Dive Brief:

  • Williams-Sonoma home decor brand on Wednesday launched a -focused line, Water Street, that will be available in 100 stores and WestElm.com, according to a company press release.

  • The is designed in-house at West Elm’s Brooklyn headquarters, and will feature 140 products including countertop accessories, shower curtains, mid-century hardware and lighting, and towels. It will also feature beauty products such as bath bombs, soaps and lotions — a category that’s new to the retailer.

  • The retailer tried to plant its stake in bath products for over a decade by selling items like robes, towels and bath mats. However, it exited its operations in that category in 2015 in order to focus on creating Water Street, which is “a more comprehensive line of bath and body products for the home,” a company spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.

Dive Insight:

West Elm has continued to produce strong growth compared to the other brands under the Williams-Sonoma umbrella, and according to CEO, President and Director Laura Alber, expanding beyond home furnishings may have contributed to that success.

On a conference call with investors in November, Alber said West Elm is “balancing our assortment between furniture and nonfurniture,” which is apparent in its product lineup in this private label collection.

Expanding beyond furniture and launching its own line could prove to be successful for the retailer and follows a move many larger retailers are making. Amazon and Target both have a slew of their own private labels in an effort to grab and protect market share, and to differentiate themselves from competitors, including in the home furnishings space. Amazon launched two furniture private labels, Rivet and Stone & Beam, in November 2017, along with home decor brands Ravenna Home and Now House by Jonathon Adler in October. The retailer has built on those recently to include some plays in the mattress space as well.

Target, for its part, has launched several home decor private labels in recent years, including Opalhouse, Made By Design and Project 62, among others.

“The Water Street collection extends our modern, sustainable designs to every room of the home, making us a compelling and accessible destination,” Catherine Schwartz, SVP of merchandising at West Elm, said in a statement.

The bath-centered line also offers greater opportunity to broaden West Elm’s audience due in part to the range of prices. Customers no longer need to be in the market to purchase a $700 coffee table in order to shop with the retailer, but rather have the option to look more casually at lower-priced items like hand towels and soaps. That could also make them more likely to price up to more expensive items when they have the income.

However, experimentation has never been something the retailer has shied away from. West Elm announced a hotel strategy in recent years, and in April confirmed that its boutique hotel in Detroit’s Brush Park will open next year. This, and the new private label, are moves that reflect the retailer is trying to expand beyond selling home furnishings.



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