Bedrooms to showrooms: Blurring the boundaries between hotels and retail

 —  Article by Kelsey Burgess
Interior design: Big modernhotel Bedroom
Image credit: Shutterstock

Ever stayed in a hotel room where the mattress is so comfortable you wished you could take it home?

It’s a concept that retailer West Elm is exploring with its new chain of boutique hotels all kitted out with the brand’s bedroom furniture ranges, light fixtures and linen along with locally commissioned artwork to give each room an individual touch.

And while there won’t be price tags hanging from the handles, guests will be able to buy any furnishings that catch their eye through the company’s website or app, enabling them to bring the best of their travel experience into their home environments.

For West Elm, which plans to open its first hotels in Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, North Carolina and Indiana in late 2018, the new venture aims to sustain its growth without opening an army of new stores. The furniture retailer, which currently has 100 outlets across the U.S., has high hopes with West Elm president Jim Brett telling the Wall Street Journal that the company eventually hopes to have as many hotels as stores.

The evolving shopping experience

The move is part of a wider trend in which retailers are reinventing their brands to meet changing consumer expectations,

“Retailers need to differentiate the way they engage shoppers,” Naveen Jaggi, President of JLL Retail Brokerage and Capital Markets explains. “West Elm launching its boutique hotel concept and thinking beyond their store’s four walls will extend their brand experience to loyal shoppers as they travel, and create new brand awareness for shoppers who may not be familiar with it.”

As retail becomes more experiential, consumers are embracing the opportunity to browse and try out products in different ways.

“The customer is going to benefit from this concept of try before you buy,” says Steve Jones, retail practice group lead, JLL Project and Development Services. “It’s very similar to the rental car industry, if you fall in love with the way a car looks or drives when you rent it from the company, you can purchase it the next time you are in the market for a car.”

A future growth area?

West Elm’s entry into the hotel space is the latest in a growing line of ventures bringing together the hospitality and retail industries. Major hotel brands like Marriot, Hyatt and Starwood have been marketing bedding, pillows, linens and other products for years.

In reverse, some retailers like Restoration Hardware, Waterworks and others have developed collections specifically targeted to the hotel sector.

However, it could well be a growth area in years to come. “The hospitality industry has a captive audience of retail consumers, so there’s a real opportunity for collaboration between hotels and retailers looking to promote and sell their products,” says David Black, hotel practice group lead, JLL Project and Development Services.

With benefits for both sides, retailers and hotel groups will be watching the West Elm project with interest.

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