Williams-Sonoma Inc., the owner of kitchenware stores and the Pottery Barn home decor retail chain, has hired Goldman Sachs to explore strategic options, which could include the sale of the company, people familiar with the matter said Tuesday.
Goldman declined to comment. San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma didn't return several calls seeking comment.
Williams-Sonoma's contact with Goldman is seen to be in its early stages, and sources were not aware of any buyers at the doorstep. But sources said the company was expected to attract the interest of private equity firms drawn to its popular brand, cash flow and prime real estate.
Williams-Sonoma, which has a market capitalization of about $4 billion, has faced competition in its Pottery Barn chain as cheaper retailers such as Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. offer similar merchandise at lower prices.
The company faces pressure from the slowing housing market, which has damped consumer demand for high-ticket furniture and other household items. It also endured a difficult and price-competitive holiday shopping season.