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Most evenings, the lipstick-red bar at New York’s Baccarat hotel buzzes with women in fur vests whose shellacked nails and oversized jewels sparkle under the refracted light of $127,400 crystal chandeliers.
Some drink $895 bottles of Dom Perignon Plentitude out of $290 champagne flutes; others, a $250 twist on the Vieux Carré cocktail served in $310 double rocks glasses.
And now all of them can order their beverage of choice with the Baccarat crystal to go.
In a program that will roll out in November after months of beta testing, the French crystal-maker’s first hotel is selling its treasures to its patrons. The sparkly Eye Vases found on prestige suites’ bedside tables can be yours for $440; in the petit salon, Zénith Candlesticks with diamond cuts and hanging darts can be added to your check for $2,505 a piece. Perhaps you noticed the limited-edition Belle Époque vase in the Grand Salon? It runs a cool $37,000. Even the towering chandeliers by the ground level entrance can be yours with the swipe of a credit card. They’re the most expensive items on sale, at a whopping $216,600.
To Hermann Elger, chief operating officer of Baccarat Hotels and Resorts and managing director of the New York property, this isn’t shopping, it’s “experiential acquisition.” And though the official catalog of hotel items includes a selection of 180 pieces, he says that for the right price, “everything is potentially for sale.”
How It Works
When guests take a seat at the Baccarat’s bar or lounge, they’ll be presented with two menus: one for food and drinks (or afternoon tea), and another for crystal.
Refining the sales pitch has been a months-long process, says Elger; he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t detract from the hotel’s mission of high-end hospitality. His solution was to go tongue-in-cheek. “The server will take your food and drink order, and then ask, ‘May I take your crystal order?’” he says.
For guests who have technical questions about manufacturing or are curious about the history of a particular design, an 88-page custom catalog is available. There’s also a “crystal ambassador”: Florian Casanova, who serves as a maitre’d at the hotel and has undergone additional training on all things Baccarat.
Whatever you purchase appears on your bill—right below the $32 burger with black truffle paté, or $80 glass of Cristal Brut—and gets shipped directly to the address of your choice in a Baccarat red box. The only catch? If you wanted the champagne flutes that you just toasted your engagement with, you’re out of luck. Ultimately, all the products ship from Baccarat’s New York flagship store, meaning that guests are buying identical versions of the glassware they enjoyed—not the sentimentally charged pieces themselves.
Hotels as Glorified Showrooms
The hotel as showroom concept isn’t exactly new. The Westin bed was a breakthrough for hotel retailing; design-focused brands such as Firmdale create and sell their own bath amenities and tea cups; and Marriott International even has a website on which it sells shower curtains and bath robes from some of its more popular lines. With companies such as Baccarat Inc. and West Elm Inc. spawning hotels, the trend is gaining momentum.
And many more retail offerings have come through partnerships rather than from a hotel’s parent company. Blackberry Farm, for instance, is among a large handful of U.S. hotels to partner with a luxury car brand—guests can drive a Lexus through the Great Smoky Mountains on a particularly scenic test drive (or “driving tour”). Those who follow up with a purchase or lease earn $1,000 toward their coupe or sedan, plus a $100 resort credit for a future vacation. “It yields results for both brands,” says the property’s director of marketing, Sarah Chabot. Among the automaker’s hotel partners are New York’s Beekman Hotel, the St. Regis in Aspen, and the Allison Inn and Spa in Oregon.
It was at a previous job at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, Mexico, that Elger saw the power of retail partnerships first-hand. There, his cooking school was outfitted by Viking Range LLC, and he watched as guests were driven to recreate aspects of their experiencing by, say, buying a blender that they had used to make their first molé.
To Elger and his higher-ups at Baccarat, the midtown property was always intended to drive crystal sales. People may not plan to buy glassware on their trip to New York, but they can be seduced to make an impulse buy under the context of a celebratory night out. This, he says, is how you solve a perennial branding dilemma: appealing to guests’ emotions.
Already, it’s proved to be a powerful formula. “We’ve done some of our largest sales at 10:30 at night on a Sunday,” adds Elger. “The chance that a guest is still going to be in the mindset to make that kind of a purchase [at our flagship store] the next morning? It’s not so likely.”
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.