Not so long ago, if you wanted to take home a wearable memento of your hotel visit, you either had to buy the souvenir T-shirt or steal the bathrobe. During those pre-21st century years, the operating motto of many hotels was "heads in beds." That single focus on booking rooms came at the expense of restaurants, bars, the sundries store and other amenities.
These days, hoteliers are learning how to be retailers. At hotel boutiques you can now buy prestige beauty products, exclusive cashmere dresses, exotic-skin handbags and, yes, a much-improved version of the T-shirt.
"There is a different breed of people in hotel management now who are thinking in terms of brands," says Thomas Callahan, co-chief executive of PKF Consulting in San Francisco. The hotel is being reimagined as a source of every aspect of good living, including fine dining and upscale shopping.
Hotels have vastly upgraded their retail selections, benefiting travelers who need last-minute swimsuits, cuff links or simply a shopping fix. Stocking current fashions not only helps hotels make money but also provides a competitive advantage. Hotels discovered they could burnish their image by selling finery that amplifies their luxury lifestyle message. Stay at the Ritz. Leave with new Italian cashmere in your roll-aboard.
It sure beats a bathrobe.
Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay
1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay (650) 712-7000
With time to spare between breakfast spent gazing at the Pacific Ocean and an afternoon of spa treatments, Ritz-Carlton guests might feel like shopping. They may not head into San Francisco, 45 minutes north, but may instead turn left at the front desk. There they'll find a boutique stocked with designer sportswear, jewelry and spa products. Inside a dressing room outfitted with a suede bench and a framed print of the resort and grounds, shoppers might try on a Cutter & Buck woven button-down shirt ($62), cashmere jackets, cardigans, wraps and tunic sweaters ($220 to $285) or a Nanette Lepore women's suit ($475 for the black satin jacket and $280 for the matching pants). Given the outdoorsy feel of this oceanside resort, most guests dress casually, even at dinner. The boutique is ready for them: It also stocks T-shirts and dresses by Three Dots ($50 to $156) and lots of Lacoste polo shirts, mercifully free of logos other than the little alligator. Men who aren't afraid of colors might pick up a blue, orange or lavender Bugatchi Uomo satiny cotton shirt ($95) or vividly patterned and embroidered shirts by Robert Graham ($168 to $298). If you packed your bags without making a purchase, the Ritz boutique can follow you home. Its mail-order catalog expands upon the boutique's inventory of apparel, accessories and beauty products. Need a wedding gift? It even offers Viking kitchen appliances—blenders and food processors.
Bacara Resort & Spa
8301 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara (805) 968-0100
Ever since the oceanside resort opened nearly seven years ago, a trio of boutiques has stoked the shopping passions of hotel guests. When the resort was planned, its owners envisioned "real retail," says Wendy Easterday, vice president of retail at the 78-acre property. To achieve that goal, they sought to make the shopping match the experiences in the spa, restaurants and rooms, she says. "Women are short on time, and at Bacara they can have an . . . experience similar to what they may find in a more urban or upscale suburban shopping center," Easterday says. This summer, the Luxury Boutique offered silk print tops with metallic leather belts by Rozae Nichols, J Brand jeans in resort white, Robert Rodriguez blouses, Rebecca Taylor flirty dresses and a selection of Prada Sport's streamlined tops and dresses. Men get equal treatment with jeans by Big Star and Earnest Sewn, colorful dress shirts by Robert Graham and James Perse T-shirts. You may pretend you left your spa tote bag at home just so you can peruse the Spa Shop for Michael Kors swimwear, Eberjey and Only Hearts lingerie, and skin-care products by Sonya Dakar, Phytomer, MD Skincare and Peter Thomas Roth. Forgot your pajamas? The Resort Shop sells two-piece BedHead pajamas ($137) and, to help you sleep, lavender eye pillows ($18). Still restless? The wine selection includes a $98 Caymus Cabernet.
W Los Angeles Westwood
930 Hilgard Ave., Westwood (877) 946-8357
If, after a visit to the W's Bliss Spa, you feel compelled to take home a bit of the experience, no problem. The second-floor spa happens to sell one of the most extensive selections of Bliss' sought-after body and bath products in Southern California. Hotel and spa guests have ample opportunity to sample the creams and lotions, given that they're stocked in spa locker rooms, guest rooms and poolside bathrooms as well as used in spa treatments. All that exposure to the sprightly scented potions evidently leads many guests to develop an immediate affection for them. The best-selling products at the spa shop are full-size versions of the in-room amenity kit. The contents? Lemon+Sage Body Butter, Lemon +Sage Soapy Sap, Fabulous Foaming Face Wash and a set of Lemon+Sage Shampoo and Conditioning Rinse. Buy all five for $113, or the least expensive, the $22 face wash. The spa's locker rooms feature the Lemon+Sage Soapy Sap ($24), High Intensity Hand Cream ($18) and the anti-aging moisturizer, An Ounce of Prevention AM ($48). Still haven't scratched the shopping itch? The W mail-order catalog, Wish (www.whotelsthestore.com), will ship you designer leather goods, $135 cuff links and every item that goes on the bed, including the featherbed and mattress.
Four Seasons Westlake Village
2 Dole Drive, Westlake Village (818) 575-3000
During a recent tour of the combination medical facility and luxury hotel, Marla Maples popped into the Spa Boutique to swear her allegiance to the bronzing powder she bought there recently. The actress and Donald Trump ex-wife No. 2 is among the many converts to the shop's lineup of holistic skin-care products. Whether it's a $9 green apple lip balm by La Natura or an $88 smoothing body balm by Sothys Secrets, each cosmetic and skin-care collection must pass muster with the hotel's owner, billionaire health guru David H. Murdock. The boutique carries all of the products used in the hotel's spa and then some. Though shelf space is limited, the shop still stocks an extensive lineup of Jane Iredale micro-pigment mineral makeup, Kerstin Florian skin-care products and the French Sothys collection, known for its cleansers and moisturizers for four skin types. The Spa Boutique also carries more than 30 fully stocked shelves of ultra-luxurious Wolford hosiery ($28 to $48), bodysuits and sweaters. Should you develop a need for a $2,290 pink metallic lizard-skin Lana Marks clutch or an $82 Elisabetta Rogiani tank top, the Home, Body and Soul boutique across the hall stocks those, as well as imported dishware featuring pineapples—a nod to one of Murdock's other enterprises, Dole Food Co.
Peninsula Beverly Hills
9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills (310) 551-2888
Some clothes are made from fabrics so luxurious, construction so meticulous and styling so steadfastly classic that wearing them for the next 20 years is practically a given. That's the beauty of Agnona, a brand of precious-fiber womenswear that's so exclusive—and preciously priced—that it is well-known only within a rather rarefied circle. The hand-finished clothes are available in Southern California at Neiman Marcus and at the Agnona boutique at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. Hotel guests will find the entire collection along with special items such as alpaca teddy bears (papa is $250; bambino is $70) and sheer silk-cashmere scarves embossed with a leaf pattern ($485). The boutique, located in the hotel's eastern corridor, is a temple of double-face cashmere, alpaca and expert knitting so fine, some sweaters don't have seams. Agnona is next door to its companion menswear boutique, Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian textile and menswear company that bought Agnona eight years ago. Zegna's collection includes $80 collar stays and cashmere cardigans starting at $1,195.