US retailer cooks up UK entry

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Williams-Sonoma, the upmarket US home furnishings and gourmet cookware chain, is plotting to launch in the UK next year, despite the dire turbulent conditions on the high street.

The US retail group, which has 560 retail stores in the US and Canada, has appointed a UK retail property agent in the past week and plans to open its first store in the first half of next year. Ideally, Williams-Sonoma would like to make its debut in London and is thought to want shops sized between 5,000 sq ft and 8,000 sq ft.

Its most likely competitors in the UK would be John Lewis, Lakeland and The White Company. Another US home furnishings chain CB2 – the stablemate of the homewares giant Crate & Barrel – is also targeting the UK.

Listed in New York, Williams-Sonoma employs more than 7,700 staff and operates 255 eponymous, 180 Pottery Barn and 90 Pottery Barn Kids stores. It also has subsidiary brands including Williams-Sonoma Home and West Elm. The group grew pre-tax profits by 9.2 per cent to $323.1m, on sales of $3.5bn, for the year to January 30, 2011.

Its founder Chuck Williams opened his first shop in Sonoma, Northern California, in 1956 after falling in love with French cookware on a vacation to Paris.