Outside of my husband, daughter and possibly tennis, my two favorite things on the planet are A) fantastic beauty products and B) staying at design-driven, “lifestyle” hotels.
When A meets B, I’m a seriously happy camper. And so are scores of others.
Dovetailing with the “boutique-ing” of the hospitality business — wherein Hyatt spins off the tinier, luxer Andaz, Hilton unveils Canopy, and Marriott partners with the legendary Ian Schrager on its swanky Edition properties — is the ever-steeper competition in the amenities arena. As travelers document their journeys via Instagram and “Look where I am now!” Facebook posts, the artsy still life of the Malin+Goetz Rum Body Wash or the Le Labo Tubereuse 40 scent finds its way into many a photo feed.
And it isn’t just boutique properties that are raising their amenities games; mammoth chains are also recognizing the feel-good value in swapping out ho-hum, generic toiletries for well-crafted goodies that are a genuine pleasure to use.
But before we get into a few success stories on the amenities front, let’s tackle the on-the-fence types: the brands that don’t yet see the merit in allocating time, effort and resources to cranking out teensy, weensy bottles of their precious bath and body brews.
In short, there are two key reasons why naysayers might want to rethink their stance: One, in this era of heightened airport security, short-trip business travelers love nothing more than leaving their favorite basics — shampoo, conditioner, body lotion etc. — at home, so they can skip the TSA 3-ounce rigmarole. But they’ll only do that if they know they can count on merch of comparable quality when they check into their rooms.
Two, unlike retail, the hotel business is booming. According to a recent Ernst & Young report, Global Hospitality Insights 2015, this is now a $54.5 billion industry – up from $52 billion in 2013. This year alone, an estimated 1.3 million guestrooms were added, in virtually every corner of the world.
Those rooms need product. Buzzy, high-end, pilfer-worthy product.
Curating the Bathroom Counter
Now in its 11th year of business, the aforementioned Malin+Goetz is already an old hand at the hotel game. The unisex indie, which is based in New York but is now peppering L.A. and London with its freestanding apothecaries, was approached very early on by properties seeking to carry its sleekly packaged, hypoallergenic and natural fare.
While Morgans Hotel Group (Delano, Mondrian, St. Martins Lane, Sanderson, etc.) has formed the cornerstone of Malin+Goetz’s amenities business for several years, the brand is also in a sizeable lineup of one-off and small-chain boutique lodgings. “We try to align ourselves with properties that are on-brand,” says Andrew Goetz. “It doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. Rather, they have an authenticity, and a design culture. Those have been real win-win situations for us.”
A classic example of a great amenities fit for Malin+Goetz? The 21c Museum Hotels, quirky mashups of lodging-meets-exhibition space located in five cities. The original outpost, in Louisville, has oodles of Southern charm and has received major kudos from Condé Nast Traveler. “21c was a no-brainer for us,” says Goetz.
But many other hotels don’t make the cut. “We’re like the fisherman on the dock,” says Goetz. “Every day, 15 fish jump into our net and we throw 14 back. We’re very strategic about whom we partner with.”
Asked why the brand has struck such a chord with hoteliers, Matthew Malin points to the idiosyncracy of the products themselves. Typically, they’re built around specific ingredients that benefit a particular body part. “We’ve created a head-to-toe way to take care of yourself that isn’t ‘matchy-matchy,’” Malin notes. “A lot of the hotels we’re working with are looking for something unique. So the fact that we had a Peppermint Shampoo, and a Cilantro Conditioner and Bergamot Body Wash was really embraced.”
That the brand is aimed at both genders also doesn’t hurt, says Goetz. “When you look at the demographics of a hotel, men and women are staying there,” he notes. “If you can appeal to both, that makes an amenities program that much stronger.”
The One-and-Done Approach
If Malin+Goetz is building its hotel business property by property, another well-regarded, cult-fave skincare brand – Peter Thomas Roth – is betting the farm on a single massive chain. Approached by Hilton Worldwide in 2011 to develop a range, it now stocks its Mega-Rich bath and body line in 653 Hilton hotels. That translates into major impact: Nearly 100,000 guestrooms in 86 countries, serving 25 million visitors per year.
No wonder Roth isn’t seeking any other action in this category. “It’s the largest branded amenity program in the world,” he points out. “We are proud and delighted to be partnered with Hilton Hotels and resorts and have no desire to be elsewhere.”
For sure, the “house brand” scenario can be fruitful for both the hotel chain and the amenities provider, especially when there’s a spa component involved. Case in point: The long-standing alliance between Starwood and Bliss, which happened when the former acquired the latter from LVMH in 2004. Thanks to that decade-old deal, at W Hotels around the world, there’s a seamless connection between the in-room bath and body brews and the Bliss Spa experience.
And Then There’s This Heartland Upstart…
Far from the beauty capitals of New York and Paris lies William Roam, an innovative Indianapolis indie that’s staking new territory in the green and vegan amenity space.
It’s also a give-back company. Through its Roam Foundation, it has established scholarships for college students studying hotel management, and is a member of the 1% For the Planet program benefitting environmental organizations.
The brainchild of Aussie transplant Ali Murphy, whose background is in law, William Roam made its debut at the IMHRS (International Motel, Hotel & Restaurant Show) in 2013. Since then, it’s picked up a roster of luxury boutique hotel clients numbering in the “multiple hundreds,” says Murphy.
Steeped in a level of chic Americana that rivals Ralph Lauren (just check out the gorgeous mini-films on the company’s website), William Roam offers three distinct collections — Roam, Sense and Float – each boasting its own vibe and indigenous ingredients. Roam taps into the love of the open road and features Maine blueberries, Kansas wheatgrass and Napa Valley red wine grape extract. Sense is spa-like and hydrating, boasting the extract of bark from the Minnesota Tamarac Larch tree. Float is surfy, laced with certified Hawaiian deep sea water from Kona.
William Roam isn’t the only hospitality beauty company with a sense of style; Toronto-based Hunter Amenities, for instance, has a cracking licensing division that develops product for such buzzy brands as Rodial, Nest, Apothia and Byredo.
Still, by emphasizing the eco-responsibility of its products, and the purity and cruelty-free nature of its ingredients, William Roam is tapping into a growing trend in amenities. “I’m definitely seeing more organic and green — not just in product but in the packaging as well,” says hospitality expert Lynn Kaniper, COO and Executive Director, Creative, for Dana Communications, a marketing firm with an impressive lineup of hotel clients. “It’s become more important that products are free from parabens, synthetic perfumes, and dyes, and not tested on animals.”
To hear Murphy tell it, there really wasn’t any other way to do it. “As a relatively new company we had the opportunity and the choice to do things right from the beginning,” she says.
A Beauty of a Paid Sampling Program
Is it possible to make a buck or two selling product to hotels? Absolutely, especially if a brand lands a fat contract with a major chain.
But the bigger case to be made for diving into the hospitality waters is the effect it can have on your business when travelers return to their cozy homes. If they’ve fallen in love with one of the brews they used on vacation or a business trip, there’s a high likelihood they’ll be heading to a store or website to nab a full-size version.
“We don’t really make money on amenities,” says Goetz. “Where we see the investment pay off is that people come back, and they’re either buying at our store or at one of our retail partners like Barneys. That’s where we see all the excitement.”
Without question, says Roth, his alliance with Hilton is “by far our best sampling program.” How can he tell? Because his Mega-Rich products routinely rank in the top 10 on peterthomasroth.com.
For some, says Goetz, an intoxicating shower gel or delicious conditioner becomes the beauty equivalent of a madeleine. “It reminds them of their experience at a hotel,” he says. “So, yes, they’re enjoying your product. But they’re also thinking, ‘I remember that wonderful time I stayed at the Mondrian in London.’ It’s sort of that Proustian experience.”