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Williams-Sonoma Expects Brick-and-Mortar Recovery to Play Significant Role in 2021

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Williams-Sonoma plans to refocus on brick-and-mortar sales as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, CEO Laura Alber told CNBC. Alber expects a strong recovery for in-store sales as the nation recovers, and the retailer plans to ride some of its strongest annual growth in nearly two decades.

Sales declined at Williams-Sonoma in Q1 2020 due to the initial lockdown, but the following three quarters generated positive sales growth. Revenue in Q4 2020, which ended Jan. 31, 2021, reached $2.3 billion, up 25.7% year-over-year.

Williams-Sonoma drove 45% online growth during fiscal 2020, which offset a 24% drop in in-person sales. However, while Alber acknowledged the role ecommerce played in making up for slow brick-and-mortar sales, she still expects the store to be a key component of the retailer’s 2021 success.

“The store traffic’s coming back,” said Alber in an interview with CNBC.  “I think people don’t realize the upside we have in retail.”

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Alber laid out several factors Williams-Sonoma plans to build on in the company’s Q4 2020 earnings report. The company will maintain the momentum of its growth initiatives and the increasing relevance of its key differentiators, as well as ride the recovery in retail traffic and inventory levels. Additionally, the retailer plans to benefit from favorable macro trends including:

  • High consumer confidence;
  • A strong housing market;
  • An accelerating shift to ecommerce;
  • The expected continuation of working from home in some capacity post-pandemic; and
  • The importance of sustainability and values to the consumer.

Williams-Sonoma expects these trends to lead to mid-to-high single-digit revenue growth and operating margin expansion in 2021. In the longer term, the retailer aims to hit $10 billion in net revenue within the next five years, with operating margins at 15%.

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