Oakwood gains ground while staying small

At a recent reception in New York City to celebrate the launch of serviced apartment company Oakwood’s newest brand as well as several openings and new signings, CEO Dean Schreiber shared details on how the Singapore-based company is expanding its reach while maintaining a limited footprint.

Oakwood, which started out as a corporate housing firm, now has 80 properties across eight brands with a total of 13,000 units. The scale, Schreiber said, means that “every property, for us, is really important.”  

Brand Additions

The company's most recent addition is Oakwood Living, a new select-service portfolio of unfurnished apartments in Dallas; Los Angeles; Raleigh, N.C.; and Redwood City, Calif. Much like traditional extended-stay hotels, the buildings include a lounge, a fitness center and an outdoor barbecue facility. Blurring the line between residential and hospitality, the facilities also include a dedicated dog run, lockers for package deliveries and in-unit washers and dryers. 

The Unlimited Collection, meanwhile, launched in late 2020 as a soft brand in direct response to the COVID downturn. While many traditional hotels closed either permanently or temporarily, Schreiber said, Oakwood managed to keep all its properties open and keep all of its team members employed. 

While the company wasn’t actively looking for new properties, the shakeups of 2020 launched numerous conversations with hoteliers. “We said, ‘Well, what do you want?’” Schreiber recalled asking owners, who told him that they wanted to maintain their independence. “They had built up a following—whether through their own marketing efforts or Instagram … and they said, 'We want you to help us. We want the sanctuary of a brand without having to give up our identity.’ So we created the Unlimited Collection, which meant, really, there were no brand standards, but they had to be of a standard.” 

International Expansion 

Oakwood Beluxs launched in August 2020 as part of an alliance with Country Garden Commercial and Culture Tourism Group to cater to the developing market segment in China.

The Country Garden team wanted to develop about 400 properties, Schreiber said, but the Oakwood team is only looking to open 100 properties over the next 10 years. “We want to have 150 properties collectively worldwide,” he explained, calling the plans for hundreds of properties “a bit ambitious.” While he believes the company could make that kind of growth happen, he doesn’t want to lose the individualized attention that comes from keeping a small footprint. “It sounds like a cop-out but we don't want to go too big because we didn't sync with our niches being able to provide speed to market flexibility. 

The company, he added, declines as many properties as it accepts into its portfolio. “If we can't provide value or add value to it, we just won't take it on board,” Schreiber said. “So we've got a lot of owners out there that might be keen to have a five-star product in the market, but the market won't sustain a five-star product.” That said, the company is eyeing resort growth in ski markets, since relatively few people go to a ski lodge for only one or two nights. “You typically go for five nights, 10 nights,” he said. “You've got a lot of people escaping hot summers to go to a winter resort or vice versa, escaping winters to go to a summer resort.” 

Oakwood has several properties in its pipeline, including the Oakwood Premier Melbourne, slated to open in Australia later this year, the Oakwood Hotel & Apartments Daxing Beijing and the Oakwood Premier Phnom Penh, Cambodia, both scheduled to open next year and the Oakwood Hotel & Residences Palmdale (Calif.) and the Oakwood Premier Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, both poised to open in 2024. 

“They say hotel management is not rocket science,” Schreiber said. “I actually think it's harder because there [are] so many variables.”