Some of you may recognize these lyrics from a 1979 song by the Sugar Hill Gang called “Rapper’s Delight”…It’s a long, odd song made more unique by the tits length (14:49) and timing as rap had not established itself as the music genre it is today. One caveat, the lyrics technically said “Holiday Inn” but due to recent events in the retail world, I substituted it for West Elm (they will actually be known as ‘hotels’ not ‘inns’).
Throughout my career, I am frequently asking the question of those I am serving (either as a leader or as a consultant); “How do we stand out in the crowd? What will make us noticed and unique?” West Elm, the hip furniture retailer that is part of the Williams Sonoma group of companies, has come up with a unique and, I believe, ingenious way to stand out and draw attention to itself, in addition to providing another potential avenue of revenue growth.
Hotels as brand depots have not necessarily been a pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow Room. Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo, Christian LaCroix, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar De La Renta, Moschino have all designed for hotels and lent design credibility and luxury status to hotel properties all over the world. Others such as Georgio Armani and Versace have marketed the chains in their own names in places such as Australia, Dubai and Macau.
West Elm’s strategy is a bit more straightforward and grounded. The company is certainly expecting to garner a bump in brand recognition and brand association across the country (they only have 77 stores currently in the United States). Secondly, but maybe more importantly, they are planning on using the hotel as a showroom where every single item that is placed throughout the hotel (all furniture, accessories, beds, linens, soap to name a few categories) is for sale and can be ordered for delivery. This is the ultimate in “showrooming”.
This may turn out to be a brilliant move. The risks are plentiful whenever you put an operational element of your brand in external hands (like a hotel operator). Usually, retailers are adamant about controlling everything with respect to the customer experience.
I can’t wait for the experience of living in a real life catalogue. And I have never been a showroom model before…Now everyone can!
P.S. Enjoy the fashions as much as the music in this video from 1979… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar7sKNb4UUE