Amid the orange martini glasses and $200 ivory cashmere throws, Nordstrom's home department features an unlikely product from an unlikely...
Amid the orange martini glasses and $200 ivory cashmere throws, Nordstrom’s home department features an unlikely product from an unlikely source:
The Westin Hotel’s signature Heavenly Bed.
“Oh ho hooo,” said Michele Jaillett to no one in particular as she approached the display at Nordstrom’s downtown Seattle store. (She had apparently slept at a Westin before.)
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“That’s a bed,” she said.
Hotels — long known for bolting down everything but the towels — have gotten into the business of selling many of the items featured in its rooms.
While guests are accustomed to buying waffle bathrobes from hotel gift shops, they can now purchase dinnerware, art and furniture, too. Already, the nascent hotel retail market has become a $60 million business, according to Hospitality Design magazine.
“I can steal the soap. I can steal the towels,” said Sue Brush, senior vice president of Westin Hotels & Resorts. “But there is a limit here.”
Hotel experts say the burgeoning hotel retail market is driven partly by a revolution in hotel decor. Hotels rooms, once known for cookie-cutter room appointments, have now become objects of design.
Stacy Shoemaker, senior editor of New York-based Hospitality Design magazine, said hotels are hiring big-name designers to create rooms that reflect upscale, modern homes.
Customers have begun asking how to buy items in the rooms, as a result. “They want to remember that feeling,” she said.
Le Parker Meridien New York in December introduced a retail catalog and Web site, www.buyparker.com, where guests can purchase $75 Nambé salt and pepper shakers, and a $2,400 leather classic club chair.
Its slogan: “Take It Home. Don’t Steal It.”
Want to experience the lighting at Hotel Palomar in San Francisco at home? Kimpton Hotels this summer plans to launch an online catalog, www.KimptonStyle.com, where guests can purchase that and other items from its collection of hotel properties.
Joseph Pine, co-author of the book “The Experience Economy: Work is Theater & Every Business a Stage,” said companies increasingly have to find new ways to differentiate themselves.
When goods and services are commodities, the way to beat a competitor is by staging a memorable experience.
“Hotels are in fact leading the way in how they design the hotels and how they interact with guests and how they appoint the rooms,” he said.
While hotel chains have begun launching branded catalogs and online stores, the Heavenly Bed is the first hotel-room product to be sold by a national retailer.
Brush said the retail agreement is an extension of a program that has exceeded its expectations. Westin sold $8.5 million worth of Heavenly Bed products last year with “quite, frankly, not a whole lot of effort.”
Starwood’s former Chairman Barry Sternlicht devised the Heavenly Bed after buying Seattle-based Westin in 1997.
“But no one was complaining” about the beds, Brush said. “No one was unhappy, which is why this whole thing was interesting.”
They brought in 50 different mattresses. Some sat gingerly on the edges. Sternlicht, she said, plopped spread eagle onto one — as if to show the others they didn’t know how to properly test out a bed.
They eventually chose a mattress, pillow top and pillow. They chose a duvet over the fitted comforter. They went — gasp — all white.
Starwood tied up all the manufacturing mills in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to make the beds — a preemptive move to ensure it was the first to offer the beds.
The first week, Westin received inquiries from 32 customers about how to purchase the bed. The first year, it set up orders by phone. The second year, it added a catalog. The third year, it pitched up a Web site.
Westin to date has sold more than 6,000 beds and 30,000 pillows.
The Heavenly Bed At Home collection, which debuted in Nordstrom home departments last week, isn’t cheap. The linens are priced from $35 to $300. The whole, 10-layer shebang goes for between $3,115 and $3,615.
Macy’s offers a collection of bedroom and bathroom accessories under the private label “Hotel Collection” brand. None of it comes from a specific hotel, a Macy’s spokesman said.
Jaillett, who stopped by the downtown Seattle Nordstrom display recently, said she would consider buying a Heavenly Bed in the future — perhaps when she gets married and combines furniture with her husband.
“The bed’s good,” she said. “But it’s all about the sheets for me.”
Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632