Country Living magazine and Shearings Leisure Group are partnering to launch Country Living Hotels.
The partnership is believed to be the first time in the UK a hotel group has been magazine-branded, following the signing of a licensing agreement with Hearst, the owner of Country Living. The deal will see two Shearings properties, the Lansdown Grove in Bath and the St George in Harrogate, which currently operate under the company’s Coast & Country group, undergo multi-million pound refurbishments.
Both hotels will close for refurbishment and the 55-bedroom Country Living Lansdown Grove hotel (pictured above) will relaunch in late May, while the 90-bedroom Country Living St George hotel (pictured below) is scheduled to reopen in early July.
Shearings chief executive Richard Calvert told The Caterer: “It’s an investment in quality and service levels. Our plan is to increase the level and staff to customer ratio. It’s a full end-to-end investment in the guest experience.”
The hotels will be redesigned in conjunction with the Country Living magazine team, including the magazine’s editor Susy Smith, to create spaces with “country charm and a modern twist” that reflect the Country Living brand identity. The hotels will also offer locally-sourced seasonal food and drink and the group is looking to recruit two executive chefs to oversee the offering.
Calvert said the move is hoped to attract new customers and offer something new to the group’s existing customers, as well as attract a slightly younger customer to the brand and drive brand awareness.
He said: “We probably want to find a slightly younger customer who previously wouldn’t have heard of Coast & Country or would associate Shearings with only one type of holiday. We’re trying to say we are a holiday and leisure company rather than a coach holiday company. The age demographic of Coast & Country Hotels is probably around 65 and we probably want to reduce that slightly to around 50.”
The first two hotels were identified as areas the Country Living customer would gravitate to. Once the hotels have opened, the group will then consider rebranding more of its hotels under the licensing agreement, potentially under Hearst’s other brands.
“We’re already exploring opportunities there,” added Calvert. “There are a huge amount of ventures that we’re exploring with them; they cover a huge demographic and in the stable of Hearst the opportunities are vast.”
James Wildman, chief executive of Country Living publisher Hearst UK, said: “This partnership is a fantastic addition to the ever-growing Country Living portfolio of brand partnerships and endorsements. The magazine has a loyal following of readers who enjoy the unique, country-themed content and we strive to bring that content to life through our events.
“This is a very ambitious project and is the first time a publisher has put its stamp on a hotel – so we’re thrilled to be working with Shearings Leisure Group. Together we plan to create something new, that will surprise and delight Country Living loyal fans as well as introducing many more to the brand.”
Country Living has existing brand partnerships including a furniture range with home store DFS, and runs events such as the Country Living Fairs.
Shearings Leisure Group operates the Coast and Country Hotels group and Bay Hotels brands and owns the freehold to most of its properties. Coast & Country has 15 hotels in its portfolio, while 30 operate under the Bay Hotels brand.
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