Skift Take

We have to wonder: Was West Elm's partnership with Marriott's SpringHill Suites just a pilot for its bigger hotel schemes? Looks like it, given today's news.

Brooklyn-based home furnishings retailer West Elm, which is owned by Williams-Sonoma, is checking into the hotel business.

Today, the company announced its plans to open multiple hotels with DDK, a hospitality management and development company led by former executives from Andres Balazs Properties, Commune Hotels, Ian Schrager Hotels, Marriott, and Starwood Hotels.

The first West Elm Hotels are slated to open in late 2018 in the following cities: Detroit; Minneapolis; Savannah, Georgia; Charlotte, N.C.; and Indianapolis.

So why is West Elm entering the hotel business? And what happens to its partnership with Marriott’s SpringHill Suites brand, which was just announced in August?

In a statement, West Elm president Jim Brett seemed to attribute the move to the division’s financial strength and its entry into commercial business. “After 26 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,” said Brett. “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.”

As is standard fare for most new hotel brands opening today, West Elm said each “hotel will feature local design elements that celebrate community and reflect traditional décor, handicraft, cuisine, and culture from the region.” Each hotel will also feature specially commissioned and curated pieces of artwork. Other design elements include an emphasis on communal spaces.

“There is a growing desire among modern travelers to immerse themselves in the place they are visiting. They want a boutique experience, and expect great, reliable service that caters to their needs,” David Bowd, co-founder of DDK, said in a statement. “Our general managers will serve as innkeepers, and West Elm Hotels will focus on making real community connections for visitors and residents alike.”

Brand Extensions

West Elm isn’t the first home furnishings business to enter into the hotel business. Last August, Crain’s New York reported Restoration Hardware has plans to open a 14-room boutique hotel around the corner from its New York City flagship store.

West Elm Hotels’ choice of second-tier cities for its hotels is also a markedly different choice than Restoration Hardware. By opening in these relatively smaller cities, it seems clear West Elm wants to capitalize on markets that may not be as oversaturated with boutique-like or design-driven hotels, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Francisco.

It’s also not clear whether West Elm Hotels will be owning the real estate for its properties or whether it will operate with an asset-light, franchise-based strategy.

Another interesting angle may be whether West Elm decides to incorporate influences or elements from its fellow Williams-Sonoma brands, including Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn.

West Elm and DDK representatives did not immediately respond to Skift’s request for comments.

Update: A press representative for West Elm Hotels gave Skift the following comment regarding its partnership with Marriott’s SpringHill Suites brand.

“We greatly value our partnership with Marriott, and our exclusive design collaboration with the SpringHill Suites brand offers their guests consistent, smart design for modern living. The unique products we create with SpringHill for their 300+ properties will not be available to any other hospitality brand.”

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Photo credit: A promotional image from West Elm Hotels. The home furnishings retailer from Williams-Sonoma is formally entering the hospitality business. West Elm Hotels

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