West Elm, the trendy furniture store best known for reclaimed wood coffee tables and mid-century chairs, is on a lifestyle roll. It has announced a partnership with Sonos sound systems, a big move into the boutique hotel business, and a new product line with Whole Foods.
The moves are all part of its expansion plan, as the brand—once thought of as Pottery Barn’s cooler younger sister—continues to be the bright spot in parent Williams-Sonoma brand portfolio.
Perhaps most surprising was the news that it would it would extend its eclectic vibe into hospitality, working with development company DDK to open boutique hotels in Detroit, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis, as well as Savannah, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C. Like its stores, each will be a little different, with local design elements and artwork.
The idea is to build a network of individual hotels that combine the same level of quality, but still reflect the local arts community in “design, programming and experience,” says Peter Fowler, VP/hospitality and workspace at West Elm, in an email to Marketing Daily. “While no two locations will be the same, being different is not the driving objective, but rather the outcome of our focus on creating a rich, local experience. This is an important distinction that will help ensure our experiences are both accessible and comfortable.”
And of course, if guests like what they see, they’ll find it all for sale at West Elm stores and its website. Still, he says, “we want the hotel experience to focus on great hospitality and service, not retail.”
He says plans for the success of the venture call for using “key performance indicators for hospitality, not product sales. Our focus is overall brand growth,” he says, and the hotels are meant to broaden brand reach. “We will measure its success based on our ability to create exceptional customer experiences and loyalty to West Elm.”
West Elm, which claims 26 straight quarters of double-digit sales gains, has grown to be a $2 billion brand. On a comparable basis, it reported a sales increase of 15.8% in the most recent quarter. That compares with a 4.8% decline in sales at Pottery Barn, also owned by Williams-Sonoma; a 5.2% fall at Pottery Barn Teens, and flat results at flagship Williams-Sonoma stores.
The partnership with Sonos calls for integrating products in its stores so people can “fully experience” sound systems as they buy furniture. In unveiling a prototype of the Sonos Listening Lab in New York, it announced plans to roll the experience into stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Seattle and Miami, each customized for stores’ unique layouts.
Its collaboration with Whole Foods Market, meanwhile, is a seasonal cause-related effort, with an exclusive holiday line of kitchen and table items made from “upcycled” denim. A dollar from each sale goes to Whole Planet Foundation, which fights poverty.