Furniture companies, clothing lines, exercise chains
Shinola Hotel, Detroit, Michigan
Credit: Courtesy of Shinola

Lifestyle brands are incredibly aware of their consumer profiles, using data and in-store retail experience to understand exactly what people want.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that companies like West Elm, Equinox, and Shinola are staking claims in the hospitality business.

Many brands in the category currently ink deals with leading hospitality companies, supplying hotels with linens and accessories. The move for brands to open their own hotels is a natural next step. By cutting out the middle man and offering direct to consumer experience channels, they’re delivering trusted, customized experiences aligning with lifestyles the brands already cater to—or in cities where an exceptional hospitality experience may not be present.

West Elm, Model Room
Credit: Courtesy of West Elm

West Elm Hotels, in partnership with hospitality management and development company DDK, will debut in late 2018 as five boutique properties in Detroit, Minneapolis, Savannah, Charlotte, and Indianapolis, cities where the brand has little or no retail presence.

West Elm has several brand extensions—like West Elm Workspace and Handcrafted and Local initiatives—and, after twenty-six consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, West Elm’s foray into the hotel space creates yet another way for it to reach consumers.

Each hotel will have 100 to 250 rooms, with rates from $175 to $400 per night.

“Our focus on mid-tier cities is intentional,” said Peter Fowler, vice president of workspace and hospitality at West Elm. “We can tell the stories of these cities from a hospitality standpoint like no one else.”

For now, West Elm Hotels will keep the retail shopping experience separate from hotel stays. The brand’s goal is to establish a stand-alone hospitality company, crafting each hotel to reflect the identity of its host city by enlisting makers and doers in local markets to bring traditional décor, cuisine, and culture into the space.

Detroit, where West Elm’s first property is slated to open in 2018, is a prime example of this: “Detroit is all about ingenuity,” said Fowler. “It’s a city of creatives and inventors, and we plan to celebrate that.”

Competing with West Elm in the Detroit market and equipped with home field advantage is Shinola, a company based in Detroit, which celebrates the city’s craftsmanship with built-in-Detroit watches, bicycles, journals, and leather goods. Located in the burgeoning downtown district, the Shinola Hotel is a collaboration with Bedrock and is slated for a fall 2018 opening.

The hotel will feature 130 rooms designed by Gachot Studios and Detroit-based Kraemer Design Group and a food and beverage concept by New York-based NoHo Hospitality Group, of which one of the partners, Josh Pickard, grew up in Detroit.

Spurred by Shinola identifying a current gap in the city’s boutique hotel market, the hotel will host a convivial, cultural living room for both travelers and locals alike.

“Our brand has become increasingly elastic, which allows us to explore different categories and channels,” said Shinola CEO Tom Lewand. “This is an opportunity for us to open Shinola Hotel in a city and location that’s important to us.”

The Parachute Hotel
Credit: Nicole LaMotte

Parachute, a home essentials brand based in Venice, California, known for bedding and bath textiles, is leading with an intent to sell and create tactile experiences with products by way of The Parachute Hotel. The single-room boutique property is a completely shoppable experience for guests to test drive products firsthand. Averaging $600 per night, the space is equipped with a hardbound book detailing each item in the room. Designed by Scott Horne and Peter Dolkas, the experience is reminiscent of Airbnb, offering concierge services like insider tips to the neighborhood and discounts at nearby gyms, cafés, and spas.

“Our goal is to create spaces where people can connect with our brand and who we are,” said Parachute founder and CEO Ariel Kaye. “It’s about sharing a point of view in an intimate setting, taking our brand to a tactile and immersive level.”

Parachute is currently planning larger boutique properties in additional markets, based on the desire to shift digital consumer experiences to in-person connections, creating tangible access to products.

“People want more from a hotel stay,” said Kaye. “It’s not enough anymore to have a place to hang your clothes and sleep. People want a boutique, curated experience that’s intimate, charming, and livable.”

Equinox Hotel, New York City
Credit: Courtesy of Equinox

While Restoration Hardware hasn’t made concrete announcements on its 14-room boutique hotel and restaurant set to open in New York City’s Meatpacking District, Equinox has. After polling its member base spanning 85 upscale, full-service Equinox Fitness Clubs in the United States, Canada, and the U.K., the results were overwhelming—95 percent said they would stay at an Equinox hotel.

Wasting no time, Equinox Hotels has an expansion goal of 50 hotels worldwide, and it’s launching its first in New York City’s Hudson Yards in 2019, making it first-to-market in the neighborhood. The 233-room property is set feature a 60,000-square-foot club, Equinox’ largest yet, and communal lounges, outdoor terraces, workspaces, and a world-class spa, translating a healthy lifestyle into every facet of the experience by encouraging movement and an emphasis on sleep and nutrition. All Equinox Hotels will be priced to the luxury market and feature retail concepts and access to an Equinox club.

“We’ve set out to create the sense of luxury, community, personalization and style that has defined our club experience and re-envision it in a completely new environment,” said Carlos Becil, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of Equinox. “The demand for and interest in healthy living has never been greater, which is why we are expanding our offering to cater to the high-performance traveler.”

By opening hotels, lifestyle brands are creating deeper, more aligned relationships with their customers’ needs and lifestyles, taking a tried-and-true in-store experience to an immersive, hands-on hotel stay.

All signs point to more brands following suit in 2017 and beyond.