Fifty2, The MPB Project: Williams Sonoma

Fifty2 Williams Sonoma Front“Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project,” will present a carefully curated look at the best Private Brands in the U.S. across all retail channels. The weekly series looks at each great Private Brand with insight, analysis and original photography. Fifty2 The MPB Project LogoIn early 2014, these will be published as my first book along with several new chapters that focus on strategy, packaging and design learnings from the included brands.

I am looking for retailer-owned private labels that are BRANDS – brands that bring their positioning and business purpose to life through great design, purpose, expertise, confidence, emotion, lifestyle and innovation.

Williams Sonoma
In 1947, Chuck Williams arrived in Sonoma, California with the idea of building homes—first as a contractor, later as the owner of a hardware store, and finally as the visionary founder of the first Williams-Sonoma store for cooks. In 1953, Williams and a group of friends vacationed in Paris and discovered classic French cooking equipment like omelet pans and soufflé molds whose quality surpassed anything he had seen in the U.S.

Accordng to Williams, “Cookware stores like Dehillerin or the housewares section of Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville in Paris were unlike anything most Americans had ever seen. I was completely fascinated not only by the vast array of kitchen tools and accessories, but also how they were displayed. Pots and pans in every conceivable shape and size, all out in the open.”

In 1954, Williams purchased a hardware store in downtown Sonoma, California with the goal of converting it into a store, which specialized in French cookware. Within a few years the building tools had been replaced by cooking tools and the first Williams-Sonoma was born.

In the decades that followed, Williams-Sonoma expanded and became a cooking destination in towns and cities across America. During that same time, Williams-Sonoma private brand products debuted in stores and quickly brought to life the specialty, quality products that Williams discovered in Paris.

The simple, yet bold package designs are current and fresh each creating a unique brand statement that reflects the individual personality of the product. It builds on the overarching Williams-Sonoma brand by reinforcing the unique, artisanal, approachable and exceptional quality of the Williams-Sonoma brand.

The Williams-Sonoma private brand serves as the ultimate expression of founder Chuck Williams’ original vision. It has become the ultimate differentiator and the trusted brand for both professional and home cooks to help them cook a great meal.

Brand: Williams-Sonoma
Brand Focus:
Gourmet & Specialty Food, Cookware & Accessories
San Francisco, California
2013 Stores: 254


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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.