Like your hotel's furnishings? Buy it for your own homeWednesday, March 29, 2006 - By Roger Yu, USA TODAY
Used hotel furniture is flooding the market, proving a boon for liquidators and homeowners looking to decorate on the cheap.
U.S. hotels, emboldened by one of the hottest travel markets in years, are spending record sums to renovate and upgrade amenities.
In catering to a hip new generation of travelers, they are aggressively replacing old furnishings with plasma TVs, contemporary credenzas, pillow-top beds, ergonomic computer desks and plush armchairs.
Increasingly, they're calling on a handful of liquidators that specialize in clearing out hotel rooms and selling the furnishings in the second-hand market.
Don Fenning, owner of Hotel Surplus Outlet in Los Angeles, says his warehouse and showroom are overflowing with good furniture, and he's finding plenty of customers to take it off his hands. His firm cleared out the Beverly Hilton Hotel's 570 rooms last fall and will soon work on the high-end Regent Beverly Wilshire.
"We're about to come across some of the nicest stuff we've ever had," Fenning says.
Hotels pay liquidators per room — typically $100 or more — to clear out old furnishings. Liquidators sell the furnishings to the public, to hotels lower on the luxury scale, or to institutions such as nursing homes.
At liquidators' showrooms, furnishings range in style and quality. Bargain hunters might, for example, find a 27-inch TV for $60 or an eight-drawer armoire for $299.
Liquidators say their prices are about 25% of the prices retailers charge for similar new products.
Mike Granger, an attorney in Fort Lauderdale, says he decorated the three houses he owns mostly with the furnishings from Cash Liquidations, a store near Atlanta. He recently bought a Henredon TV credenza for $450. It would cost about $3,000 new, he says.
Another credenza made by Drexel, for his vacation house in Panama, cost $800, vs. about $2,800 new. He hired a carpenter to install shelves and restain it. A damaged Bernhardt couch cost $40. "If you walked into my house, you wouldn't believe it," he says.
Few reputable hotel chains keep their furnishings and art beyond seven years, says Wendell Cooper of IRCA Hotel Services, a liquidator based in Phoenix.
Hoteliers are also eager to keep up with competition. With so many hotel companies undergoing changes, liquidators are "getting stuff that's barely used," says Kurt Karchmer of Cooper Used Hotel Furniture in Chicago. "I have a glut of stuff. When hotels want their stuff out, they want it out."
The number of hotel rooms Cash Liquidations cleared out last year topped 10,000, up more than 60% from 2004. "It's at least as good this year," says its owner, Alan Moore.
IRCA's Cooper says the number of rooms it cleared last year also topped 10,000, vs. 8,000 in 2004.
A Southern California developer recently hired Margaret Bronkhorst, an interior decorator in Temecula, Calif., to decorate three model homes. With a $5,000 budget, she bought all the items she needed at Hotel Surplus Outlet's Los Angeles showroom. She also shops frequently for customers who want to furnish their houses cheaply to put them on the market.
Sometimes liquidators move furnishings directly to less expensive hotels, bypassing the showrooms.
To cut costs in renovating the Kiptopeke Inn earlier this year, its owners chose to furnish with used furniture. Matt Diamond, general manager of the 103-room hotel in Cape Charles, Va., says IRCA alerted him of items being replaced at JW Marriott near the White House. He traveled to Washington in February, and decided to buy in bulk.
IRCA sold in sets "by room" — with beds, armoires, end tables, artworks and lamps — and Diamond's company paid about $400 per room. "The unique thing was the hotel the furnishings came from," he says. "If they were from (budget hotels), I wouldn't even have taken the trip."
Originally Published by USA Today.com - Travel Section