In June, vacation and short-term rental provider Northeast Suites launched GoLocal Suites, a line of properties in which every single item is made in America – and made available for sale. Guests can scan the products’ QR codes or browse the SkyMall-like GoLocal Magazine, read about the manufacturer, and purchase of anything from the dinnerware to the mattresses.
“We think there are so many marketing opportunities that haven’t been explored within the vacation rental industry, with unused square footage that was previously a sunk cost,” said Patrick Flynn, CEO of Northeast Suites. The Boston company has monetized that square footage, generating $10,000 in product sales from guests who have stayed in the suites since this summer.
Most products are sold through affiliation programs, and GoLocal earns between 4 and 7 percent in commissions. One product they were not able to find made in the US was a paper towel holder, so they make their own.
The 20 properties in the collection are currently a proof of concept for something much larger: GoLocal’s patent-pending technology that allows the demo and resale of items from rental spaces. One way the company plans to scale the concept is to partner with an e-commerce company to fulfill the orders and provide the products to properties. (Flynn’s four-person team currently fulfills the orders from their Boston office.)
GoLocal has been in discussion with Walmart and designed the concept in part to align with the retail giant’s initiatives to support American jobs and manufacturing. Its product selection includes some familiar names, like Libman and Walmart’s own Mainstays brand. The company also sources from smaller providers, and dozens more have applied to be supplier partners, including local artists.
“At the heart of it, that’s what our initial main goal was, to bring attention to local manufacturers because we think that can be replicated in hospitality sectors throughout the world,” Flynn said. He envisions packages of items curated specifically for vacation rental hosts, such as a set of small items for the kitchen – like a “big Birchbox,” as he calls it.
Right now, anyone can purchase single goods (including the paper towel holder) through GoLocal’s website or app. Among several standard product categories, one selection jumps out: the “Endangered List.” Items in this category had only a single manufacturer in the US, making them in danger of being outsourced should domestic demand decline, Flynn said. “We think people will buy these more consistently and the impact is greater.”
At least two of the products on the endangered list are some of the most popular sold: Bunn coffee makers and a flatware set from Liberty Tabletop. Other best-sellers include blankets, candles, pots and pans, and mattresses. Flynn said the suites acting as a showroom is a great way for guests to try out products in a way they might not otherwise be able to, like actually sleep on a mattress they may want to buy. Most guest purchases are made on the last day of their stay.
Beyond the competitive advantages and additional revenue, stocking its properties with American-made goods yields a significant operational benefit: fewer calls for repairs and item turnover. “These are much higher quality for sure,” Flynn said. “You can feel it as soon as you pick them up.”
Even more so, GoLocal has indirectly created a bigger sense of pride in the office. “Everyone here more and more feels that American pride and wants to build the company up for that reason.”