“Never_ ever sacrifice quality for a cheaper price” by gabyion


									                                   “Never, ever
                                sacrifice quality for
                                 a cheaper price. ”
                                      Jennifer Miner, president of
                                       Sea and Ski International

32   Developments • July 2009
           know it might sound absurd, but I find times like these exciting,” says Jennifer Miner, president of Sea
“I         and Ski International, a leading supplier of housewares to the vacation ownership industry. She sees the
current economic trials as providing both challenges and opportunities, and what we do with those challenges and
opportunities will make all the difference.

      The economic situation gives us a        manager of the Christie Lodge Owners             that tightrope between what guests and
chance to take a hard look at current          Association in Vail, Colorado. “We’re also       owners have come to expect, what really
products, services, and business models        looking with a critical eye at everything.       needs to be done, and what the budget
around the industry with a more critical       We’re in the process now of identifying the      can bear.
eye, looking for new efÅciencies and           top Åve things that need to be done.”                 Innovative products can help, too.
ideas—all without sacriÅcing quality. That,         “We need to put our money where the         Jim Keith, partner with Reliable Kitchen
according to many in the industry, is the      people are,” Miner agrees. “Never, ever          & Bath, is really excited about a product
magic formula for success these days. How      sacriÅce quality for a cheaper price. We         used to resurface countertops that can
quality is maintained when money is tight      also suggest focusing on upscale items on        save up to 75 percent of replacement
will teach lasting lessons to stand long       the countertop, where people see it, but         costs, plus reduce landÅll waste in the
after the economic crisis is just a distant,   using less expensive items where visibility is   process. The product is called stone effects,
unpleasant memory.                             not so great.”                                   which enables any solid surface (including
                                                    On the countertop is where brand            ceramic tile, Formica, and cultured
What’s on Your Countertop?                     names offer the most punch, she says.            marble) to be reÅnished into a designer
      What guests see when they drive          A sparkling Cuisinart blender sitting on         stone or granite look. It has limited
through the gate or walk in the door           the counter will be perceived as a top-of-       downtime, meaning most units can be put
sets the tone for their entire stay—and        the-line item and worth the investment,          back into use within a day or two.
it’s often the little things that have the     but that potato peeler that stays in the              “We just completed a project in Maui,
greatest impact.                               drawer doesn’t have to have a fancy              and the client was really pleased,” Keith
      “We’re looking closely at what people    label to be acceptable and reliable. It’s all    notes, adding that this process is being
see,” says Lisa Siegert-Free, RRP, general     about awareness and balance—walking              increasingly used across the board.

                                                                                                                 le   nd

by Genie Ford

                                                                                                                      July 2009 • Developments   33
                                                                         Money and access to credit are big          creative ways to control or decrease
                                                                   factors for all resorts today. Siegert-Free       costs,” Finch says. “In regard to furniture,
                                                                   notes that Christie Lodge is only spending        Åxtures, and equipment, there are two
                                                                   one-third of its previous budget to renovate      ways to approach the budget. The Årst is
                                                                   or freshen-up the 200-plus units at the           to downgrade the quality of the goods,
                                                                   resort. Even more signiÅcantly, the lodge is      and the second is to decrease the selection
                                                                   doing it from existing funds; they are not        of products offered or the quantity of a
                                                                   borrowing a penny.                                speciÅc item. I have encouraged my
                                                                         Jackie Jordan, Director of Color            clients to maintain the quality and
                                                                   Marketing for Sherwin-Williams, says              decrease the quantity.”
                                                                   you don’t have to spend a lot to make a                 An example she uses is a property in
                                                                   big impact.                                       Napa, which still offers three types of wine
                                                                         “Adding or changing colors instantly        glasses—but only six of each versus 12.
                                                                   refreshes a space and increases appeal            When things get better, management can
                                                                   and marketability,” says Jordan. “Owners          add items to the stock. Some items (slow
                                                                   and managers can also easily update areas         cookers, humidiÅers, and games) can be
                                                                   by painting ornamental iron, doors, and           made available at the front desk, so not as
                                                                   architectural details both on the exterior        many are needed for each unit. However,
                                                                   and the interior. This can also increase the      she notes that some things are just off
                                                                   curb appeal of the property.”                     limits when it comes to reducing either
                                                                         She suggests painting a lively, vibrant     quantity or quality.
                                                                   color on an accent wall, such as Sherwin-               “You can’t afford to downgrade the
                                                                   Williams “Indigo Batik” or “Enticing              bed. Lack of a fantastic sleep experience
                                                                   Red”. Jordan adds that differentiation            can affect the entire vacation. A great bed
                                                                   between properties, both in appeal and            is no longer a luxury but an expectation,”
                                                                   service, is more important than ever. She         Finch says. She notes that most good
                                                                   notes that the imagery typically found in a       Italian linen is already environmentally
                                                                   small, customized boutique hotel is Ånding        friendly, so that’s a plus for owners.
                                                                   its way into resort properties as well.           She also points out that providing glass
                                                                         However, Jordan also acknowledges a         water carafes by the bedside is not just
                                                                   reality that all resort owners and managers       a nice touch; it’s more cost-effective and
                                                                           understand.                               “greener” than bottled water.
                                                                                     “If we take a closer look             “Of course,” she notes with a
                                                                                   at life cycle costs, we would     smile, “This is best in regions like the
                                                                                       likely discover that          Colorado Rockies, where the tap water
                                                                                          spending a little more     is exceptional!”
                                                                                            now on higher quality,         On the other hand, in Vacation Resort
                                                                                              more durable           International’s (VRI) Western region,
                                                                                               products will         Director of Resorts Charles Wendt says
                                                                                                actually cost less   that his budget for repairs and renovation
                                                                                                 over time. It’s     has not been reduced.
                                                                                                 all about using           “We’re maintaining our resorts as we
                                                                                                  budgets wisely.”   did before the decline in the economy. We
                                                                                                       High-         always try to remind our association boards
                                                                                                 end properties      of directors that if they defer repairs or
                                                                                                 are facing the      maintenance, the cost to do these projects
                                                                                                same challenges.     later will be higher, and in the meantime,
                                                                                               They’re still         owner dissatisfaction increases and resort
                                                                                              spending money,        ratings are jeopardized.”
                                                                                             but operators, like           Guiding owner boards through

                                                                                           their clients, are also   these challenging times requires extra

                                                                                        more cautious and            care as some difÅcult decisions are made,



                     br                                                              are looking for “sound          especially when that includes the prospect


               ur      an
                          tc                                                     investments,” says Karey Finch,     of raising maintenance fees.


                    e(      ol
                      SW or, su
                      st -

                                                                            RRP, regional marketing director               “The Årst reaction from board

            ec            65         ch

               tiv           45)        as S                          with Dahlgren Duck & Associates, a             members is usually quite traumatic,”
                  ew             , on         herw
                      ay              an a          in-Will
                         to r               ccent           iams   purveyor to the luxury resort market.             says Brenda Twiss, VRI Director of
                             efre                   wall, is a
                                   sh a
                                        n y in t
                                                                         “My clients are deÅnitely watching          Resorts for Florida. She handles this by
                                                erior.             their budgets more and have asked for             explaining the reality of operations—

      34                Developments • July 2009
                                                                                                                             nd Vacations Club, Orlando—
                                                                                                                     n Gra                                   an a
                                                                                                              Hilto                                               ffor
                                                                                                   l e il
                                                                                                          by                 ool deck area. Cabanas ofte              da b
                                                                                               So                     the p                                n inc          le
                                                                                           rc                res t to                                           lud
                                                                                        Pa                 e                   a reser ved spot with sha            e fla
                                                                                     at                int            Fi , and                           de.            t
                                                                                  as             nd              Wi-
where cuts would have to be made if                He believes that             an           ra              or,
                                                                                         olo              rat
                                                                                      tc                e

increases in fees are not forthcoming—        the two main focus                   an              rig



and then the board can decide what is         areas are amenities


acceptable or not acceptable. In an unusual   and guest rooms.


move, Twiss noted that at one resort, a            “If guest

sample renovation of a unit will actually     rooms are tired and
be completed, so real costs can be            need refreshing, they
determined for the owners to decide if        should be updated to stay
it’s worth it.                                competitive and provide
                                              a memorable guest
Reality 101                                   experience,” he says. He
     Tough choices are being made every       suggests replacing worn
day, and facing reality can be painful.       carpet with hardwood
It can also force you to take a good          or bamboo Æooring and
look at everything. Terri Chudy, VRI’s        then using area rugs.
Vice President of Operations in the           This provides a fresh, new
Central region, indicates that a return to    look with a longer lasting
fundamentals can work wonders. “A fresh       surface that is a renewable,
coat of paint, enhanced landscaping, and      greener resource. Area
reÅnishing cabinetry and furniture instead    rugs are smaller and easier to
of replacing them” are ways to improve        change out, making maintenance
a property at a lower cost. Savings in one    easier as well.
area can help offset spending in another.          Bongirno recommends adding
     “Economies can be made by                shade and color to the pool area through
reducing in-room amenities, eliminating       the use of moveable canvas umbrellas
complimentary mid-week cleans, or             and cabanas. The color and animation of
replacing this service with simple trash      these items provide an instant fresh look,
removal and towel exchange,” says             and the use of private cabanas can be an
Chudy. “Elimination of a 24-hour desk         additional source of rental income. One
during the slow season and reducing pool      thing designers, developers, and operators
temperatures by one or two degrees can        all agree on: customer service must never
also lead to savings.”                        be compromised.
     Chudy’s colleague, Charles Wendt,
notes that one area that can have a big       Lessons from a New Project
impact on a resort is improvement to               David Dawson, RRP, vice president
the grounds.                                  of acquisitions/development with Global
     “With many resorts limited in funds      Connections, Inc. (GCI), just completed a
for unit improvements, well-maintained        brand new project, Beso del Sol (“Kiss of
grounds can have a positive result,” Wendt    the Sun”) in Dunedin, Florida. In this day
says. “Generally, the grounds are the Årst    of dramatic sales drops, it might seem risky
impression that a guest or owner will         to embark on a new project, but Dawson
experience and could set the tone for the     took an aggressive approach to making
balance of the stay. Manicured gardens        sure his project would be successful—and
with freshly cut grass and seasonal Æowers    much of what he did has implications for
can be maintained by in-house staff for a     existing properties, too.
low cost.”                                         “While our budget was established
     “Doing more with less” is the theme      before the worst of the economic crisis
here, and where money is being spent,         hit,” Dawson says, “we still had to carefully
there must be good value.                     monitor change orders, making sure that
     “Value is the new trendy,” says Keith    we only implemented orders, which can
Bongirno, ASLA, design principal with         be costly, in areas that were essential to
MSI Design. “In today’s marketplace, you      marketing and quality.”
must provide value without compromising            The project incorporated design
the most important aspect of vacations,       elements that were integral to keeping
‘The Guest Experience.’ As developers         future maintenance costs down, using
and operators of resort properties, we are    interior features like porcelain tile, granite
actually in the memory-making business.       countertops, microÅber insulating drapes,
We provide the stage set for the vacation     sustainable wood products, Æuorescent
experience to be played out.”                 lighting, and on-demand tankless water
                                                                                            heaters. Synthetic wood materials for
                                                                                            boat docks and piers keep down exterior
                                                                                            maintenance costs, too. Beso del Sol went
 Tips and Tactics for Thriving                                                              “green” wherever possible, with zoned
                                                                                            lawn sprinkler systems, so only those plants
                                                                                            that need it are watered. The use of native
  in the Economic Downturn                                                                  plants and grasses means less water use.
                                                                                            Energy conservation was a high priority for
                                                                                            the project, and GCI went so far as to heat
Here’s a snapshot of what some in the resort development                                    only one of its two ocean-front pools.
                                                                                                  “We did see an opportunity to
industry are doing to address the challenges and opportunities                              save money on some furnishings,”
of an uncertain economy.                                                                    notes Dawson, in particular Æat screen
                                                                                            televisions, which were installed in all
• Negotiate—everything! From services to case goods, everything is negotiable               bedrooms in every unit (not just the master
                                                                                            bedroom). A bulk purchase brought the
  in this economy. Even outsourcing basic services can save you money.
                                                                                            per-unit price down considerably. Similarly,
• Increase your marketing. This might sound counter-intuitive, but if you want              a bulk purchase of furniture essentially
  to maintain or even expand your market share, don’t cut the budget. Advertise,            allowed the interior designer to furnish
                                                                                            the units with high quality furniture at
  increase public relations, and market yourself more aggressively than ever before.
                                                                                            overstock prices.
• Shop around. The cost of plastic goods and even stainless steel appliances is                   Although Beso del Sol is new, Dawson
                                                                                            offers some advice for existing properties.
  going down, so now is the time to do some comparison shopping—and stock up
                                                                                                  “Don’t ignore maintenance issues
  on Rubbermaid or Sterilite.                                                               like spalled concrete,” he says. “And turn
• Take a good look at the cost of repairs versus the cost of replacement.                   on the air conditioning in units that aren’t
                                                                                            in use, or else you risk having a mold
  Sometimes buying new can be a better bargain.
                                                                                            problem, which would be a lot more costly
• Be careful about advance payments for goods and services. Sadly, many                     than paying the utility bill.”
  companies are going out of business, and then you will be out of luck. That goes for
  deposits on parts, materials, etc. Make sure the equipment and material is delivered
                                                                                            This, Too, Shall Pass
                                                                                                 There will be an end to the current
  before you hand over the money.                                                           challenges we face. All but the most
                                                                                            pessimistic agree on that, but what is done
• Look for promotions, incentives, and other goodies. These bonuses might
                                                                                            in the meantime can set the stage for even
  be scarce right now with your traditional sources, but they do exist. For example,        more prosperity when the good times
  electric utilities in your area might be willing to help with a light-bulb swap at your   return—and the lessons we learn will help
  resort. You’ll be supporting conservation efforts, and your owners will love that.        us deal with the next round of challenges,
                                                                                            whatever they may be.
• Know when to buy. Prices may continue to drop on some goods, so keep a                         It will take careful thought and
  watchful eye on those areas where you would normally be making large purchases.           planning and a pragmatic approach to
  When you think prices have bottomed out, lock in the lowest cost you can negotiate,       everything, but there are beneÅts that
                                                                                            derive from hunkering down in the current
  even if the renovation isn’t planned for another six months or so.                        economic crisis, as we make choices and
• Go green. Anything you do that is environmentally forward will have a positive            decisions that help us compete in the
                                                                                            marketplace. We’ll emerge leaner, smarter,
  impact on your position in the marketplace.
                                                                                            and ready for the future. D
• Take a good hard look at your payroll. Can you let natural attrition reduce your
  payroll costs? Eliminate or reduce bonuses, and consider not replacing employees          Genie Ford is a freelance writer and president
                                                                                            of Print Management, Inc. Her e-mail is
  who leave, except for those in critical areas. But, don’t let any payroll reductions      genie@printmanagementinc.com.
  have a negative impact on customer service. Walk that fine line carefully; it’s filled
  with danger.
• Use your imagination. Dream up new experiences for your guests. These don’t
  have to cost much but they—and you—will get a lift as a result!

36    Developments • July 2009
    Beso del Sol —a new project in Dunedin,
Florida, that incorporated key design elements to
     keep future maintenance costs down.

                                                    July 2009 • Developments   37

To top