Furniture and home goods retailer West Elm announced it’s expanding into the hospitality business with the launch of branded hotels to be located in Detroit, Minneapolis, Savannah, GA, Charlotte, NC and Indianapolis, with more sites planned for the future.
The hotel rooms and common areas will incorporate design elements from their local communities to “reflect traditional décor, handicraft, cuisine and culture from the region,” West Elm said. Guests will also be able to purchase furnishings and artwork found in any room online.
The West Elm hotels will be run in partnership with hospitality management and development company DDK. The first locations are slated to open in late 2018. Furniture retailer Restoration Hardware is planning a similar hotel in New York City.
In an era when retailers are attempting to figure out how to leverage stores and provide an enhanced customer experience to promote sales both online and off, this is a route with great potential: Hotel guests will be able to buy furniture and decor they see and like based on first-hand interactions and experiences.
Boutique hotels, often smaller sites with decor that reflects more idiosyncratic takes of their designers (frequently tied to local artists and tastes), are increasingly in demand. Boutique hotels have grown in number by 24% over the past six years, but still represent a small percentage — just 2% — of hotels, according to data from analytics company STR cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Commissioning and selling local art and other handcrafted items also fits with West Elm’s track record: It previously worked with young artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design, for example, and has participated in the White House’s “maker event” for artisans and entrepreneurs.
“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,” West Elm president Jim Brett said in a statement. “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.”