Boutique hotels hold retail opportunities
28 OCTOBER 2015 10:49 AM
Hoteliers with boutique, luxury spaces can maximize revenue and enhance the guest experience by adding high-end retail options.
SANTA MONICA, California—Hoteliers aren’t retailers, and retailers aren’t hoteliers. But the two are positioned to give each other some key advantages.
Peter Whitford, founder and CEO of Parker & Morgan Global, said the personalization possible at boutique hotels, and the loyalty that inspires, present hoteliers with unique opportunities if they’re willing to shift their mindset to retail. That includes even selling things straight from a guestroom.
“People who stay in hotels have the opportunity to try something, experience it, see if they like it. If they do, they often go about making a purchase,” Whitford said during the “How hoteliers are changing the way we shop” panel at the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association Leadership Symposium.
Whitford said a willingness to partner with retailers can open up hoteliers to new sources of revenue and their guests to new experiences at the hotel.
LeeAnn Sauter, founder and CEO of Seaside Luxe, which specializes in creating retail spaces on resort properties, said hoteliers, particularly in the boutique luxury space, are more knowledgeable about their guests than standalone retailers.
“We’re the only retailers in the world who know who is walking through the doors,” Sauter said. “That’s a gift, but it’s a gift that you need to use to exceed their expectations.”
Tara Gorman of law firm Greenberg Traurig agreed that hoteliers need to do a better job using that knowledge for retail properties, but that’s not something they should expect to accomplish on their own.
“Hoteliers are typically not good retailers,” Gorman said. “So that can be a nice partnership.”
Gorman said hoteliers need to put serious thought into with whom they partner and how it fits in with what they’re trying to do on property.
“You have to make sure it fits your standards,” she said. “You don’t want to have a shop that doesn’t fit your image.”
Sauter agreed, noting retailers who move onto a hotel property need to understand the image of that hotel. She said not all retailers will be able to match up to what a hotel wants.
“You don’t want a mono-brand store, because they’ll want to make it all about themselves,” Sauter said.
A unique experience
Sauter and Gorman agreed that adding a unique retail experience represents more than just an additional revenue stream for hoteliers. It can be viewed as an additional amenity that can reinforce the guest experience.
“Retail is really becoming an activity, and it keeps people on the property,” Sauter said. “Ask any concierge, and they’ll tell yo
u 80% of the reason they send guests away from their hotels is for a shopping experience. And that experience they seek out isn’t going to reinforce your brand.”
Sauter said the retail experience needs to be unique for guests on a day-to-day basis. That means hoteliers must be prepared to show guests new items every time they walk through the door.
Where it fits
Sauter said hoteliers also need to understand that retail doesn’t need to be restricted to a single space attached to the hotel lobby.
“Take them on a journey and match it to every single experience on that property,” she said. “If there’s a serenity pool, you should have something that mirrors that by the pool. If there’s a gym, match it up.”
That kind of integrated approach means hoteliers need to consider their retail approach much earlier in development, Gorman said.
“Retail is often an afterthought,” she said. “It really needs to be part of the amenity mix. … Everything about a boutique hotel is an experience, including retail.”