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Lo-res_mhhe022503-SAccording to Williams-Sonoma, the high-end kitchen wares retailer has “always been about building a sense of community around food.” Thus to the chain’s executives, its Artisans’ Market program is simply an extension of the sorts of programs it has always maintained.

Over the past several years, Williams-Sonoma has invited local producers to showcase their foods or drinks in individual stores. The program currently includes 75 stores around the country, and it promises the local producers an opportunity to share their products throughout the entire roster of the company’s 240 stores nationwide.

In Portland for example, Jacobsen Salt Co. started with an introduction in the Artisans’ Market and currently sells dozens of its products exclusively through Williams-Sonoma’s retail stores. Rather than relying on farmers’ markets or online sales, the companies thus receive vast exposure to captive audiences of high potential consumers who—simply by virtue of entering Williams-Sonoma stores—are clearly interested in high-end and artisanal food.

As noted, Williams-Sonoma refers to the program as a continuation of its existing commitment to local food movements. It also runs an awards program, called Good Food, that highlights and presents awards to food producers that manufacture their small-batch products in socially and environmentally responsible ways.

Of course, Williams-Sonoma is not the only retailer to offer praise to local suppliers of good foods. Grocers such as Kroger, Meijer, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods dedicate shelves to local products. Both Whole Foods and Kroger also host events that allow local growers and producers to present their products to shoppers.

Williams-Sonoma differs mainly in its target market. That is, people visit these stores not to stock up on their weekly grocery supplies but rather to find something special or consider the purchase of a high-tech coffee maker, sophisticated sous vide machine, or expensive copper pot. The target market is thus specific, appealing, and likely to include foodies who love to know about what local growers are doing.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Williams-Sonoma do to provide an enriched customer experience?
  2. Would these activities bring you into its stores?
  3. Would it enhance your loyalty to Williams-Sonoma?
  4. Do you believe you would buy more as a result of these activities?

Source: Tom Ryan, Retail Wire, January 20, 2016