First, Pop-Up Stores. Now, Pop-Up Hotels

Snoozebox’s portable containers have rooms, showers, and even TVs | “You’re running at 100 percent of occupancy all the time”

Patricia Laya

Veteran hotelier Robert Breare was seeking shelter from the rain at the Le Mans 24-hour car race in 2010, huddled in a tent with his children and friends, when an idea came to him: Why not build comfy, portable lodging cabins and transport them — by air, land, or sea — to sports and music events? And so, Snoozebox was born.

This year, Snoozebox Holdings is shipping 40 to 400 stackable containers to house guests at events including Le Mans, the Edinburgh Festivals of plays and concerts, and the G8 Summit. The prebooked rooms are equipped with flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi, and running hot water. “When I first came across it, I had a ‘duh’ moment,” says Ignis Asset Management fund manager David Clark. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the numbers of places that hold events but don’t have the accommodations for people to stay in.” Ignis holds an 8.3 percent stake in the London-based pop-up hotelier. Breare also founded Europe’s Great Eastern and Malmaison boutique hotel chains and sold them to Wyndham International in 1998.

While there are rival event accommodations, from tents to local inns to “glamping,” which combines camping with hotel-like amenities, Snoozebox’s appeal is that it negotiates with promoters to plop its serviced, air-conditioned rooms closest to the event action. Proximity doesn’t come cheap. Three nights in a Snoozebox for two adults and a child at this year’s Formula 1 Santander British Grand Prix race costs £795 ($1,243). That compares with £60 per adult for pitch-your-own-tent camping for three days, with on-site toilets. Snoozebox has lower operating costs than a hotel staffed year-round, which must contend with empty rooms, says Sylvie Cartiser, managing director at Unfold Consulting. “Effectively, you’re running at 100 percent of occupancy all the time.”

Still, Snoozebox has struggled. After a 2012 initial public offering, it recently issued more shares to raise £10.1 million. Breare stepped down as chief executive officer in April, after the company reported a 2012 loss of £4.4 million, on sales of £3.8 million. Snoozebox is now run by an executive committee chaired by David Morrison, CEO of Prospect Investment Management. Funds from the stock sale “will enable the company to fulfill its contractual commitments this year and next,” Morrison said in a statement. “The potential of the company remains undiminished.”

Simon French, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, says Snoozebox will make financial progress as it gets more business outside the prime summer festival season. In June the company supplied rooms for 1,350 workers at the G8 Summit. It also has an agreement to supply lodging at a London-area theme park from spring through autumn and is looking to provide temporary housing for local governments and construction and mining workers.

The bottom line Pop-up hotelier Snoozebox charges about $1,200 for a three-night stay in a room alongside a Formula 1 race course.


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