West Elm Launching A Hotel Chain Where Guests Can Test Drive Furnishings, Buy Online

Image courtesy of West Elm

Ever looking inside a West Elm catalogue and just wanted to curl up on the masterfully made bed or read a book on stylish chaise? Soon you can, as the home furnishing company plans to launch a chain a boutique hotels instead of more bricks-and-mortar stores. 

Williams-Sonoma Inc., which owns and operates West Elm, Williams-Sonoma, and Pottery Barn, announced Monday that it would enter the hospitality industry with West Elm HOTELS with properties set to open in Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, North Carolina, Indianapolis, and Indiana in late 2018.

Through the venture, a partnership with hospitality management company DDK, West Elm will design, furnish, and market the hotels, giving it an alternative avenue to feature its plethora of home goods — from bedding to furniture and decor items.

Unlike other retailers that continue opening physical stores to highlight their goods, West Elm president Jim Brett tells the Wall Street Journal that his company is using the hotels as a different path to sales and growth.

“Where many retail brands have put the nail in their coffins is by opening too many stores,” Brett said, noting that he doesn’t see West Elm opening another 100 locations.

Guests staying in the hotels will have the opportunity to essentially test drive furniture and other decor items featured in the rooms and then purchase them through West Elm’s online store. But guests shouldn’t feel they’ll be sleeping in a store’s showroom. Instead, the company says price tags will be hidden.

Additionally, each hotel is expected to feature a local design element specific to the city where the boutique is located, with artwork displayed in the rooms curated from local artists. Williams-Sonoma says this will “celebrate community and reflect traditional décor, handicraft, cuisine, and culture from the region.”

While the hotels aren’t expected to open for nearly two years, room rates are estimated to start at $175 and exceed $400 for luxury suites, the WSJ reports, with each location holing between 100 to 250 rooms.

West Elm isn’t the first home goods retailer to jump into the hospitality industry. Restoration Hardware is planing to open a hotel in New York City, the WSJ reports.

Analysts say those two companies could soon be joined by others as the boutique hotel industry is still quite small.

“There was a time when standardization was very desirable and now it’s almost a negative,” Bjorn Hanson, a professor of hospitality and tourism at New York University, tells the WSJ. “People want an experience that reflects the local culture.”

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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