Retail Popping Up in Hotel Lobbies
With the ubiquitous internet and the rise of pop-up shops, retailing is becoming more democratic — anytime, anywhere. Add the rise of seasonal markets, shop-in-shops and kiosks, and you have more signs of a growing thirst for innovative product, a trend driven by the lack of creativity due to consolidation at larger stores.
The situation presents new opportunities for partnerships in independent retail, especially for high-traffic hotels. Any physical location can be transformed into a marketplace for other retailers and new brands.
Witness Brooks Brothers boutiques opening in Nordstrom stores. Independent retailers can and should follow this example. Furthermore, adding e-commerce will make this approach even more productive. E-commerce can geometrically increase sales per square foot with a single sample potentially selling hundreds of an item.
Hotels, especially independents, should jump on this trend. Warby Parker's pop in at The Standard is a prescient example of how smaller hotels can monetize traffic with the right retail pop-up shop. Experimenting with pop-ins can inexpensively define what works or doesn't.
Boutique hotels that sell style and experience can easily extend their cache to products.
I recently sat down with Tom Hayden of The Affluent Traveler, who was thinking about the rise of private label programs to sell the hotel experience. What if a hotel spa allowed you to choose between three scents for your massage and afterwards offered you the opportunity to order for home use via a simple website?
This would combine a hotel private label program with the increasing interest in customizing product to a customer's specifications. The best part is that hotel pop-up shops can be used as a tool to quickly and inexpensively test what works and what doesn't for private label programs. With the back-end e-commerce enabled, inventory control and fulfillment are seamlessly streamlined.
Why not extend this practice to more traditional hotel private label programs (e.g., linens) by adding a few basic items on a website. Shopify, the e-commerce template, is an easy and inexpensive way for a small boutique hotel to get started.
By defining the customer, other product categories, ranging from entertainment to items such as cocktail glasses and cocktail mixing coffee table books, can be included. How about an opportunity to create your own signature cocktail with the ability to order basics from the website? I know that many creative cocktail recipes include absinthe as an ingredient, but I have no idea what it is. What if it was included in a bar drink I like and made it easy for me to get a sample bottle shipped home?
By creating a profile of the typical boutique hotel client for a particular location, one can get a good sense of that person's lifestyle. What does she wear? What does she do for fun? Where does she work and live? All of these data points provide clues as to what to sell in the boutique. How about creating a wonderfully merchandised display with the hotel vibe comprised of a dozen items, taking orders via the hotel website? Not only does that simplify inventory, but it also lays the groundwork for an ongoing relationship with this customer. E-commerce makes it easy.
This e-pop-in could run as a six-week test, adding visual interest and excitement to the hotel lobby. It could also be used to draw traffic to parts of the hotel like the bar. Managed well, it will lay the foundation for a well-merchandised private label program, all with minimal financial risk.
In summary, e-pop-ins can be used as a tool to test what products work and what doesn't for boutiques hotels while e-commerce simplifies and streamlines inventory management. This model allows boutique independents to develop similar programs to those the bigger players offer, at much lower risk. So pop goes the lobby.
Janet Valenza is the president of Pop-Up Artists.