Could hotels be the new sales platform for brands?


hotels retail for small brands by estila

With the never-ending discussion on the death of the high street coupled with the death rattle of recession, it is easy to get a little miserable as a small business, but could hotels be your new sales channel for your products?

If you are still trying to figure out what could help you grow your sales, this retail trend, that has been emerging in various forms, is now becoming a little more common place. Modern-day hotels and the hospitality trade in general constantly look for ways to differentiate themselves and provide that extra something to keep them ahead of the pack.

But this is a two-way street as brands, particularly fashion and lifestyle brands are opening hotels too. Recently fashion magazine Elle opened its first hotel – The Maison Elle Paris – indicative of how fashion, design and hospitality is all merging into a single platform of lifestyle branding.

Some brands have been blurring the hospitality-lifestyle boundary successfully for some time. Soho House has been using its design forward branding to market homeware, inviting clients to shop the Soho look via Soho Home. Maison Flaneur also invites readers to Shop the Look in its case focussing on lifestyle hotel brands like Inhabit, while luxury hotel group Rosewood is planning to follow suit with plans to pivot its portfolio into a luxury lifestyle brand.

Taking a more direct approach is the emergence of marketing platforms which are following through on this trend and literally making the hotel room shoppable. Minoan, based in America, has already established itself in guesthouses, lodges and Airbnb, inviting guests to experience and then buy. It also incentivises property owners to participate while its deal with all the online bureaucracy and logistics.

Here in the UK Libi (Love it, Buy it) is doing something similar. If you love the mattress in your hotel room, or that poster or bedside lamp simply focus your phone, click on the QR code and by the time you get home it will be there waiting for you.

This reinforces what retail forecasters like Mary Portas have been saying, firmly believing that the appetite for physical retail is on the rise after a few years of enforced online shopping. In the ESTILA design retail report a similar point is made as it digs a little deeper into what concepts like experiential retail actually mean in real terms as a marketing tool.

While physical retail might be on the rise, so too are customer expectations. The brand story becomes increasingly key along with the experiential factor of the retail experience. Curated spaces and creativity that inspire are key to this process.

The good news for small creative businesses is that while hotels and holiday rentals transform themselves into immersive shop windows and store fronts, a whole new shop window is opening up for them too. No longer content with a holiday souvenir fridge magnet – unless it’s a cool graphically designed mid century modern one of course – the cushion on the couch, the throw on the bed, the art on the wall, all become merchandise and points of sale and as such, an important thread for designers and artists to explore.

This merging of hospitality and retail feeds into changing social habits we are seeing, as time and leisure become the new luxury. Shopping in itself is no longer necessarily the end point or destination, but rather a by-product of an experience, a holiday, an evening out. These various platforms are allowing people the ultimate luxury of being on holiday, relaxing and shopping all at the same time and the brand and the lifestyle are inextricably linked.

Takeaway:  Explore these platforms, check out your local Airbnb and boutique hotels and see where your brand and story merges with theirs and the magic of brand collaboration can do its thing.

Written by Pauline de Villiers Brettell

Pauline is a designer, writer, and curator of the website Tea in Tangier. When she isn’t researching and writing content, you can find her scouring the souks and working with artisans in Morocco sourcing textiles for clients and designers around the world.

Follow Pauline: IG @teaintangier