BHN talks to Ben Russell, acquisitions director of Ennismore, about the group’s new budget hotel brand NoCo.
• What was the inspiration for the NoCo brand?
“The NoCo concept was created to challenge the existing ‘vanilla’ offering in the budget sector in key cities in the UK, where leisure and corporate guests have limited choice and the offer is largely just a place to sleep. NoCo will challenge this through great design, vibrant public spaces with local food and drink offering, live music, and events that appeal to guests and locals alike. By taking learnings from The Hoxton and applying these to NoCo, we will be able to ensure that the new brand can fully deliver on these objectives, while still being accessible and affordable.”
• Will the properties all be outside London, and if so do you think the Hoxton brand was unsuitable for use outside the capital?
NoCo and The Hoxton are two very separate brands with different growth strategies. The Hoxton is now well developed, with its future focused on major international cities. For NoCo, we are keen to start with expanding in our local market before looking at other territories. Manchester makes sense from a brand and market perspective angle; other cities of interest include Leeds, Glasgow and Bristol. NoCo will offer a new and unique proposition to those markets.”
• How will the properties differ from the Hoxton Hotels when many of their traits – low prices, large communal areas, events etc are similar? Are you aiming at a different customer?
“The Hoxton has matured and evolved as a brand, and as we go in to North America next year, it will continue to develop. NoCo is a different positioning and price point; we’re targeting a lower priced market sector, with nightly rates starting under £100. NoCo is designed to add something new and exciting to the very concentrated budget market. The creative communal areas really put The Hoxton on the map, and these will inspire NoCo’s public spaces, although NoCo will have a real focus on local food and beverage offerings.”
• Why did you feel that this is the right time to launch the brand when there have been several recent launches in this space from the big chains – Moxy, Tru, Glo etc? Will you be competing for the same sites as these brands, and if so what will set NoCo apart from them?
“There’s no doubt it’s a competitive market, but as well as seeing new brands enter the market, we’re seeing a lot of growth in this sector which presents an exciting opportunity for us. We believe that guests across the UK are looking for more stylish, vibrant products like NoCo and are placing a greater value on the holistic experience of a hotel stay – which is what NoCo is designed to deliver.”
• Which are your first target locations, and how many properties do you hope to open in the next five years?
“Ennismore is dedicated to setting ambitious objectives for our brands. For NoCo, we are targeting 20 to 25 sites over the course of the next seven years, initially in UK cities.”
• Will NoCo properties be in buildings converted from other uses, rebadged hotels, new-builds or a combination of all three?
“The NoCo model is designed to deliver value to developers of new-builds and conversions. Our priority is to find sites within exciting neighbourhoods and work alongside progressive developers and landlords who are looking to partner with an hotel operator that will bring a unique proposition to their schemes and act as a place-maker.
“With our ambitious growth plans we are largely looking at leases, and potentially management agreements. The franchise model is interesting, though we want to fully establish the brand first, and would need to ensure any potential franchises share our passion for delivering a memorable experience to guests and locals alike.”