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By Published on .

Rather than rush to join the ranks of clicks-and-bricks retailers, Williams-Sonoma was content to market its upscale housewares through its 347 stores and prized catalog mailing lists.

When it finally went online late last year, its e-commerce Web site (williams-sonoma.com) not only won a Clio for site design, it built its customer base, as well.

During its first six months online, Williams-Sonoma outperformed expectations, says Shelley Nandkeolyar, 42, VP-e-commerce, who joined Williams-Sonoma last summer from Levi Strauss & Co., where he was also involved in e-commerce.

Especially rewarding was the fact that 35% of Internet buyers were new to the Williams-Sonoma database. About 9% had shopped Williams-Sonoma in the past, but not recently, returning to the fold via the Web.

Williams-Sonoma also formed portal partnerships with CondeNet's food and cooking site, Epicurious.com, and Della.com, an online gift registry.

In its first three months, Williams-Sonoma's wedding and gift registry, which was supported with a print advertising campaign, recorded an 87% increase in total registries for Williams-Sonoma. That helped attract some 175,000 visitors in the first five weeks.

The wedding registry is the cornerstone of the site accounting for 40% to 50% of sales, Mr. Nandkeolyar says.

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