Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Hotel Shops and Branding


The selection of shops in a luxury hotel can speak volumes about its brand. I thought about this recently as a good friend and I were talking about a new 5 star hotel that opened in a major European capital and their shops. The default solution for hotel retail is often global luxury retailers and I doubt that nowhere is this truer than in Shanghai where it seems every top hotel has LVMH, Hermes, Prada and the like and, equally important, little else.

Today we read about the growing interest of the affluent in authenticity and hotels that offer a sense of place. A great deal of thought and care can go into the selection of hotel décor and artwork for that very reason. So instead of the ubiquitous luxury retailers, why not feature the best of local fashion designers, artists and craftsmen?

When Salvatore Ferragamo opened his Tuscan retreat Il Borro,  not only did he have fine leather, jewelry and woodworking craftsmen, but also, their workshops on site. Granted, that’s difficult for an urban hotel, but how about a shop that is exquisitely curated, similar to the ones found in museums, but where local (note I say local) fashion accessories, beautiful objets, and  gift items are presented and sold?

Some of you might remember what the W hotel in New York did when it opened. It had one of those “concept” like shops which generated a lot of media coverage. It also became a destination in itself, attracting travelers from other hotels and local residents who came, saw, and probably oftentimes stayed for a drink or a meal. Plus, it made a statement that W was creative and hip. More recently, Ace Hotels have done the same.

Getting back to the point about global luxury brands. To be sure, they do offer the benefit of imparting a luxury pedigree (you’re known by the company you keep), but at least one or two hotel shops that are original, creative and of the place can have multiple marketing and sales benefits.

Hotel Shopping Takes a Leap

We’ve come a long, long way from hotel shops as just a place for guests to buy needed or forgotten toiletries and beach items. The first major change was the advent of  shops with curated fashion and jewelry that made a statement about guests’ style and budget as in what would a Peninsula Hotel guest wear? A “W” hotel guest? Later came fashion exclusively designed for the hotel or resort that made a statement about pedigree and the kind of company the resort keeps (as in Christian Louboutin’s espadrilles for One and Only Palmilla). For the Clinton Hotel in South Beach we came up with the idea of a room service lingerie menu which fit in  with our positioning of the hotel being sensual, seductive, with a French touch. Or for the former Regent Bal Harbour, we offered a fashion emergency button on a mobile phone where guests could dial up a dress or suit for the evening from Neiman Marcus. Now, according to the New York Times,  the St.Regis Bal Harbour Resort in Miami Beach has taken this to the next level. When guests check into the hotel they find a closet stocked with clothing that personal shoppers have chosen with them in mind. The clothing is selected by a shopping team at Neiman Marcus based on an online questionnaire guests fill out specifying their  favorite style icons such as the “Mad Men” character Betty Draper. The James Hotel in New York offers something similar: guests find a box of accessories by New York designers chosen by celebrity stylist Mimi Lombardo. And payment? If an item is missing, it’s considered a purchase.