A Solid Fourth Quarter for Sonoma

Fourth-quarter sales for cataloger/retailer Williams-Sonoma increased 8.1%, to 1.09 billion, up from $1.008 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008. The kitchen and home product’s merchant’s same-store sales rose 7.6%.

Retail sales increased 7.9%, to $692 million, from $641 million the year before. Williams-Sonoma’s direct-to-customer sales (catalog/Internet) increased 8.4%, to $398 million, compared to $367 million for the period in 2008. Internet sales rose 14.9%, to $309 million, compared to $269 million in the prior fourth quarter.

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2010, the company’s sales fell 7.7%, to $3.10 billion, from $3.36 billion for fiscal 2008. Same-store sales dropped 5.1%. Retail sales decreased 4.3%, to $1.87 billion, compared to $1.96 billion. Direct-to-consumer sales sank 12.5%, to $1.22 billion, compared to $1.39 billion.

“While our fourth-quarter results were substantially better than we expected given the continuing fragility of the economy, in 2010 we will continue to garner the benefits of the strategic and tactical initiatives that drove our success in the fourth quarter,” said chairman/CEO Howard Lester said in a release. “It is gratifying to look back at these initiatives and see the amount of change we were able to execute in such a short period of time.”

During the most severe recession in recent history, Lester added, “we delivered the highest operating contribution in the history of our direct-to-customer segment, reduced our non-GAAP SG&A expense rate to an all time low, strategically reduced inventory while gaining market share, and generated more cash in one year than ever before.”