museums&MORE Fall 2014
The 1766 Shop

The Omni Homestead Resort offers southern charm for season-long sales

Are you looking for something special for someone at home? Do you want to cap off a relaxing resort experience by buying yourself something nice? The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs Virginia offers more than 15 shops with unique items, local fare and apparel.

Open since 1766, The Omni Homestead Resort itself is one of America’s grand resorts, offering hospitality and southern charm in a 2,000-acre setting in the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Virginia. Renowned for its natural hot springs, the resort offers 483 luxurious guest rooms and suites, 72,000 square feet of meeting space and a wide array of fine and casual dining choices.

If that’s not enough to entice you, the resort has two championship golf courses, including one of the nation’s finest mountain courses, The Cascades. Allegheny Springs is a two-acre family-friendly water attraction with lazy river, water slides and water play zone, and the resort also offers the South’s first downhill ski area, an equestrian center with riding arena, top-rated shooting club, tennis, Segway tours, mini cascades, a new 18-hole miniature golf course and a wealth of other recreational attractions, not the least of which are the opportunities to shop.

Signature Sales

The 1,135-square-foot signature logo store, The 1776 Shop, boasts cherry wood accents and hardwood floors that provide the framework for a shop with a nostalgic feel. Vintage wooden advertising signs, framed prints and historic photos add signature accents that enhance the ambiance.

It showcases custom apparel and gift items for ladies, gentlemen and children, featuring the renowned Omni Homestead hallmark, along with a wide selection of newspapers, magazines, toiletries, tobacco and sundry items. It also features several property-specific items including their French-milled soaps, signature dishware with the historic Homestead H design and eucalyptus-infused body products. In addition, they sell books featuring the natural springs of the region and vintage posters and postcards.

We have really fine-tuned our offerings over the past several years to find which items shoppers prefer most,” said Christie Ford, director of retail. “The logo apparel items continue to be the most popular, as people love to go home and wear something that shows off their favorite vacation destination. Ladies like the colorful T-shirts and totes, while men tend to purchase the golf shirts and hats.”

While the logo apparel is most popular, they also sell items such as frames, 14K gold tower charms, glassware and blankets. For visitors who just want a small memento, they sell divot repair tools, vintage posters, water bottles, umbrellas and of course, postcards.

The 1766 Shop has several prime locations to highlight popular items. While they have great windows to showcase apparel and accessories, guests also like seeing items like their bath products on display.

“Within the store, we have glass-enclosed display cases for our 14K gold charms and china,” Ford said. “We’ve carefully designed the layout of the products within the store so that the shopper can easily find what they are looking for and at the same time, see items they may not have realize we carried.

“For example,” she continued, “while browsing in the ladies’ apparel, guests will also see items like our holiday ornaments and commemorative frames and in the men’s area, they will see Homestead water bottles and glassware.”

This past spring they noticed an increase in sales of their brightly colored ladies’ shirts and have attributed that to women wanting more color after the long, harsh winter. The subtle floral designs and soft cotton fabrics in red, orange, purple and green have also sold very well.

By the Numbers

The success of their retail operations is directly linked to the resort’s overall success and the number of guests in house. If house counts are up, so are their sales. Ford said they follow the daily guest forecast closely for staffing and inventory levels so that they are making smart, informed decisions that impact the bottom line in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

“Because of our remote location and the small population of the surrounding area, we do not see any impact from outside visitors,” Ford said. “The resort has distinct seasons though. In winter, we see skiers and snowboarders and focus on showcasing winter apparel. During the summer and holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, families make up almost 100 percent of our guests.

“It’s vital for our retail operation’s success to understand the profile of the guests in house to better understand which merchandise to not just have available, but to prominently display,” Ford continued. “For example, Thanksgiving is a perfect time for us to showcase our holiday ornaments, children’s gifts and holiday accessories.”

Groups and associations meeting at the resort frequently request the creation of logo items incorporating their logo and The Omni Homestead Resort logo. However, this is often done separately from the normal retail operations with contact directly from the group contact. Items such as outerwear sell well during ski season, and with the resort’s indoor pool and year-round outdoor pool, bathing suits are a popular item throughout the year.

The Atlanta Gift Market is the primary show for their resort’s retail shops. However, for the 1766 shop, these items are more creative and they often use specific vendors and seek out vendors who can create items that are a good fit with their overall resort experience. Plus, as part of the Omni family, they can collaborate with retail teams from resorts all over the country, learning best practices, popular items and other valuable insights.

“Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the resort retail industry and have seen trends come and go,” Ford said. “But if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be to be unique and stay true to your vision and core values.

“As such, The 1766 Shop honors the rich history and heritage of our historic resort while also looking to the future,” she continued. “We pride ourselves on offering a variety of gift items and apparel so guests can take home a little bit of The Omni Homestead and remember their stay for months and years to come.”

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor

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