West Elm is betting that hotels -- not stores -- are the future of furniture shopping

West elm hotelWest ElmAn early look inside a West Elm Hotel.

Brooklyn-based furniture retailer West Elm is getting into the hotel business.

The company announced Monday that it will open a chain of boutique hotels starting in 2018. The first locations will be in Charlotte, North Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee. The properties will be operated by hospitality management company DDK.

Each hotel will have between 100 and 250 rooms, and rates range from $175 for a standard room to $400 for a suite.

The goal is for each location to reflect some aspect of the destination’s culture, whether that’s with locally made art or bringing neighbourhood restaurants on as vendors.

“There is a growing desire among modern travellers to immerse themselves in the place they are visiting. They want a boutique experience, and expect great, reliable service that caters to their needs,” DDK cofounder David Bowd said in a press release. “Our general managers will serve as innkeepers, and West Elm Hotels will focus on making real community connections for visitors and residents alike.”

West Elm is betting that hotels — not stores — are the future of furniture shopping. West Elm CEO Jim Brett told the Wall Street Journal that many retailers have committed suicide by opening too many stores, and he doesn’t want West Elm to fall into that camp.

“Where many retail brands have put the nail in their coffins is by opening too many stores,” he told the Journal.

So he’s opening hotels instead, and envisions West Elm one day having at least as many hotels as it has stores, according to the Journal.

The West Elm hotel rooms will be furnished with the retailer’s tables, chairs, beds, linens, and more, which the company hopes guests will want purchase during their stay.

But there won’t be price tags everywhere — the items will be available for purchase through an app that guests can download at checkin.

“We don’t want you to feel like you’re sleeping in a showroom,” West Elm hospitality head Peter Fowler told the Wall Street Journal.

West Elm isn’t the first retail company to turn to the hospitality industry to grow their business. In 2015, Restoration Hardware announced that it planned to open a boutique hotel in New York City, as did high-end gym brand Equinox.

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