Features

Spotlight on: homeware hotels

As retailers look towards the future, a new concept within the hospitality industry is emerging - homeware hotels. Click. explores the impact of blurring the industries’ lines

With 1.4 billion trips having taken place globally in 2018, it’s no wonder there’s a growing group of retailers eager to secure a slice of the tourism industry. Entering the hotel sector creates an opportunity for brands to branch out beyond their concept stores, reaching new audiences and showcasing their products in a unique way as a result.

Try before you buy

Homeware hotels allow consumers to try products before committing to the purchase. Vipp, a retailer who specialises in kitchens, among other homeware products, recently entered the accommodation industry by creating Vipp Hotel - a concept that places potential customers in an interactive showroom. “We wanted to open our doors to our audience and ... simply invite people inside our world, let them live with and test our products,” says Kasper Egelund, Managing Director, Vipp. “The kitchen is a big investment and we thought it was only fair to let people try before eventually buying it. We were inspired by the car industry where you always take a test drive before choosing the final model.”

“You cannot fool the consumer. If it works it works, if not it doesn’t. Our potential customers can touch, feel and test our products like they would in everyday life, and the verdict comes straight afterwards. Furthermore, it shows the customer how Vipp products can come to life in various settings - something which is difficult to do in a normal store.”

The model allows retailers turned hoteliers to create guest rooms that are completely shoppable and therefore profitable

Targeting the hospitality industry also gives retailers the power to create entirely new product experiences. Muji, a Japanese homeware company, recently opened the doors of its first hotels - seeking to provide a physical experience of the Muji philosophy.

“Customers will have an opportunity to become more acquainted with various Muji goods and services through experience at Muji Hotel,” says Hiroyoshi Azami, Executive Officer of Social Good Business Unit, Ryohin Keikaku. “As travel became part of our daily lives we included Muji to go travel items. Meanwhile we developed housing and space designing services. They go beyond retail but still follow our philosophy. These goods and services have led us to the hotel space by necessity.”

This ‘try before you buy’ strategy benefits brands as well as consumers, with retailers referring to guest feedback in their product development. “It gives us a lot of information and feedback on our products and design,” says Egelund. “For example how durable they are and whether they live up to people’s expectations.”

The model also allows retailers turned hoteliers to create guest rooms that are completely shoppable and therefore profitable. The key to this, however, is striking a balance between the retail and hotel experience, ensuring that product placement doesn’t come across too obtrusive. Egelund accomplished this by working with “the best architects and interior designers, who know how to balance these things out.”

Exploring partnerships

Homeware retailers are also partnering with properties to establish an identity in the hospitality industry, selling the brand experience without the commitment of running their own hotel. The Boathouse, a boutique ‘boatel’ in London, recently partnered with homeware retailer Made.com to curate a unique stay for guests that steers away from the traditional design of canal boats. The concept creates a living catalogue for Made.com, who’s products influenced the design. “The boats [are built] from scratch, which means that everything from the engineered oak flooring to the door handles in the kitchen are handpicked,” says Cara Furby, Founder of The Boathouse. “Made.com’s products were picked to suit the style and function of the boat.” 

Image
Photo credit: Vipp

Photo credit: Vipp 

The advantages for the retailer are obvious, but what are the benefits for a hotelier or homeowner who is considering partnering with a brand? “I think [the collaboration] works amazingly for both parties,” says Furby. “For the Boathouse, Made.com is so in line with our style and allows us to stay on trend with each new boat we design, as well as giving us the confidence of using such a high quality product. The fact that our customers are already very familiar with Made.com helps to give us recognition as a high end brand.”

By offering guests the opportunity to purchase goods directly from the property, homeware hotels are padding their bottom line with upsells. And while it seems that brands are less interested in disrupting the hotel industry than they are in increasing consumer reach, it plants ideas that are worth taking note of - such as teaming up with designers to introduce a bespoke range of homewares themselves, as Soho House has done with their range of Soho Home products.

Les Ateliers de Montmartre Guesthouse have also created a shopping experience within their property by teaming up with local and international artists to display and sell their photographs and images - imitating this strategy in a way that not only benefits the property owner, but also the local community and the guest.


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Hero image: credit to Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash

Takeaway
  • By entering the hospitality industry, retailers are able to expose their products to a new audience of potential customers
  • The concept is beneficial to brands and consumers - allowing guests to try before they buy and helping brands with future product development
  • More and more retailers are also partnering with hotels to gain the same benefits, without the commitment of operating their own hotel
  • By partnering with brands, hoteliers are also benefiting from new clientele that are familiar with the brand and want to experience their products in a new way

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