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Hotel gift shops go glam

Boutique and high-end hotels such as the W, Ace, the Standard, the Mondrian and the Beverly Hills Hotel are collaborating with designers and bringing exclusive fashion items into the mix.

July 18, 2010|By Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Opening Ceremony is dedicated to apparel (and accessories), featuring the Rodarte sweaters and $365 Alexander Wang zipper-edged sunglasses you find at all Opening Ceremony stores, along with a few necessities for travelers, such as brightly colored $55 Tumi outlet adaptors exclusive to the Ace store and British snack food Walkers Prawn Cocktail flavored crisps. Both No. 8a and Opening Ceremony are open to the street and the Ace Hotel lobby.

"We could have done a store ourselves, but they are so much better at what they do. And part of the philosophy of our brand is not only to appeal to travelers but to locals too," Calderwell said.

"Designers want to be positioned in the Ace Hotel because they want to get their things in front of the consumer who stays and hangs out there — photographers and fashion directors. They want to be in that environment," said Zach Augustine, chief creative officer of Winston Retail, a retail consulting firm based in San Francisco and New York.

Generating revenue

The Dorchester Collection, which operates the Beverly Hills Hotel and Paris' Le Meurice among others, tapped milliner Stephen Jones and handbag designer Louise Hempleman to create summer hats and travel bags for all seven of its stores. The hotel chain is also sponsoring a fashion prize for up-and-coming designers. The contest is being judged by a team of fashion insiders, including designers Manolo Blahnik and Giles Deacon and style icon Daphne Guinness.

"Fashion is playing an increasingly prevalent part in the luxury hotel industry as hotels become an essential lifestyle component and design becomes more integrated into everyday life," Helen Smith, Dorchester Collection's vice president of sales and marketing, wrote in an e-mail.

For high-end resorts seeking a total fashion overhaul, Seaside Luxe, based in Santa Monica, is a new retail consulting firm that develops, builds, merchandises and manages luxury boutiques from the ground up, in such far-flung places as Bermuda and Maui. Each boutique is unique in design and product assortment.

Many people in the resort industry "push retail aside. The gift shops actually lose money," said Lee Ann Sauter, who founded Seaside Luxe last year after more than 20 years of retail experience at Gap, Guess and Tommy Hilfiger. "There is an opportunity to totally transform the landscape."

At the Four Seasons Hualalai resort in Hawaii, she turned administrative offices into 7,000 square feet of Seaside Luxe retail space (selling items including beachwear, casual sportswear and kids clothing) that generated $6 million in revenue in 2009, its first year, $750,000 of that in its first month. (The resort's retail stores generated $4 million in revenue in 2008.)

Guests snapped up one-of-a-kind Prova necklaces for $550, decorative bottles with shell stoppers for $55 to $115, colorful Dezso woven bracelets decorated with shark teeth and shells, and Gregory Parkinson swim cover-ups.

"When you do research on what guests want to do on their vacations, it's amazing how over the last 10 years, it has gone from visiting the spa or playing golf to shopping," said Patrick Fitzgerald, chief executive of Hualalai resort. "We saw we were missing a real opportunity." Seaside Luxe buyers travel the globe, visiting places such as the Gem Palace in Jaipur, India, and the Paris runways to find exclusive jewelry designs, beach bags, bikinis, surfboards and more.

This refashioning of resort retail mirrors what happened in the resort food and beverage industry, Fitzgerald said. "Several years ago, we started seeing hotels bringing in chefs such as Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller to develop restaurants not only for hotel guests, but for locals. Now we're starting to see the same targeted approach in resort retail."

Plus, when someone asks, "Where did you get that?" you don't have to say Nordstrom. You can say you got it on vacation in Hawaii. The story is so much better.

booth.moore@latimes.com

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