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“Catalogue living” comes to Australia

U.S. retailer of high-end cookware and home accessories Williams-Sonoma is set to open its first store in Australia, in Sydney’s Bondi Junction.

For Aussie consumers who want to emulate what is known in America as “catalogue living” — glossy visions of domestic splendor transferred wholesale from high-end decor stores to home (Google the hilarious blog) — this will be welcome news.

Online sales indicate Down Under as prime market

Williams-Sonoma’s move into Australia echoes a number of global retailers lately opening stores in Sydney and Melbourne, including fast-fashion hubs Zara and H&M, as well as Japan’s Uniqlo.

The new store, set to open May 2, will be multi-story and contain a number of Williams-Sonoma’s retail concepts, including furniture store Pottery Barn and decor shop West Elm.

Apparently Australia had proven itself to be the company’s most successful overseas e-commerce market, making it more attractive for opening physical stores, spokesman Craig Nomura told The Australian.

“Outside of the US, Australia is our largest e-commerce market, and for a country that only has 23 million people, that’s quite impressive,” said Mr. Nomura.

A direct competitive threat

But for homegrown Australian chains, the entry of players such as Williams-Sonoma represents a growing threat just as many are recovering from the GFC lows and wavering consumer confidence.

For instance, department store chain Myer (ASX: MYR) and Harvey Norman (ASX: HVN) have only lately returned to growth in terms of sales, with their share prices also posting strong recoveries. Consider the returns of Myer, Harvey Norman and David Jones (ASX: DJS) in the last year against a 16% in the S&P/ASX 200 index (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO), as seen in the chart below. Harvey Norman alone is up some 41%.

DJS, MYR, HVN vs. AXJO

Whether these retailers can compete with the perennially sleek Williams-Sonoma remains to be seen. After all, who hasn’t wished to go and live in those gorgeous sets featured in the Pottery Barn catalogue?

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The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson. Motley Fool writer/analyst Catherine Baab-Muguira does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

 

 

 

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