Dec. 5 - US retailer Williams-Sonoma opens its first store in the UK just weeks after J Crew arrived in London. Hayley Platt reports on why a London store remains a must have for top retailers?
From Brooklyn to Britain. West Elm opens its first European store in the UK's capital. It follows J. Crew - the U.S. fashion retailer which opened in London just last month. Part of the Williams-Sonoma group, it sells furniture, textiles and gifts. Laura Alber, the group's CEO, says West Elm is just the beginning. SOUNDBITE: Laura Alber, CEO Williams-Sonoma Inc., saying (English): "We're looking now to fill out the United Kingdom and with Pottery Barn specifically and we're going to be launching e-commerce for West Elm in the new year." The group operates around 600 stores globally, the majority are in the States. But it's branching out. Earlier this year it opened its first store in Australia. And it has a franchise partnership in the Middle East. But it's keen to crack the British market and says it won't apply the same pricing strategy as J. Crew. The U.S. retailer upset many by applying a straight forward dollar/pound conversion, making identical items more expensive to buy in Britain than in America. Jim Brett is West Elm's president. SOUNDBITE: Jim Brett, President, West Elm, saying (English): "Our product here are a range of prices in comparison to the U.S., some are higher, some are lower, some are the same and that's based on the fact that the competitive set here is quite different than it is in the U.S.." That will be some comfort to British shoppers, many of whom welcome the invasion of American retailers. SOUNDBITE: Rachel Lonergan, saying (English): "I really enjoy the product and the things that they bring so why not open here." SOUNDBITE: Rachel Lonergan, saying (English): "I think people think they're buying the American dream when they buy into those brands." The UK economy is continuing to grow. But consumer confidence is still weak. And increased competition during the all-important Christmas period, is probably the last thing UK retailers need.