Are hotels the next big retail space? West Elm and Shinola think so
By Carlene Thomas Bailey

Furniture company West Elm and retailer Shinola watches are both moving into the travel and hospitality industry with new hotel openings in Detroit.

Oct 03, 2016
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The next time you book a travel trip, you might notice that the interior of the hotel room where you are resting your head looks vaguely familiar. The bookcase or the luxury leather goods dotted around the room will probably come from your favourite retail spaces. Why? Well two big retailers are moving into the travel industry.

This week West Elm announced that it would be rolling out a chain of hotels, kickstarting in Detroit. And, Shinola Watches is also launching a Detroit hotel (the brand is based there) that will be available for booking from autumn 2018.

West Elm Hotel

West Elm Hotel

Speaking about the retail move, Jim Brett, president of West Elm said: “After twenty-six consecutive quarters of double-digit comparative growth, including our successful entry into the commercial furnishings market with West Elm Workspace, we’ve created an active bond with our customers that can extend beyond home and work. By adapting the framework design of each hotel to reflect the mood and identity of its host city, we will continue to engage the adventurous spirit of our customers as they follow us to our next level of hospitality.”

This savvy retail move shows the way that brands and retailers are branching out and providing a full-service experience for their consumers. Brands want you to be in their universe, not just their store, and by expanding their retail offerings outside of the traditional brick and mortar option, they hope consumers will buy into the full ethos of the brand. You’ll sleep on the pillows, look at the bookcase, see the product merchandised in an innovative way, and want to invest, or that’s at least what they are hoping.

Location is also interesting, as we predicted in our report Hyper-Local Hotels (subscribers check it out here) the latest wave of boutique hotels will use their hotels to tell the story of their locations and create an authentic sense of place through clear design signatures. We’re seeing this with the proposed Shinola hotel, which as the website claims, will “combine the best of two Detroit-based companies – Shinola’s high-quality American built craftsmanship and Bedrock’s development and urban revitalization expertise – to provide a unique experience worthy of the city itself.”

And these boutique hotels/large scale retailer outposts aren’t just headed to Detroit. West Elm plans to open in Minneapolis, Savannah, Charlotte, and Indianapolis.

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