Hospitality Focus - May 2009

Hotel Sweet Hotel
By Samantha Siegel and Emily M. White

With occupancy rates down, hotel suppliers and retailers are taking the time to re-evaluate how the "hotel look" will trend for future markets

Christy's Hotel Collection is for consumers who want that luxurious hotel feel. The collection is also sold to boutique hotels, spas and resorts.

Though the recession has seemingly splintered opinion about the future of hospitality fashions, one thing is for sure—the wheels are still moving. From going green to making hotel rooms like one-stop shops where everything from the pillows to lamp shades are available for sale, here is a run-down of what experts in hospitality/home fashions believe is in store for the future of the sector.

Building the “Hotel Look”

With the abundance of hotel collections popping up in retail stores, industry insiders share their thoughts on the trend and where it got its start.

Towellers Ltd.

Although the recession has hurt tourism and hotel occupancy rates, Jeff Moss, vice-president, Towellers Ltd., still believes that this drop will not have residual effects on the popularity of the “hotel look.”

When the “hotel look” really began to pick up steam as a trend, it wasn’t so much the hotel sector influencing the home fashions market; rather, it was an opportunity the home fashions market seized as a way to develop another classification for home textiles, explains Moss.

“These hotel products initially started on the upper end of the retail home textile markets for towels, top of the bed and sheets,” says Moss. “After all, there are virtually no hotels in the world that carry zero twist or Micro Cotton towels to my knowledge and yet, that has been one of the best sellers at retail under the ‘hotel’ concept. No one out in the land of retail introduced a 24 x 50, 10.5 lb blended cam border towel as their hotel-style towel, though until recent times, this has been the hotel towel standard.

“Since the ‘hotel’ classification seemed to have a particular design influence of clean-crispness done on a better-best quality platform, rather than based on actual hotel designs, this design inspiration will always be valid, regardless of traveling to Tahiti or Tacoma or staying home,” Moss says.

WestPoint Home

Home Source Intl.'s Bamboo Collection updates solid colors with texture.
Cuddledown’s organic, fashion-forward percale Waterlily bed has inspired some of its hospitality products.

Hotels concerned with quality goods and higher thread counts have turned to WestPoint Home, which has stepped up its hospitality game with eco-friendly offerings and performance-driven products.

In a climate where people are strapped for cash, they want to know what a product can do for them, believes Nancy Golden, vice-president of marketing and brand management, WestPoint Home. It’s not just a matter of creating beautiful bedding. There needs to be a +1 factor to it, for example, fast drying, energy saving or hypo allergenic features, and WestPoint has delivered.

With an eye on trends, Golden notes that hotel collections in retail stores were the real trendsetters for hotel bedding today. She says, “When retail stores started producing these hotel collections, the looks were very clean with accent colors and less color overall, which really influenced the hospitality market.”

Addressing hotels’ growing demands for eco-friendly items, WestPoint designed the EcoPure line, which has been quite popular among hospitality clients. Fill for pillows, blankets and mattress pads is made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Christy

From a retailer perspective, Bob Hamilton, marketing director, Christy, explains that selling the hospitality “look” is similar to selling an experience. “It’s an attitude,” Hamilton says. “This was a movement that has moved well beyond towels, incorporating details and design elements reminiscent of staying in a new place, typically minimal in design and simple in color.”

As hotel designs have evolved from the very traditional and fastidious to boutique in nature, the “hotel look” took on meaning as an understated, tailored and simple style. As far as towels go, the luxury towel was equated with heaviness and oversized, though now, through the evolution of design, multi-ply and heavy is giving way to super soft and zero-twist, muted colors and simple geometric patterns.

“The ‘hotel look’ is a top seller for every major retailer because of the simplicity of the designs,” Hamilton says. “In our own private brand, we’ve been very successful, and we plan to continue our extension of colorways for popular collections, with more offerings of essential looks.”

Even in this current economy, Hamilton and Christy remain optimistic, looking for opportunity. “It’s interesting,” says Hamilton, “After reading some recent reports, despite the recession, a large percent of Americans are still gainfully employed and spending money. And now, with reduced airfare and crucial deals, there is a larger percent of consumers who can afford to travel. There is an expanding audience that ensures that hospitality design will go forward. People who weren’t able to experience the hotel luxuries of a wonderful duvet on a lightweight comforter in a suite with a chocolate on the pillow now have the opportunity for these experiences. New market opportunities happen in every recession; there is always a chance to bring things closer to the masses.”

The Newbies

WestPoint Home’s EcoPure line, made with recycled plastic bottles, has been a big hit with the hospitality market.

New to the hospitality sector, these companies have a fresh outlook on style, and what will sell.
Home Source Intl.

As the new guys on the block, in terms of hospitality, Home Source International has created a division strictly dedicated to the hospitality sector, Hospitality Source International.

With licensed brand Portico, an eco-friendly, organic certified line, Home Source hopes to provide spa-quality linens and products to hotels looking to go “green.”

A new trend that Home Source has been seeing is “hotel retail,” in which the contents inside hotel rooms are available for purchase. While this idea is certainly not new, it has never been explored in the way hotels are approaching it now, says Craig Benepe, executive vice-president of hospitality, Home Source.

Before robes or pillows may have been available for purchase, but now everything from lamps to nightstands are for sale. Benepe explains that hotels want to cater to the tastes of their guests, showcasing products guests would want for the home. Some hotels even have in-room catalogs in the works so guests can easily shop, following in the footsteps of SkyMall found in airplanes.

Though it is a goal to find products their key clients would desire for the home, the recession has led hotels to re-focus, looking for competitive pricing and organic products, explains Benepe. “They are also being conscious of re-orders. The amount of re-orders placed is less than before,” he says. “They are not having to buy as often because sheets and other materials are not being used as much.”

Though tourism and hotel occupancy rates are down, Home Source is concentrating on providing bedding and towels to new construction hotels and remodels, trying to keep business moving during a time when people are reluctant to spend.

Cuddledown

As another relatively fresh face to the hospitality market, Cuddledown is pairing its fashion-forward approach with an eco-driven focus, which has proven successful for its consumer market, to help sculpt its hospitality division.

In Cuddledown’s mail-order catalog business, last year it switched a lot of its core product to organics by launching a line of organic percales in prints and other designs for comforters and pillows, and various accessories. “We stand for organics and believe in it,” says Michelle Harrison, wholesale and hospitality manager, Cuddledown. “In my opinion, hotel and the home go hand and hand, and when times get better, that is where the hospitality market is going to shift.”

Harrison also points out that the growing interest in The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), which provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction, is peaking the interest of more and more businesses in home fashions and hospitality. While more and more home fashions businesses obtain eco-related certifications, the numbers are still small in comparison to the market overall, says Harrison, but because eco-friendly is a necessity rather than a trend, she believes that the home fashions market will take the opportunity of slower times to calculate where green product lines will fit in bottom lines.

“Our hospitality clients have shown an interest in eco-friendly lines, but developing green products involves a longer planning cycle and a learning curve,” explains Harrison. “Similar to when most sheeting went from cotton/poly to 100 percent cotton, which have to be laundered differently, there is another learning curve with organics. Had we not been in a recession, this process would have been further along, but the recession has made people more cautious about spending habits.”

What’s Next

These players still believe in the potential of the hospitality sector and are conducting business as usual, even in these tough times.

Dohler SA Brazil

Eric Vergucht, USA representative, Dohler SA Brazil, maintains that while the hospitality look is still influencing consumer product lines, it has definitely slowed over the past year, though he has noticed that hotels still aim to push the envelope with style and performance-driven products.

“New trends are still developing as now is the time to really make your brand stand out from everyone else,” Vergucht says. He has even noticed that this is true not just among the high-end hotels, which is where the hospitality look first became en vogue, but from mid-level and up, everyone is trying to stand apart from the rest.

Vergucht believes that when times improve, the hospitality look will just get more and more contemporary, objective and service oriented to carve out new experiences for the traveler.

“Though it’s slowed, we keep developing new product to help hotels take care of their brands. No one wants to supply just plain white towels and robes anymore,” says Vergucht. “They must offer something different, but cost is a big issue, so it will take some time.”

Richloom

Taking an aggressive approach, Richloom’s motto for this year is “take no prisoners”; in tough times Richloom has expanded its price points so they are able to hit every area of the market. Offering its largest line in two years, Richloom hopes to have something for everyone.

Popular hotel chains such as Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton have all turned to Richloom, and the common trend among them is the request for a modern, tailored, upscale residential look.

Sarah Wolfe, design director for hospitality, Richloom says, “White bedding is still a strong option among four- and five-star hotels, but they are looking to add a splash of color with bed scarves, pillows or pale-colored sheets. Simple embroidery on a white bed is also big; it gives the bed something extra special, making guests feel more at home.”

Mario & Marielena

Mario & Marielena is bringing its hospitality line to the forefront. In the past, the company has been more involved with the residential sector, designing model homes, but since the housing market has slowed, the focus has shifted to hotels.

Mario Morales, creative director, Mario & Marielena, feels as if the economy has had a smaller effect on the hospitality side of his company. He says, “Hotels in Texas that were hit with bad weather last year are still looking to outfit their spaces with the same quality materials. They are looking to re-do what they had, not do less.”

A growing demand for green materials has led Mario & Marielena to create a line of products that helps buildings gain their LEED certification. Outfitting a room with eco-friendly materials helps create a sustainable, high-performance structure.

Mario & Marielena have had success in hospitality by providing the linens, headboards, window treatments and even flooring. Planning to launch the Whole Hotel line in September at the HD Boutique show in Miami, FL, it will be a one-stop shop for cohesive and luxurious spaces.

Downright

Esty Friedman, hospitality specialist, Downright, asserts that ever since the “hotel look” has drawn on simpler, cleaner designs, travelers who have experienced the comfort of a high-quality down pillow or comforter still seek to create the same experiences in their own bedrooms—requests that Downright is still receiving despite today’s slowed market.

While Friedman acknowledges that the hotel industry has been hit hard by the recession, with business and leisure travel greatly reduced, since maintenance is a constant, hotels are all trying to be creative to keep things going despite low occupancy levels. Friedman notes that Downright has hotels showing interest in its Lyocell covered, down-filled comforters, which have proven popular in the retail sector of the consumer market.

“The silky feel of the Lyocell fabric, coupled with the ‘green’ nature of this fabric [made from wood pulp cellulose] and Lyocell’s cost, which compares favorably with our cotton-covered comforters, make it appealing to many at these times. This is evident in the many requests we receive from people who have slept on our pillows and then want to know where they can purchase the same item for their own use,” says Friedman, even noting that most hotels have web sites which cater to this retail concept of selling the items that are being used in their guest rooms.

The hospitality sector’s trendsetters and trailblazers have spoken and these experts have high hopes for the future of the hospitality sector. Whether tourism is up or down, these companies are planning new business strategies for the next quarter.

Behind The Curtain: The Evolution Of Blackout Fabrics
From Commercial To Residential

Once solely used in hotels to block unwanted outside noise, control room temperatures and hide harsh rays from sleeping guests, blackout linings are finding their way into residential properties.

Stan Fradin from Rockland Industries, a supplier of blackout linings and fabrics says, “It is sufficient to say that a very large part of Rockland’s overall business comes from the hospitality market. It is interesting to note, however, that blackout lining and fabric, which were once only sold for commercial use, are now being used by residential buyers for bedrooms, media rooms and wherever light control in the home is desired.”

Rockland’s line of Roc-lon coated blackout products improves the insulation quality of window coverings, keeping extreme temperatures out and the comfort level in a room without having to mess with a thermostat. With sky-high heating and cooling bills, homeowners are looking to blackout panels to keep energy costs down.

Since introducing its Roc-lon blackout linings in the 1960’s, Rockland has made great strides in providing customers with more stylish offerings. Originally just a lining, the product has evolved into an All-In-One window covering fabric. Available in dozens of colors and contract-inspired prints and designs with fabric decoration, these All-In-One coverings provide the same level of blackout and are fire retardant, just as the other linings.

While Rockland’s main customers are in the hospitality market, its blackout linings exemplify the consumer’s growing interest in hotel-inspired product.

Resources

  • Christy, 800-260-6326, christy-towels.com
  • Cuddledown, 888-323-6793, cuddledown.com
  • Dohler USA, 866-787-2921, dohlerusa.com
  • Downright Ltd, 718-788-6363, downrightltd.com
  • Home Source International, 404-355-0114, homesource-online.com
  • Mario & Marielena, 800-551-1441, mariomarielena.com
  • Richloom, 212-685-5400, richloom.com
  • Rockland Industries, 800-876-2566, roc-lon.com
  • Towellers Ltd., 212-685-6301, towellers.com
    • WestPoint Home, 800-533-8229, martex.com
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