Picture a hotel gift shop and you probably picture emergency toiletries, bland baseball caps and perhaps a snowglobe or two.
Recently, however, these boutiques have been rebooted. The Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort on Moorea now stocks trendy French Polynesian-style dresses, for instance, while recently, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand debuted Goop Sundries – a trendy gift shop inside California’s Rosewood Miramar Beach. Sleek and aspirational, it sells everything from beauty products to books.
Although Goop Sundries typifies the hotel gift shop’s evolution, partnering with a luxury name is far from the only new tack hoteliers can consider. There are other approaches to ponder – and ample reasons to do so.
Shops needn’t be permanent. The Loews Regency New York opened a pop-up store in association with department store Bloomingdale during December, while Pellicano Hotels was even more inventive last summer: teaming up with MatchesFashion.com to turn a 1930s yacht into a clothes and accessories boutique.
“It was simply more dynamic [than a normal gift shop],” answers Pellicano Hotels’ Creative Director, Marie-Louise Sciò, when asked about the benefits, “and, as nobody did a pop-up on a boat before, very innovative!” Proving her right, the collaboration scored much precious publicity.
The boat toured Pellicano’s properties, ensuring maximum guest exposure, and its offerings were carefully compiled. “I did the edit personally,” confirms Sciò, “together with [renowned fashion editor] Robert Rabensteiner. The range reflected our hotels’ timeless style.”
Reinforcing brand values
Brand messaging also directly underpins the gift store of Le Boutik Hotel, in Annecy, southeastern France, where guests may purchase items first encountered in bedrooms. According to director Benoit Lange, this same showroom-style structure anchored the 1980s’ original boutique-hotel concept, which was in turn inspired by 1940s junk dealers selling furniture from their San Francisco homes. Le Boutik effectively does the same, only with new goods.
“Guests can buy everything from mattresses to breakfast plates,” outlines Lange. As well as underlining the hotel’s ethos this, he says, has another advantage. “Seeing objects in situ lets customers better appreciate their value.” A 15% discount at the store further encourages revenue.
Similar guest-exposure merchandise models are becoming common at other hotels – sometimes only involving select items. At The Talbot in northern England, for example, 100 Acres toiletries provided in rooms - in big bottles which visitors are asked not to pilfer - are sold downstairs.
What to sell?
In Cambodia, the rationale behind a new ‘Shop With A ♥’ at the Bensley Collection’s luxury jungle lodge, Shinta Mani Wild, is simple: to boost a budget for conservation work in the surrounding Cardamom Mountains. Selling items such as elephant opium weights, the outlet follows another in sister hotel Shinta Mani Siem Reap, all of whose profits support poverty-stricken local families.
While the aim to turn a dollar is charitable rather than corporate, this still necessitates business acumen. “It is a shop, after all, so we make careful decisions based on sales analysis, the quality of items and what we think people will buy,” describes Brad Akins, executive director of the Shinta Mani Foundation.
Turnover has been good, he says, and aided by limited overheads. “The only expenditure is on salaries and benefits for a few staff, some modest materials costs like wrapping paper and payments to suppliers.”
The self-service route
Reduced overheads is also one appeal of Impulsify, a tech company that crafts bespoke, self-service gift shops helping hotels to save on staffing demands and, sometimes, space. It recently designed the new Marketplace concept being rolled out in North American outposts of Crowne Plaza: one-stop convenience stops selling travel essentials, snacks and beverages.
Quizzed about the Crowne Plaza Milwaukee Airport’s new Marketplace, General Manager Mat Meadows is very positive. “Our revenue has increased 155%,” he declares. “The convenience of paying at a terminal or charging to bedrooms without waiting in line has been a huge guest-pleaser. Prior to the Marketplace we had a smaller gift shop with a less diverse product mix, which wasn’t nearly as attractive.”
The shop requires little maintenance, freeing up employees. “Our staff rearrange product when certain items aren’t moving,” he says, “but that doesn’t happen much.” Have there been any downsides? “Only the upfront costs,” he answers, plus “some construction mess” upon implementation. “Since then, the subsequent performance speaks for itself.”
- Contemporary hotel gift shops are now selling desirable, artisan products rather than generic souvenir items
- Pop-up shops offer a way to make a profit and generate publicity without the long-term costs
- Gift shops can reinforce brand style or messaging, and sell items which guests have already sampled in their bedrooms – perhaps at a discounted rate
- Whether profits go towards the business or charities, there is still a need to carefully monitor what is selling
- Reducing overheads aids profit – with one option being a largely unstaffed self-service gift shop at which guests can pay by card and charge goods to their rooms