Leveraging the brand


In my previous article in the March Big Guns issue, I covered retailers moving into the food and beverage game. In this issue, I’m exploring those that have taken their brand into another form of flagship, namely hotels.

As brands look to ‘experiential’ retail there’s a new move on the horizon, creating new experiences in the form of hospitality. Parachute, Shinola, Muji and Williams Sonoma’s West Elm are all opening branded hotels, and Amazon has also begun exploring a hospitality offering.

Muji Hotel

It’s not surprising, with the travel industry worldwide turning over $2.3 trillion and providing 109 million jobs, according to a study by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Not a bad move to expand the influence of your lifestyle brand, especially if you’re into homewares. It’s about multiple touch points and, like many retailers’ advertising campaigns, you’re selling a story with this whole new kind of brand development. It’s a natural extension of their identity.

It’s not entirely new for brands to enter the hotel space, but it’s generally been high end fashion designers like Versace, Fendi, Christian Lacroix and Giorgio Armani. Karl Lagerfeld is launching a branded hotel, while Ferragamo’s hotels recently celebrated 20 years in the hospitality business. Today’s newcomers are different though – they are mid-tier and smaller retailers wanting to capitalise on their good name and lifestyle connections.

Parachute, for instance, started up as an online bedding and bath business then opened a bricks-and-mortar store in Venice, California in 2016. Above the store it has now created a 220m2 boutique Parachute Hotel because it noticed customers wanted to buy the furnishings and décor it had on display, not just home essentials.

West Elm is poised to make a bigger splash, announcing plans for seven locations: Charlotte, Michigan, Detroit, Indiana, Indianapolis, Oakland, Minneapolis, Savannah and Portland. West Elm sees this as the perfect opportunity to build its brand in a way that doesn’t oversaturate the retail market. Restoration Hardware has been teasing a hotel concept in New York’s Meat Packing district and Ikea already has a 254-room hotel in Smaland in Sweden.


Japanese lifestyle brand retailer Muji has opened a hotel in Shenzhen, China that it promotes as ‘allowing customers to live in their brand’. The interiors and amenities have been done by Muji, exemplifying its attention to detail in spatial and product design. Scandic Hotels group, Scandinavia’s largest hotel operators, now produces a mobile hotel room pod at predetermined destinations across Scandinavia that can be booked online. This could become a means of revenue for underutilised areas of rooftops, vacant land or carparks for shopping centres.

In 2015, Melbourne Central experimented with a temporary ‘glamping’ hotel on its rooftop, providing an urban outdoor luxury camping experience named St Jerome’s.

The rooms (tents) included free wi-fi, morning meditation classes, breakfast hampers and access to showers and bathrooms. It partnered up with YGAP offering pushbikes for hire with all proceeds going directly to charities. There was also a pop up general store that served as a bar and main communal area for campers where you could enjoy breakfast and coffee as well. The general store is still running as at the time of writing this article.

Another American company moving into this space is Shinola, which specialises in watches, bicycles and leather – basically lifestyle accessories. It intends on opening a hotel in Detroit this year and will feature 130 rooms after identifying a gap in the boutique hotel market. It’s being promoted as a ‘thoughtfully curated hospitality experience’ with 1600m2 of food, beverage and retail, as well as the accommodation.

I’ve heard via the bush telegraph that a Sydney-based shopping centre is developing a hotel with an in-house hotel school providing F & B along with live in student accommodation, and, of course, hotel rooms in one packaged up deal.

You’ve just gotta love retail, don’t you – for its constant adaption, innovation and reinvention which makes for ‘never a dull moment’ working in the industry.

About the author

Tony Quinn

Tony Quinn is a Principal Architect at Hames Sharley, a national multi-award winning design practice specialising in architecture, interior design, urban design and planning. Tony has over 25 years’ experience within the retail and mixed use sectors, extending across master planning and design. Prior to joining Hames Sharley, Tony has directed award winning projects such as the Orion Springfield Queensland (mixed use) and Sovereign Hills Town Centre (mixed use). Tony also worked on projects such as No. 1 Martin Place (Sydney GPO), Grace Bros Broadway and Sydney Central Plaza redevelopments.

Tony is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects, Large Practice Committee (AIA) and International Council of Shopping Centres and is an active member of the Property Industry Foundation, as a former board member and chair of the Regatta committee.

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