Mattress Purchase Decisions

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Economy and Mid-Scale Hotel General Manager Psychographics

The purchase motivations, habits, and attitudes of general managers in economy and midscale hotels in the United States are not readily available in the public domain, but there are sources suggesting that these general managers purchase furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) when replacements are in order, inventory needs to be replenished, or there are new or newly renovated rooms or spaces to be furnished. Because general managers are responsible for budget oversight and cost control, and not necessarily procurement itself, their involvement in the purchase decision-making process is likely limited to review and approval. Based on the mattress choices of economy and midscale hotels, there is likely a preference among general managers in economy and midscale hotels for mattresses that offer cost savings, design opportunities, and a quality sleep experience.

PURCHASE MOTIVATIONS AND INTENTIONS

  • As there was no mention of purchasing or procurement responsibilities in the job descriptions of the general managers at midscale hotel Tru by Hilton and upper midscale hotel Hotel Whitcomb, it appears the involvement of the general manager at an economy or midscale hotel in furniture or mattress purchases is limited to the oversight and approval of the procurement budget. There is likely a procurement/purchasing department or a management company that takes care of vendor screening and selection.
  • Given that budget oversight and cost control are part of the responsibilities of the general manager, it follows that general managers would purchase mattresses or furniture only when necessary. Common sense dictates that general managers, regardless of hotel segment, would buy mattresses only if there are new rooms that need to be furnished, there are old mattresses that need to be replaced, or there is a need to replenish mattress inventory.
  • For example, Choice Hotels recently updated its upper midscale Comfort hotel guest rooms with premium mattresses and beddings as part of its Move to Modern initiative. New mattresses were purchased because all hotels of the Comfort brand are undergoing renovation.
  • Hospital industry magazine Hotel Management polled general managers in 2017 for its Voice of the GM Survey. It appears 2017 was the last year for which survey results are available.
  • While it is not clear how many general managers in the United States were polled, survey results indicate that 32% of the respondents were general managers at an upper midscale hotel, 38% were general managers at a midscale hotel, and 9% were general managers at an economy hotel. These figures suggest that most of the respondents were general managers in the economy to upper midscale hotel segment, and that the survey results, though not segmented by hotel type, may well be indicative of the perspective of economy and midscale hotel general managers.
  • Of the general managers who were surveyed, 37% planned to spend more on FF&E. Moreover, 41% reported an increase in their purchasing budget, 45% reported no increase or decrease in their purchasing budget, and 14% reported a decrease in their purchasing budget. Most general managers had annual purchasing budgets below $200,000.

PURCHASE HABITS AND ATTITUDES

  • According to Hotel Management's survey, the personal technology devices that general managers say they cannot live without are the following: iPhone (58%), Android (25%), laptop (8%). iPad (2%), and Blackberry (1%). These figures suggest that general managers are likely to review FF&E purchases (that were proposed by their procurement department or management company) on their smartphones.
  • Glō, one of the midscale brands of Best Western, feature a platform-type bed because the platform-type bed offers cost savings, design opportunities, and a quality sleep experience. Some platform-type beds are multi-purpose, with drawers or with headboards doubling as desks. Given this information, it is likely that general managers at economy or midscale hotels prefer this type of bed too.
  • Warranties appear to be an important purchase consideration. According to Ron Pohl, senior vice president and chief executive officer at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Best Western, which makes use of Simmons Beauty Rest mattresses, requires that its mattresses have a 10-year warranty at the minimum. Since general managers need to adhere to brand standards, warranties must be a purchase consideration for them too.
  • According to Chris Manley, chief operating officer at hotel management business Stonebridge Companies, most of the hotels in Stonebridge Companies's portfolio feature two-sided mattresses, mattresses that can be flipped and rotated quarterly for an extended lifespan. Given that Stonebridge Companies's portfolio includes midscale hotels, and two-sided mattresses have a longer lifespan, it is likely that general managers at economy or midscale hotels prefer two-sided mattresses as well.
  • Since Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites, two of the midscale brands of InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), feature 13-inch mattresses, there may be a preference for this thickness among general managers at economy or midscale hotels.
  • General managers at economy or mid-scale hotels may have a preference for pillow-top mattresses because, with these mattresses, pillow tops can be replaced without replacing the whole mattress. The Avid Hotel, a budget brand of IHG, features pillow-top mattresses.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

Since information from the perspective of general managers of economy and midscale hotels is needed, we began by looking for surveys and interviews of general managers. We checked as well if there are general managers who have written about their purchase habits and attitudes. If there is any relevant information at all in the public domain, that information would likely be a result of either an individual or organization polling or interviewing general managers, or general managers writing about their own habits and attitudes. This first strategy, sadly, returned limited results, and all we were able to find were the 2017 Voice of the GM Survey, which was published by hospitality industry magazine Hotel Management, and an article about how hoteliers choose mattresses, which was published by hospitality management business Stonebridge Companies. Hotel Management's respondents for the Voice of the GM Survey include general managers in economy and midscale hotels, but unfortunately, the survey results are not segmented by hotel type, and little was shared about FF&E. The article published by Stonebridge Companies offers insight into how Best Western and Microtel, key players in the midscale and economy segments, select their mattresses. It also provides information on how Stonebridge Companies, whose portfolio includes midscale hotels, chooses mattresses for the hotels it manages.

To find additional information, we looked for lists of economy and midscale hotels and checked if there is any information in the public domain that describes how any hotel in those lists purchase mattresses or FF&E. We figured these hotels' corporate websites, press releases, and press coverage may contain details about these hotels' procurement or purchasing processes, and these hotels' general managers may have shared some relevant information on their public profiles or reviews on furniture or mattress brand sites. Using the lists provided by E Travel Week, we were able to determine the top economy and midscale hotels. While we were unable to get relevant information from these hotels' corporate websites, press releases, and general managers, we came across a number of articles that identify the mattress choices of some economy and midscale hotels. Articles published by USA Today and business travel site C Boarding Group were among the articles we found.

Finally, we reviewed the job descriptions, roles, responsibilities, and day-to-day activities of general managers in economy or midscale hotels, or hotels in general, to determine the extent of their involvement in furniture or mattress purchases. Among the sites we consulted were PayScale, Linkedin, and Hcareers. With this approach, we were able to locate the job descriptions of general managers at midscale hotel Tru and upper midscale hotel Hotel Whitcomb, and the day-to-day activities of a general manager at upscale hotels Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn. All in all, while the purchase motivations, habits, and attitudes of general managers in economy and midscale hotels are not readily available in the public domain, the insights that we were able to pull from various sources enabled us to profile said managers. Given the limited information that is available, however, the profile is not as robust as we would have liked.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Economy and Mid-Scale Hotel Owner Psychographics

After an exhaustive search through credible sources, it appears that information on the psychographics for owners of economy and mid-scale hotels in the United States is unavailable in the public domain.

USEFUL FINDINGS

Insights on Purchase Motivations:

  • There are several stakeholders involved in purchase decisions for furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E), such as property-level managers, management companies, ownership groups, design firms, and purchasing companies.
  • As noted for the mid-scale and limited-service hotels, supplying a quality guest experience is an essential motivator, along with other considerations such as total cost of ownership, price, durability, etc.
  • Price may be a deterrent as far purchases of FF&E in economy and mid-scale hotels are concerned as it is possible that the highest-ticket items could not sell to them.
  • For stakeholders, such as owners, investors, and senior management, the purchase motivators are the "value of their property portfolio" as well as assuring that their properties meet certain metrics such as revenue per available room (RevPAR), average daily room rate (ADR), and occupancy.
  • For those referred to as guest experience advocates, the important motivator driving FF&E purchase is guest satisfaction.
  • Regarding people involved in operations management/project management, the important motivators are qualities such as customizability, ease of installation, ease of care and maintenance, etc.
  • For people working as purchasing/procurement managers, the vital motivators are cost of purchase, ownership, and warranty provisions.
  • Some purchase motivations are also driven by factors such as replacement purchase provisions of the FF&E procurement and efficiency and hazard-reduction capabilities.
  • Also, constantly searching for a means to refresh and re-purpose their properties is one of the FF&E purchase motivators.

Insights on Purchase Habits

Insights on Purchase Attitudes

  • One of the purchase attitudes pertaining to FF&E in hotels has been to incorrectly believe that since an FF&E reserve is collected each year, it "should be invested in the given year."
  • Additionally, items such as computer systems, door locks, commercial laundry and kitchen equipment, and phone systems are not usually bought by the FF&E firm as there is confusion over whether the E in FF&E includes owners equipment or not.
  • Also, it could be an attitudinal issue for FF&E purchases as hospitality organizations do not look "far enough out" as it requires time to investigate and analyze options.
  • Furthermore, the purchasers' attitudes often lead them to overlook deliveries for completeness as well as potential freight damage prior to signing the bill of lading clear and free.

Research Strategy:

Although we found insights relating to purchase motivations, habits, and attitudes with respect to furniture, fixtures, and equipment in hotels in general, we were unable to locate specific insights pertaining to economy and mid-scale hotels.

Our research began by searching through research reports, articles, blogs published by sources such as Turner Construction Co., Hensel Phelps, Balfour Beatty US, Cushman and Wakefield, JLL, etc., which are major hotel construction companies in the US. We explored these sources as the majority of the FF&E purchases fell within the scope of construction companies or builders. Within their reports, we tried to locate insights on FF&E purchases, either from their study or any other primary report. Although there was information available on the FF&E purchases, it related to cost averages, share of FF&E in construction cost, the range of FF&E in hotel construction activities, etc.

Also, we consulted provider companies that work on behalf of the hotels to procure FF&E items, including Avendra, Source One Inc, Roedel Companies, Innvision, and Benjamin West. Since these companies were directly involved in the purchase, we observed their study reports, blogs, white papers, service features, etc. We aimed to find information relating to their customers' motivation, attitudes, and habits, anticipating that their marketing material would include how they address these aspects of their clients. Although there was moderate information available, it was not specific to the economy and mid-scale hotels in the United States. A probable reason for this is that these companies did not want to segment their pitch to potential clients in terms of size and scale.

Next, we searched through sources that publish both news and analytical articles on the hospitality domain, especially hotels, including Hotel News Resource, Hospitality Net, Hotel-Online, HospitalityUpgrade, Hotel Marketing, etc. In these sources, we observed details around FF&E first, and then tried to locate more focused articles on FF&E purchase. We wanted to find information such as what factors drive the purchase of FF&E and what factors hotel operators consider while making such purchases, etc. Although information was available on such topics, it was not specific to either economy or mid-scale hotels.

Finally, we explored publications of mid-scale hotel chains, such as Wingate by Wyndham, AmericInn, La Quinta, Belmont, as well as economy hotel chains like Microtel, Howard Johnson, Red Roof Inn, Days Inn, etc. We aimed to analyze their annual reports, filings, and investor declarations to find out how much they spent in FF&E, along with the rationale behind their spending. For example, was it a strategic renovation with particular objective or yearly recurring expenses. Although some of these sources provided information on FF&E expenses, apart from the cost incurred, there was hardly any useful data to ascertain motivations or attitudes. Additionally, we scoured through FF&E purchase manager job postings from the hotels to understand the regularities/habits they follow for FF&E purchases. However, the information was not sufficient to prove it a habit/practice followed by one particular hotel company.

Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "The players connected with FF&E purchase decisions are numerous — including ownership groups, management companies, design firms, purchasing companies and property-level managers. And frequently, there is a different set of considerations involved in working with each of them"
  • "At the higher end, your messaging will often be focused on how your products or services contribute to the best possible guest experience. And while providing a quality guest experience is important to mid-scale and limited-service hotels, the messaging around price, durability, total cost of ownership, etc., will be more primary considerations. The differences might be subtle, but the nuances of your communication can make a critical difference in how well your message resonates."
  • "Product mix and price points, of course, are going to be different for these segments as well. Not only does that mean your highest-ticket items may not sell to economy and mid-scale hotels, but it also means that you might need to present products in different contexts for these two segments. Keep in mind that while your margins may be higher as you go upscale, a sizable percentage of all unit volume is at the lower end of the market."
Quotes
  • "Q. What is the most common mistake made by hospitality organizations when it comes to FF&E purchases? A. Not looking far enough out. Many of these purchases are big budget items that warrant a bit of time to research and compare options. They also often have long lead times, and any attempt to short-circuit may result in after-sale premiums and / or in receiving a product that may not be the most optimal solution."
  • "Q: What’s the best way to avoid receiving damaged goods? A. It sounds simple, but people overlook this industry practice all the time: Check your deliveries for completeness and possible freight damage before you sign the bill of lading free and clear. "
  • "Hospitality customers are constantly looking for ways to refresh and repurpose their properties."
  • "Q. What advice would you give a purchaser trying to decide whether to repair or replace equipment? A. These decisions – especially on large items – involve much more than price tags. Our approach is to look at the condition and the standard life cycle of a piece of equipment. The older it is, the more objectively you have to weigh the cost of repairs versus the price of a replacement. Other factors we consider in the repair-or-replace decision are the advantages offered by a new piece of equipment. Improved energy efficiency can be a game-changer."
Quotes
  • "A variety of savings strategies can be used to assist hotels and restaurants with FF&E sourcing initiatives. Source One can tailor its FF&E sourcing services to fit your hotel or restaurant needs for new construction or renovation projects. Our team of subject-matter experts work alongside your hotel or restaurant purchasing department and coordinate with architectural and design teams to develop FF&E purchasing timelines, cash flow projections, logistics, installation, and warehouse coordination. Our team understands the importance of timelines and works with suppliers to expedite FF&E agreements with favorable contract terms and delivery times for our hospitality clients."
  • "By establishing favorable relationships with suppliers, we prepare our hospitality clients for possible replacement projects down the road. Source One can help hotels and restaurants plan for capital replacement projects by working with purchasing teams to create a replacement plan for FF&E including installation, freight, and warehousing costs. Our hospitality sourcing experts can also provide recommendations of reusable furnishings."
Quotes
  • "Known for delivering solutions that respect the constraints of clients' schedules and budgets, RSJ Associates works on your behalf to ensure that your interior design and FF&E procurement needs exceed your quality expectations and arrive on time and within budget."
Quotes
  • "The fact that an FF&E reserve is accumulated every year leads many general managers / property managers into falsely believing that this should be invested in the given year. Thus, especially in the first operating years, unnecessary replacements or improvements are made and financed through the FF&E reserve. As a consequence, the required capital to finance renovation activities that are actually necessary and cost intensive is then not available. "
  • "Within the context of ongoing technological developments, for the electrical appliances in the guest rooms, such as television-flatscreens, internet connections (i.e. WLAN) , etc. a reserve additional to the FF&E reserve should be set aside. One to two percent of revenues – depending on the hotel’s positioning and its standard of IT-equipment – are definitely adequate. "
Quotes
  • "Frankly, there are none for FF&E and OS&E, nor for “soft goods” or “full renovation.” FF&E stands for furniture, fixtures and equipment. The largest cause for confusion is in the “E” as it may include for some owners equipment, such as door locks, phone systems, computer systems and commercial kitchen and laundry equipment. These items are not typically purchased by the FF&E firm"
  • "Some in the industry use the term “FF&A” and the “A” can stand for both accessories or art. OS&E, which stands for “operating supplies and equipment,” mostly covers items that the guest uses, and that are not capital purchases. However, ice machines, and, for some owners and brands, even beds, banquet chairs, makeup mirrors and TVs, which most classify as FF&E, are in a firm’s OS&E scope."
Quotes
  • "More and more owners/operators are coming to the conclusion that they want their staff people to concentrate on marketing and on enhancing the guest experience - while having a professional purchasing company devote its time and skills to managing the multiple details, special nuances, and tedious paperwork of the FF&E process."
  • "For example, every hotel brand focuses on slightly different details and requirements in its FF&E package. You want a purchasing agent who is familiar with your flag, but who will still represent your interests as the owner."