feet of distribution space in Lakeland, Florida.The specialty retailer would occupy a portion of the new 139,500-square-foot building located at 2850 Interstate Drive in the Lakeland Interstate Business Park.