As e-commerce continues to steal business from bricks and mortar stores and the retail landscape becomes more and more competitive, some retailers are looking at new ways to generate revenue. Multichannel furniture retailer West Elm is one such retailer, diving into the hotel and hospitality space.
West Elm, a division of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. has a strong online retail presence and already operates 93 retail stores in the US, Australia (6), Canada and the UK, ships internationally to customers around the world and operates stores in Mexico, the Middle East and Philippines through unaffiliated franchisees. Last year the company opened a commercial division specialising in office furniture. But the company’s new venture is what has people talking.
West Elm have now expanded its signature new modern aesthetic into the travel and hospitality industry with the launch of West Elm Hotels, a partnership with hospitality management and development company DDK.
The first properties are expected to be located in Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Savannah, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana, and are planned to begin opening in late 2018. Additional locations will be announced in the future.
Although the company has a strong online retail presence, its in-store network is vast. As online retail looks to overtake the traditional physical channels of retail, retailers are looking for new ways to boost and generate income and sell their merchandise. Why not sell to hotels, or better yet, manufacture for your own? It’s pretty clever when you think about it.
In a paper by Eventbrite titled “Millennials: Fueling the Experience Economy” research conducted reveals the millennial generation not only highly values experiences, they’re also increasingly spending more time and money on them. More than 3 in 4 millennials today (78%) say they would choose to spend their money on a desirable experience (of which travel featured highly) or an event over buying something desirable.
With the majority of this generation now in the workforce, it’s quite a clever little strategic move that West Elm are making, targeting millennials and making diving into the travel and leisure space. By 2020, it’s expected that millennials will account for nearly half of all spending on business flights.
West Elm, which opened its first store in Brooklyn in 2002, has grown up with millennials as they have shopped at Ikea, rented apartments and gone on to furnish their own homes. West Elm customers are the kind who Instagram their store purchases. Because of the brand’s strong social media consumer engagement, it has gathered a wealth of data about their preferences, and Jim Brett, president of West Elm says he hopes their brand loyalty with stay with West Elm Hotels.
The other win for the furniture retailer is the changing nature of the hotel business, with the likes of digital disruptors like Airbnb and HomeAway, many travellers today prefer “homelier” hotel spaces rather than the traditional cookie cutter designs. That’s where West Elm comes in. Its model hotel room furnishings will be similar to its inviting homely in-store designs, only more able to withstand increased cleaning and wear.
As part of West Elm’s ongoing commitment and relationship with furniture makers around the world, each West Elm hotel will feature local design elements that celebrate community and reflect traditional décor, handicraft, cuisine and culture from the region. Artwork will be commissioned and curated locally for each guest room as well as for the communal, common areas in each hotel.
“There is a growing desire among modern travellers to immerse themselves in the place they are visiting. They want a boutique experience, and expect great, reliable service that caters to their needs,” said David Bowd, co-founder of DDK. “Our general managers will serve as innkeepers, and West Elm Hotels will focus on making real community connections for visitors and residents alike.”
“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,” said Brett. “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.”
About West Elm
Headquartered in Brooklyn, NY since 2002, West Elm opened its first store in Dumbo, the neighbourhood it still proudly calls home. With the mission of helping customers express their personal style at home, work and away, everything West Elm does is designed to make an impact in everyday life, from creating unique, affordable designs for modern living to its commitment to Fair Trade Certified, from local and handcrafted products to community-driven in-store events and collaborations. In addition to home furnishings retail, West Elm operates West Elm Workspace in the commercial furnishings industry. West Elm publishes the blog Front+Main and is part of an active community online on facebook, Instagram,Pinterest, Tiwtter and YouTube. West Elm is a member of the Williams-Sonoma, Inc. portfolio of brands.