Trend Report - May 2010

Checking In With Hospitality
By Emily M. White

Though recovery is slow, industry experts continue to see the “home away from home” experience as a viable market to pursue

Both suppliers to the hospitality industry and retailers of the “hotel look” were hit hard in 2009. But when throwing in the towel is an unthinkable option, those in the sector held on tight to see a comeback—and though extremely gradual, increases in orders are evident and halted projects are being revisited.

A new year has never tasted as sweet as the chocolate on your pillow. For 2010, home fashions companies who serve as direct suppliers to hotel properties, or retailers of the “hotel look,” discuss what’s to come.

What Guests Expect To See, After They Turn The Key

As Randy Wright, senior vice-president, Taymor explains, “The ‘hotel’ look is practically an adjective today.” Within the past five years, the “hotel look” has established itself as clean and fresh, as guests have come to equate mid-range and high-end rooms with white duvets that pop with simple color borders.
“As for the design, the look manifests itself in straight lines and no frills popularized by minimalist boutique hotels in rooms with plasma televisions, which all relates back to the ‘Heavenly Bed’ started by The Westin about 10 ago,” says Bob Hamilton, marketing director, Christy.

The “Heavenly Bed,” made a name for itself as the epitome of luxury and comfort with amenities such as a pillow-top mattress, lofty pillows and duvet with crisp sheets in a white-on-white color scheme. It revolutionized the hotel experience.

Hamilton further explains that this new direction for hotel bedding was further propelled by the debut of a hotel bedding collection for retail, sold by Macy’s five or six years ago, which demonstrated the marketability of the look. “Before those two events, hospitality was all about low cost and tear strength due to raw economics. The ‘Heavenly Bed’ made travelers take notice,” says Hamilton.

Lido and Baccara towels and flip flop slippers from Mascioni’s hotel collection; an example of one of Christy’s offerings for hospitality; DownRight’s Sandwich Pillows are a very popular hotel item; Anichini’s Palladio is from its hotel collection, with a simple construction of 200 thread count percale bordered with narrow cord.

While the “look” hasn’t evolved drastically over the past decade, Shiv Shankaran, general manager, Venus Group, which sells both to hospitality properties and retail, says he sees that the plain white will start to give way to eco-conscious and more fashionable elements.

Ken Koneck, public affairs manager, Valley Forge Fabrics, Inc., also sees going “green” as the key to a new look for hotel.

“When I think of what will change the sector, I think of sustainability,” says Koneck. “The bed consumes the most fabric in the guest room and has the greatest impact on our environment as it is changed most frequently. Many brands have already beta-tested LIVING FRESH with Tencel+Plus Lyocell Eucalyptus fiber—the only Eucalyptus fiber engineered for hospitality. These sheets keep moisture away from your body as you sleep and create a cooler sleeping environment.”

With “green” hospitality products in development, incorporating more fashionable accessories are a way to mix up the “look” without disrupting the classic white-on-white, says Mario Morales, creative and design director, Mario & Marielena Hospitality.

Proven to be a very successful item for Mario and Marielena, its 20-inch wide “bed napkin,” also known as a “faux comforter” or “bed scarf,” helps to pull some of the decorative aspects of the room back to the bed without using patterned bedding.

Esty Friedman, director of hospitality, DownRight Ltd, also notes how shams, bed scarves, and throw pillows are used to create the look for a particular hotel.

“The minimalist look of the clean white bed is now being bolstered with bolder accents,” says Friedman.
Besides bedding, in bath accessories, Wright says, “Design used to be traditional, over the top and very busy. But now the focus is more architectural than decorative.”

The Chicken Or The Egg?

While the “hotel look” hasn’t changed much since its invention, how the hotel look evolves is a bit tricky, as experts ask: what influences what —does home influence hotel, or vice versa?

Michelle Harrison, wholesale and hospitality manager, Cuddledown, says both sectors equally influence each other. “Hotels need durable and functional products, and today’s consumer is seeking similar characteristics,” says Harrison. “Hotel adds fashion via small elements like bed scarves or decorative pillows versus home fashion, which includes an entire room makeover.”

Tom DeLoca, vice-president hospitality division, Sferra, agrees that it works both ways. “Hotel collections are offered by many retailers, playing off the simple, clean design of typical hotel bedding,” says DeLoca. “On the other hand, hotel designers are always looking for new ways to add home fashion to their projects with throws, decorative pillows, etc. The bed runner, throw and accessory demand continues strong for us. We offer a wide assortment of ‘fashion’ products, many of which are washable and ideally suited for hospitality.”

But since many hotels are now offering guests in-room catalogs of items available for purchase, Wright says this demonstrates how much the hotel shapes home fashions. “The hotel definitely influences the home,” says Wright. “People want to take the comfort home with them, and with the buzz word of ‘hotel’ on hang tags, items labeled as such resonate with the consumers as being durable and having quality.”

“We are also receiving requests from guests to make bedding items and robes used in hotels we work on available for purchase,” says Stefania Marchesotti, sales manager, Mascioni Hospitality.

Marketing The “Look”

However the hotel “look” will trend for the future, the salability of a product is only as successful as it is marketed, not only in retail, but also when selling to hospitality properties.

Mario & Marielena show hospitality clients how they fit into bottom lines by branding themselves as a “one-stop shop” for all things hospitality. “We’ve been in hospitality for five years now, and first entered the business when residential slowed, but it has become a vital part of our expansion, and a marketplace full of opportunity,” says Morales. “Our parent company does all the hard goods, so we can design schemes for guest rooms to lobbies.”

As Cuddledown’s Harrison explains, a crucial a marketing strategy is to make a memorable impression with your clients.

“Though we haven’t seen much change in bedding over the previous year, our target market is luxury and our clients continue to grow,” says Harrison. “The best way to make a lasting impression with your guests is to offer out-of-this-world accommodations.”

When it seems challenging to distinguish oneself in a white-on-white world, Geri Wetmore, vice-president sales, West Point Home, says WPH sets itself apart through brand recognition. “Our Martex brand, for example, crosses all channels of distribution,” Wetmore says. “It is well known in the hospitality channel and respected as a brand which stands for fashion-forward designs with quality construction, unique treatments and fine detailing—all at a tremendous value.”

In this sector, guests have the chance to try out quality products by booking a room.

“There is no denying the improved sleep experience that better quality bedding offers. As more travelers were able to experience and compare the beauty, performance and comfort of hotel bedding to that of their own, this created a consumer market for similar quality bedding products,” says Stephen Palmer, co-president, United Feather & Down.

This awareness has lead to more educated consumers, which locks in future sales.

“Over the past 10 years or so the change to a focus on the hotel bed has trickled down from five-star to three-star hotels,” says Fidelma Wyse, vice-president of commercial design hospitality division, Anichini. “Guests are more aware of quality and guest room design. This has impacted the way hotels market themselves. Most brands now have a ‘hotel collection’ since consumers began requesting to reproduce their hotel experience by purchasing the linens they slept on.”

The Nuts And Bolts Of The Sector

Taymor turned the “basic” towel bar into a more fashionable double towel bar for hotels in its Zurich Collection.
Venus Group’s Linea Roma Luxury Hotel Collection towel for retail.
Mario & Marielena aim to fuse the “cutting edge” with the clean look of hotel bedding.

Though the recession slowed business, the hospitality sector is finally seeing the chance for some “housekeeping” to make room for new growth.

“Doing business in hospitality is a challenge now, but as in any business, it’s best to diversify,” says Benape, executive vice-president, Home Source. “There are still so many manufacturers that don’t address the market. Also, businesses have a tendency to tap into hospitality then back out of it when times get better, when their mainstay business grows again, but for us, we’ve been very successful following through with what we’ve been doing in hospitality.

“Home Source will continue to show that we can save hotels money in the long run with our capabilities, such as our long wash life so they don’t have to replace linens and towels as fast,” says Benape. “Most hotels have to replenish every four months, but our customers can hold out for 18 months. Our processes and finishes produce soft, luxurious linens and towels, and we keep the pricing down by the type of raw fiber used and our finishing. It’s the little things that make a big difference.”

Shankaran, Venus Group, says business has been picking up in 2010.

“We are hopeful that 2010 will be in good shape,” says Shankaran. “It also helps that we have both our own hospitality division and line for retail. W e can see what works well when feedback from the hotel properties comes in and that helps us shape our retail line, which is authentic—it’s the same product we sell to the hotel properties.”

Craig Walter, hospitality division sales manager, Downlite, also sees the 2010 return of increasing sales.
“Our products run the gamut and are used in four- and five-star hotels because of the down quality,” says Walter. “Things are picking up for 2010 and thought it’s not like it used to be, my order volumes are increasing gradually.”

Taymor’s Wright notes that now there is more of a focus on refreshing rooms rather than huge overhauls.
Jeff Moss, vice-president, Towellers, has also seen a general sales rebound with better occupancy rates for hospitality properties, though the effects of the recession will leave budgets tight for years to come.

“We are talking low percentage increases and there is also a more concerted effort to look at new technology for linens and towels, such as dry fast, longer shelf life, etc.. However, in these difficult economic times, prices for technology will be judged against the prices for the commodity items that are currently being used and that will inhibit growth of the former.”

Business challenges aside, industry leaders are looking for the next big thing in hospitality.

“The hospitality industry is ready for the next evolution in bedding,” says Koneck. “Ten years ago the bar was set with the ‘Heavenly Bed’. The hotel guest is ready for a new experience.”

The hospitality sector, albeit moving a bit slower these days, is still thriving with opportunity.


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