FINANCE

Williams-Sonoma tops estimates

BY Marianne Wilson

Williams-Sonoma Inc. on Wednesday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by a strong performance at its millennial-targeted West Elm division.

The home furnishings retailer's first-quarter earnings were $39.6 million, or 45 cents a share, compared with $39.6 million, or 44 cents a share, in the year-ago period. On an adjusted basis, the company earned 51 cents a share. Analysts had forecast earnings of 49 cents a share.

Net revenues increased 1.2% to $1.112 billion, from $1.098 billion in the year-ago period. E-commerce net revenues increased 0.7% to $581 million. Online sales generated 52.2% of total company net revenues in the quarter, compared to 52.5% of total net revenues last year.

Same-store sales inched up 0.1%. By brand, same-store sales rose 3.2% at Williams-Sonoma and 6% at West Elm. Comp sales fell 1.4% at Pottery Barn, 5.7% at Pottery Barn Kids and 14.3% at PB Teen.

"In the first quarter, we saw strong sequential improvement in the Pottery Barn brand, demonstrating the effectiveness of the brand initiatives that we are implementing," said Laura Alber, CEO, Williams-Sonoma. "West Elm, our newer businesses (Rejuvenation and Mark and Graham), and our company-owned global operations delivered another quarter of double-digit growth, and Williams Sonoma started the year off strongly. We also continued to realize positive results from our supply chain initiatives, as we drive continuous improvements across the organization to deliver increased efficiencies and a superior customer experience.”

As of Jan. 29, Williams-Sonoma operated 629 stores under several banners.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Twitter features fun — not transactional — bot program

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A social media giant is getting in on the chatbot wave.

Twitter launched a new, customizable Direct Message Card that brands can use to promote and share bots and other customer experiences built in its Direct Messages tool. Direct Messages helps companies create personalized ads and interactions — ranging from customer acquisition programs to engaging bots.

Specifically, a Direct Message Card enables businesses to engage users via images or video creatives. This content can include up to four fully customizable call-to-action buttons that take the user into a specific bot experience within Direct Messages. Retailers can also target the content by using Twitter Ads, which is designed to find a relevant audience to pull into personalized conversations at scale, Twitter said.

Unlike bots that solve customer service issues, these focus on getting people to interact with the brand through a private messaging experience. With a focus on fun and engagement more than transactions, according to Twitter, the tool helps companies turn their audience into advocates. Brands can also encourage users to share the “bot” experience in their own voice through a Tweet.

The bot is currently in limited beta tests with Twitter advertisers, one being e-commerce shopping app, JollyChic. Using a Direct Message Card called #JollyRamadan, the app target customers in select markets with special discount coupons for purchases, then enables customers to shop the sale of the day, browse retail options, contact customer service for support, and download the JollyChic app via Direct Messages.

Meanwhile, Patron used the Direct Message Card to create its messaging bot, called “Bot-Tender.” The virtual mixologist creates personalized cocktail recommendations based on responses to questions around occasion, flavor, even emojis.

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C-SUITE

New Nordstrom board member could bolster innovation

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A luxury retail giant just made a move that could step up its digital efforts.

Nordstrom appointed Stacy Brown-Philpot to its board of directors, and she will also serve as a member of the board’s finance and technology committees. She replaces Enrique 'Rick' Hernandez, Jr., who announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking re-election.

Brown-Philpot has been CEO of freelance job site TaskRabbit since April 2016. Prior to taking on this role, she was the company's COO. Before joining TaskRabbit in 2013, she spent the latter half of 2012 as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at GV, the venture capital investment arm of Alphabet, Inc.

She also spent nearly a decade at Google in various roles, including senior director of global consumer operations. Here, she also oversaw online sales and operations. Brown-Philpot has also served as a senior analyst at Goldman Sachs and senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

This is not Brown-Philpot’s first seat on a corporate board. She has been on HP’s board of directors since 2015.

Overall, Nordstrom hopes to leverage Brown-Philpot’s knowledge in the digital space. “Stacy brings a breadth of unique innovation, operational, and entrepreneurial experience to our Board," said Phil Satre, chairman of the board of directors for Nordstrom. "We're thrilled to have her join us and look forward to adding her e-commerce expertise as we work to improve the omnichannel shopping experience for our customers."

With a stronger focus on innovation, the company could explore new practices aimed at boosting dipping in-store sales. For its first fiscal quarter ended April 29, 2017, Nordstrom’s total net sales increased 2.7% to $3.3 billion. While same-store sales fell 0.8%, online sales accounted for 24% of total net sales during the period.

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