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Williams-Sonoma cooks up e-commerce site

The home furnishings retailer unveils its new Web store, which allows customers to purchase the company's cookware and kitchen furnishings.

    Williams-Sonoma today unveiled its new Web store, which allows customers to purchase the company's cookware and kitchen furnishings as well as offering recipes and gift ideas.

    As reported earlier by CNET News.com, the home furnishings retailer was offering such items as flatware, food processors, and baking dishes to customers of its online wedding registry. Today the company opened up such sales to the general public. It also is expected to offer sales through Epicurious, the food site maintained by media firm Conde Nast, which publishes Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

    A Williams-Sonoma representative was not immediately available to comment.

    With the launch of its site, Williams-Sonoma joins a host of upscale brick-and-mortar retailers that have recently jumped online. In the last two weeks, Banana Republic launched a Web store, Nordstrom.com opened the doors to its virtual shoe store, and Dayton Hudson introduced beta sites for its Dayton's, Hudson's, and Marshall Field's chains.

    The retailers have rushed to get online in time for what's expected to be a record-breaking holiday sales season. Meanwhile, other traditional retail leaders have decided to sit this year out. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Best Buy recently announced they will not expand their Web stores until early next year.

    And not all offline retailers have had success online. Levi Strauss last week said it plans to get out of direct e-commerce sales after the holidays. Instead it will move its product lines to selected online retailers, including JCPenney and Macys.

    Williams-Sonoma opened its bridal and gift registry in June, teaming with gift registry site Della & James. That same month, the company announced its relationship with Epicurious.

    As part of the deal, Epicurious readers will have one-click access to Williams-Sonoma's Web store, and Epicurious will promote Williams-Sonoma's products on its site.