More Retailers Are Checking Into Hotels In Search Of Innovation

hotel room

Part of the future of retail is playing out inside hotels — and that’s happening as the wider part of the travel-and-tourism industry is undergoing its own significant disruption.

One of the latest — and perhaps wildest — examples of the hotel-retail trend comes from Taco Bell, of all places. The mecca for what some might call creative interpretations of Mexican-style fast food is, as PYMNTS has reported, The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs, California for a limited time this summer. The property’s amenities, from poolside cocktails to guest rooms to breakfast choices, will boast a “Taco Bell twist,” the quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain said in an announcement, which described the concept as a “tacoasis.”

Deeper Trend

Sure, that might be a relatively brief stunt, but the hotel-retail trend has deeper pull than that, as documented recently by the Washington Post. Luxury fitness brand Equinox is set next month to open its first hotel in New York City, “with more on the horizon in Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Santa Clara, Calif.,” according to the report.

As well, the furnishings brand RH, formerly known as Restoration Hardware, plans to open RH Guesthouse in New York in the fall. West Elm, another furniture store, says it will open its first hotel next year — later than originally planned — but has locations coming in Detroit; Minneapolis; Indianapolis; Oakland, Calif.; and Portland, Maine.

According to the newspaper, those new hotels “will join a smattering of hotels already operating around the world under names more associated with fashion, jewelry, crystal or home goods, including Armani, Versace, Bulgari, Baccarat, Ikea, Muji and Shinola.”

The motivation for retailer and brands when it comes to hotels? The potential to showcase their retail goods and services. As well, according to the report, those retail-hotel partnerships serve to break what one industry expert called the “uniformity” found across the hotel industry. The trick? Finding a balance for those retail parts of the hotel experience, to make sure the actual stay remains the prime appeal for hotel guests.

Unattended Retail

Other commerce operations are also trying to cozy up to hotel operators in hopes of winning over new consumers — and, in some cases, finding new ways to sell to them. Take vending machines, sometimes the source of last-resort meals for travelers who got in late or have the midnight munchies.

The future of unattended retail has been taking shape over the last few years. Vending machines aren’t just for soft drinks anymore, but for champagnejewelry, electronics, cosmetics and a whole host of other products that would have seemed rather unthinkable even a few years ago. In a recent PYMNTS interview, CEO and Co-Founder Brian Shimmerlik of Vengo Labs discussed  how those changes — combined with larger trends in commerce — have opened up the field for a whole new way of thinking about vending machines, and their place in the retail ecosystem.

“As the landscape is changing, the reality is brick-and-mortar will always have a place, but it is less relevant to our day-to-day lives. That is making all of these other places more relevant — and, for us, vending is a way to create retail in places where it doesn’t currently exist, and [connect] it to the actual moment when people need a product,” he said.

Hotels, he noted, have been an interesting entry point.

Larger, upscale hotels can be complex because they have mini bars that offer many of the items Vengo might offer in its machines — and aren’t necessarily interested in lower-priced competition. Less upscale hotels often have lobby-based sundry shops that also aren’t looking for a vending machine to horn in on their action. However, at the mid-tier level, where there is no onsite competitor, Vengo machines tend to be a good and much less-expensive option.

As PYMNTS has documented through its own research, hotels still face major challenges with it comes to point-of-sale innovation, a vital part, of course, of seamless payments and commerce. Even so, hotels are gaining more interest from retailers, and this trend seems certain to grow in the coming months and years.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.