The ”luxury” bathroom amenities revolution

Luxury hotel chain Ritz Carlton, owned by Marriott announced earlier this month it has signed a strategic partnership with British luxury brand Asprey. Known for its exceptional craftsmanship and variety of products from silverware and leather goods to high jewelllery and saddlery, one would imagine the partnership involves opening of Asprey boutiques at Ritz Carlton hotels. Indeed, there will be a boutique opening at one location, The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common but no details on any other future openings.

But the actual big winner of such partnerships is a less known company called Pacific Direct, one of the three dominant producers of bathroom amenities for hotels and airlines.

The recipe is simple – Pacific Direct licenses specific luxury brands from various sectors and produces vast quantities of their bathroom products (shampoos, hair conditioners, bath salts and body lotions – all in small plastic bottles). As the company strives to offer the lowest possible price, most of its products are based on chemicals and preservatives with a long expiration date, so that hotel chains and airlines (mostly for business and first class) can buy in bulk, huge quantities for all their properties and store them for a very long time. And this is understandable, given that an organic based bathroom amenity costs 5 times more…

Pacific Direct’s current productionfacility is based in the Czech Republic and its capacity is of ”90 million of bottles and tubes, with spare capacity and potential to increase production output in future” (as stated by the company website). Pacific Direct licenses: Acqua Di Parma, Asprey, Elemis, Pengaligon’s, AmouageElemis is currently stocked by InterContinental Hotels and over 50 international locations.  Acqua di Parma products which can be found in many suite category accommodations of many luxury chains have a 24 month validity since opening, so one could imagine the amount of chemicals and preservatives they contain.

Pacific Direct’s competitors include ADA Cosmetics International Gmbh which licenses Bvlgari, Chopard and Trussardi and La Bottega Dell Albergo  which licenses Etro, Jo Malone, Laura Tornato. Both companies follow the same philosophy regarding these luxury branded products, which are mainly developer for their reputation and for their scent.

In their ”partnership” with some of the major luxury chains, the three giant cosmetics producers wrongly assume that reputation and prestige is what guests are looking for when entering their bathroom. This is no longer the case and as consumers become more savvy and discerning, they demand quality and reliable products which they can actually use. The era of bathroom amenities in luxury hotels that guests would toss aside is long gone and guests no longer wish to bring their own toiletries on their travels. Afterall, such crucial details that have a direct impact on the guests’ health will become major differentiating factors among luxury hotels.

In all cases, the luxury brands are not actively involved in the production and I am sure, in many cases, they are not even aware about the average quality of their bathroom amenities. Whether the brand is a jeweller, perfumer, fashion brand or SPA brand, these licensing agreements for bathroom amenities will eventually take their toll on the reputation of each brand.

French cosmetics brand L’Occitane, listed since 2011 on the Hong Kong Stock is a relatively new comer to this area of business, but has already muscled in some lucrative partnerships worldwide, producing its Verbena line for hotels and airlines. Compared with the other three producers, L’Occitane’s products have some natural ingredients, although less than 10% – again driven by the huge volumes they need to produce.

Hope is not lost though! Peninsula Hotels (select properties) Rocco Forte Hotels, Maybourne Hotels (Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Berkeley), Campbell Gray Hotels and ME Hotels- all feature organic products from brands such as REN,  Bamford and Apivita.

Oliver Petcu

Asprey bathroom amenities at Ritz Carlton