what hospitality can learn from fashion retail: insights from dover street market

May 14, 2024

When I met with Frank Marrenbach (CEO/Managing Partner of Althoff Hotels last Saturday afternoon, he asked me what was worth reading in today's Financial Times. At the time, I couldn't give a satisfactory answer as I hadn't finished the paper yet. However, during my train ride home, I came across a fascinating article that would have greatly interested him. "Just racks and racks of clothes is not the answer" by Kati Chitrakorn analytically explores what matters to Dover Sreet Market CEO, Adrian Joffe, and his business partner, Carla Sozzani, in shaping the new Paris location. Though it focused on fashion retail, it holds significant lessons for the hospitality industry in special and for management in general.

Café Koenig, Baden-Baden

My following feature highlights parallels between fashion retail and hospitality, but also reveals gaps and opportunities for differentiation in hospitality. Fashion has long been a great source of innovation and is now gradually influencing the hospitality sector. This influence is increasingly evident in how we utilize ecosystems and enhance client services. A recent publication of mine discusses insights from Rosewood's CEO on this subject.

Now consider Dover Street Market (DSM) with its eight locations in trendy global cities, as a hotel business, where 60% of its offered products are of one heritage brand. All this enhanced by food and beverage outlets, showrooms, and event spaces under one roof. This experiment leads me to:


1. Brand Range Optimisation

A 60% reliance on a hero brand is significant for DSM in fashion retail. Translating this to hospitality, 60% of e.g. "Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott"-branded products and services would be a radical shift from the norm, where these brands usually deliver 100%. But this potential shift presents an opportunity for outsourcing to increase profitability, to reduce dependency on critical talents, and to enhance quality. In times of slowing growth and rising inflation, focusing on core strengths while managing partnerships for seamless integration is crucial.

Idea: Consider outsourcing the hotel bar or spa to a third-party provider.

2. Stop Thinking in Departments

DSM does not categorize by departments; they focus on creating curated customer experiences. Departments can limit customer discoveries. DSM’s mission is to excite clients and offer emotional experiences, which traditional department stores and digital sales processes cannot fully achieve.

Idea: Transform your concierge team into customer advocates who guide the entire customer journey, both onsite and online.

Renaissance Hotel Barcelona
3. Prioritise Community

DSM subtly emphasizes community management, balancing privacy with ecosystem engagement. Building communities makes businesses more resilient and flexible, providing a source of innovation and and better integration through lateral connections.

Idea: Start a community initiative that instantly rewards recommendations to expand your customer base.

4. Ensure Complementing Inspiration

With 60% of DSM's inventory dependent on Comme des Garçons, the remaining 40% for complementary innovation, requires active management. The right seasonal collections in combination with in-store architecture play key roles in drawing attention and motivating exploration. In-house pop-ups often showcase extraordinary products.

Idea: Introduce a partnership in your hotel’s beach club to promote an extraordinary sunscreen brand, utilizing on-demand pricing.

Nobu Hotel Pool Barcelona
5. Differentiate with Local and Purpose

Incorporating award-winning local designers and international brands with a purpose is crucial for DSM. Understanding client consumption behavior, influenced by long-term social trends, helps curate the right product range. Reflecting on the failures of other retail concepts, such as Colette and Barney’s, underscores the importance of this element.

Idea: Co-brand well established artisan products from local businesses for your gift shop.

Conclusion And Outlook

I hope this exploration of the intersections between fashion retail and hospitality provides you food for thought on how to drive further innovation. If you want to learn more about preparing your business to become future-ready or want to find ways to excite clients in a structured way, please reach out.

Quoted Article:
https://www.ft.com/content/e434afde-4e93-48db-842c-70109f8a843b (Financial Time, Print Edition, "Just racks of clothes is not the answer", 11 May 2024)

Picture Credit:

All pictures owned by Detlef Schmidt; Locations include Milan, Baden-Baden and Barcelona; April/May 2024