Sandals is Reshaping Resort Retail

For years resort retail has been the place you shop when you forget something or need to grab a last minute souvenir to take home. And recently, it has struggled to be relevant. Why would anyone pay top dollar for imported goods they could buy back home? Sandals Resorts is changing that.

Michael Williams, Head of Business Retail at Sandals Resorts International, said that their new Beach House and Marketplace concepts were a result of wanting to become a best in class retailer just like they were a best in class resort. They wanted to differentiate themselves and bring change to the industry for good of the communities. To do that, they needed to rethink their model. They knew what they were offering was inauthentic and guest were really expecting more local products.

The goal was to replace all of the imports with local products — things that were locally sourced, made, and contributing to the local economy. This huge initiative launched with the help of the Sandals Foundation. Their high standards to become a featured artist reflect the level of quality the brand prides itself on. Eighty percent of the material must be sourced from the local country, they cannot be exporters and in return, 5% of all sales goes back into a fund that artists’ can apply for to help fund their business. The Foundation provides micro-financing so that artists can source raw materials. They offer clinics on how to refine their goods, so they can keep with the quality that Sandals expects.

But they couldn’t offer a premium product in a subpar environment. Williams explained that was the catalyst for bringing JGA on board. “We needed to partner with someone who really understood retail. We worked with them on the journey mapping, the guest experience, and taking a whole-hearted retail approach. It’s all the little things that most people don’t think about…” For instance, how is the lighting going to impact the environment?

Sandals wanted to create an environment that felt like home which is how the Beach House concept came to be. This is where guests could shop home décor, apparel and sundries. The Marketplace would showcase Caribbean artists and collection, products that are indigenous to the country such as chocolates, spices, sauces.

While general fixturing would be consistent for ease of merchandising, each location becomes unique in the local decor and in the products that they feature.

Curaçao, a dry arid desert island, with a terrain completely different than Sandals other locations warranted a retail environment that complemented the quartz and aloe native to the island, rather than the driftwood and corral found at the other locations.

There also needed a dedicated area that could demonstrate the craft; where a cigar roller, wood carver, jewelry maker, or ceramic painter could connect with guests through personalized, welcomed experiences instead of on the beach.  They’ve had wood carvers carve dates or initials for couples on their honeymoon. “Guests have loved it,” Williams explained the response has been nothing but positive.

“The retail design and experience really helped elevate the product,” said Williams. And that ultimately helped the artisans increase their price. This has increased sales of not only those products, but other products in the store as well because guests have an understanding that they are offering premium authentic products across various categories. “The goal was to help elevate the community and through our shops, we’ve been able to do that.”

Sandals’ late Chairman’s legacy is the motivator behind all that they do. It’s about giving the guest more than they expect. People walk into the shops at Sandals Resorts and feel they are in a special place. Williams believes, “Sandals new retails shops are among the best you’ll find in the Caribbean.”