Designing the Future of Retail at Williams Sonoma
By Beth Hyland
American Builders Quarterly
15 March 2018
Photos courtesy of Gillian Fry, Williams-Sonoma
CED alumna Theresa Joy Hannig (B.Arch ‘12) works as the director of store design at Williams Sonoma, creating spaces that engage customers through the five senses.
“Our stores are so much more than a store, and they invigorate the senses more than other retailers can,” Hannig said. “In a Pottery Barn, you can hear the sound of an instructor teaching you how to make pressed flowers, and then in a Williams Sonoma, you have the smells of the cooking, and you can run your hand over all of our amazing textiles. It’s very visceral.”
Hannig’s passion for design and architecture began at an early age. “I think if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was five, I said ‘architect,’” Hannig shared. “I don’t remember not being interested in architecture. I’ve always loved buildings and creating experiences for people.”
Although she did not envision a career in retail design when she began her studies at UC Berkeley, Hannig believes she couldn’t have found a better university to prepare her for her current role.
“Berkeley as an institution encourages students to question norms, and seek a spirit of newness and innovation, and those are all things you need in the competitive retail space,” Hannig said. “The architecture program specifically is very process-oriented and research-based. Every aspect of your design has to be rationalized, analyzed, and have a purpose, which is perfect training for retail.”
Hannig was introduced to the role by a professor who recalled her interest in cooking. She was offered the position almost immediately, and began work her junior year. Hannig worked throughout the remainder of college and has been with the company ever since.
While at Williams Sonoma, Hannig has opened a series of Pottery Barn Teen pop-up stores across the country, worked in construction, and finally, assumed a role in design.
Currently, Hannig is responsible for Williams Sonoma, Williams Sonoma Home, all of the Pottery Barn imprints, and Rejuvenation. Each branch has a different set of materials used in the store to create a distinct look.
“For Pottery Barn, it’s all about the wood,” Hannig said, whereas Williams Sonoma stores are more focused on “leveraging the architecture” that already exists.
“We really embrace the architecture of the building, and we think about what that area is known for and get local, salvaged materials. Our customers really love this — they love the story of it,” Hannig said.
In a changing retail market, Hannig states that Williams Sonoma is coordinating its in-person and online presence. “Everyone is changing the way they’re shopping,” she said. “We all love being able to look things up online, compare prices, read reviews, and find the best thing.”
“Our online and retail spaces are completely integrated with each other,” Hannig said. “The great thing about home goods is they’re so dimensional, physical, and hands-on, and I think that’s our differentiator.”
Read the full article here.