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Straight From The Source

Purchasing Execs Weigh In On Key Issues During BITAC® Luxury

Friday, March 13, 2020
Dennis Nessler
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Transparent budgets for projects, ensuring product quality, and the importance of relationships were among the key areas of focus for purchasing executives during an educational discussion at the recent BITAC® Luxury event in The Bahamas.

In a panel entitled “Straight From The Source: Procuring Product That Helps Define Luxury,” the executives shared some of their strategies for success.

Lauri King, vp, hospitality procurement, Metzger, Inc., talked about some of the challenges purchasing firms often face when it comes to budgets.

“When owners hire a designer they inevitably don’t give them a true understanding of what their FF&E budget is. I think some owners are afraid to tell them how much money they have to spend, but at the end of day we end up having owners come to us and say ‘ugh, our project is being designed over budget.’ Then it’s up to us to ensure that we find that luxury, quality product and bring the project in on budget,” she said.

King later added, “I think it’s important that we understand at the beginning what the budget is. How much money do we really have to spend? It’s a real question, and then [we can] design to that. If that puts you out of the luxury market then be realistic about that. But if you’re shooting for the stars then plan on spending the money and spend it all the way through.”

Candis Humes, director of purchasing, Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, underscored the importance of staying on budget.

“With my property being fairly old we have to stay on top of the budget. Our owners are very new so we’re constantly in budget meetings, constantly reviewing the labor costs, and a lot of the factors that people don’t take into consideration. From a purchasing standpoint it’s about ensuring that you’re getting your best buy for your buck, but, of course, still maintaining your luxury standards,” she said.

Bryant Young, regional director of procurement, Langham Hotels & Resorts, suggested there are some creative ways to make sure things pencil out. “You start to look at the budget as a whole so that you find where you can possibly [cut back], maybe the back of the house, or things guests don’t come into direct contact with,” he noted.

Jacqueline Blenman, purchasing manager, Sandy Lane Hotel, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of planning to maintain control of the process, in addition to ensuring quality product.

“I’m in control of exactly what is purchased. I take full control because the owners understand who they’ve hired for that job. It’s knowing exactly what to look for to maintain that quality and making sure that the team you have working with you understands what that quality is. You don’t just take anything. So that’s making sure you work with your vendors so that they too understand don’t bring any crap to the table because we’re not going to take it,” she insisted.

According to Young, “product has to be a combination of having the look and feel of luxury.” In addition, he added, “it also has to have that sustainability for the operation of the project.”

Meanwhile, all the panelists agreed that relationships remain critical to the entire process, particularly in terms of keeping it on schedule.

“I need to be able to trust my vendors. Being able to trust the people that I’m doing business with is very important to me. It not only goes to the vendors it also ties right into the supply chain. I need to know where my product is and when I’m going to get it. Because I’m in Barbados our manufacturers are far away so my timelines are very important. Having that trust and being able to know that if you say I’m going to get it next week it is not next month or next year,” said Blenman.

“It’s up to me to ensure that I’m presenting [to owners] vendors that I have faith and trust in to deliver a product. I’m representing the owner and I can’t bring to them a bid from a vendor that hasn’t been vetted or that I’m not confident at the end of the day that I’m not going to get that phone call that the vendor that they selected based on the presentation I made is the wrong vendor,” stated King.

Humes reinforced the point and emphasized the importance of finding solutions together. “In purchasing we rely so heavily on that connection,” she said.

Lastly, the panelists weighed in on the sizable impact of technology on the entire purchasing process.

King provided some perspective. “When I started 43 years ago we didn’t have computers, I remember the libraries that we had. Now I tell vendors all the time I don’t want your catalog, I want to be able to access everything online. If there’s something I need to see to present to a client I’ll request it from you, but I really want to stay away from catalogs and anything to do with paper from an environmental standpoint,” she commented.

“As purchasers we’re constantly looking for what’s out there and what’s going to affect our properties. You need to be able to reach out to us so we know what’s going on in the market that will make our lives a lot easier,” said Young.

According to Blenman, “being able to track and being able to see without actually getting on a plane and going there is so important. Being able to have access to portals and going in and looking at your catalogs, that is critical for us. Even at the resort everything is full technology in all of the rooms. We can communicate so freely now so that’s important, I embrace technology head on and I love it,” she concluded.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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