A Commitment to the Community
The Desert Botanical Garden Gift Shop is a popular destination for visitors to the garden. In this behind-the-scenes look at the 140-acre Phoenix-based Desert Botanical Garden and its retail offering, we take a look at how the retail team is pleasing its customers and working through the pandemic challenges.
A Look Outside …
Desert Botanical Garden mission is to provide a “commitment to the community” and a focus on conservation, education and more, with an emphasis on the desert plants of the Sonoran Desert. Both conservation and research are an integral part of the garden and its programs, which help care for threatened and endangered species. Additionally, its research efforts work towards identifying potential threats, such as climate change, invasive plant species and more.
An astounding 4,000 seed accessions are contained in the garden’s seed bank. Alejandra Herrera, store director for Desert Botanical Garden Gift Shop explained that the seed bank “acts as an insurance policy to prevent extinction.”
The grounds are beautifully appointed with exhibits, art, the Butterfly Pavilion and seasonal exhibits. The Desert Botanical Garden even offers an annual Fall Music in the Garden Concert Series as well as other events that draw visitors.
A Look Inside …
The Desert Botanical Garden Gift Shop has faced challenges since the start of the pandemic and was even closed for months. “We instituted a variety of safety protocols to help create a welcoming and safe shopping environment and guests are responding! We have seen a large increase in our per capita and average dollar sales since reopening,” said Herrera. “The pandemic has also created challenges in availability of product, but we have been nimble in adjusting our visual displays to showcase and feature items we know we could easily replenish, working closer with local vendors like Rango Honey.”
Herrera suggested other gift shops could partner with local suppliers and artists “whenever possible (as it) fosters a deep connection with the community.” She explained that by offering more local merchandise, it provides customers with a unique way to remember their visit.
“The store layout puts a focus on wellness and serenity guiding the shopper through distinct vignettes. For example, a Lifestyle display showcases apparel reflecting the Phoenix ethos, from yoga necessities to beautiful hats and western-inspired pashminas,” Herrera detailed. Art and other locally crafted home products are highlighted on a different wall, while custom-created food delicacies, such as prickly pear jam, are located in the pantry area. The shop even offers a children’s book section. Overall the atmosphere and flow is relaxed and provides seating that encourages guests to stay awhile.
The revenue generated at Desert Botanical Garden Gift Shop financially supports the overall mission, research and experiences at this location. “In-store point of sale practices like the ‘dollar round up’ program (asking guests at the register if they would like to round up their purchase amount to the nearest dollar) help raise additional financial support to benefit the garden,” Herrera elaborated. “Many products available in the shop come from proprietors who share the mission to champion the biodiversity of the desert, as well as give back to the community.”
She shared that Rango Honey is one such vendor; it offers job training as well as independent living services for adults with Autism. The Native Seed Company is another maker that the store carries and it encourages shoppers to plant an “assortment of desert-native seeds” in their own gardens.
The Garden Shop also offers custom products that include an etched Desert Botanical Garden cutting board and branded stemless glassware. “It’s everything one needs for a picnic and the perfect complement to the assortment of local snacks and goodies,” Herrera said.
Bundled gift solutions is a new option being introduced. One such example is a stainless steel water bottle and an “opportunity for the guest to add stickers to ‘create their own’ bottle that fits their style.”
Herrera explained that prior to COVID the buyers did attend multiple in-person trade shows to source product. At this time, the buyers are more focused on virtual meetings with the vendors that are “tried and true.” New local vendors are always being sought and Herrera shared that “farmer’s markets can be a great way to find new unique items crafted in your local community.”
The store will re-order as necessary and seasonally. “We monitor sales on a daily basis to restock popular items, but we also plan out our product assortments months in advance to ensure we have new product hitting frequently throughout the year,” she said.
Displays are rotated as necessary, with no set schedule. Herrera said the rotations occur to more align merchandise with what is occurring at the garden and “to make sure our key focal displays complement the season and events.” The Sonoran Desert is the main source of inspiration for the product offerings.
“The most exciting store displays are those that help create and portray a lifestyle for our guests. Using natural elements like wood, rock, and ceramics are great to tie back into the landscape of the garden,” she shared. “We always like to try and show items in a way that creates an aspirational feeling and helps elevate product.”
The store is a plastic-free environment and the displays follow suit by “using materials that are naturally available, eco-friendly and sustainable.” This earth-friendly mentality demonstrates the destination’s commitment to natural habitat protection. The merchandising is completed with eco-friendliness in mind.
“The Garden Shop takes every opportunity to complement the garden’s events, on-site programming and expertise,” she said. The garden’s fall and spring plant sales draw big attendance. On-site horticulture experts help guests find the perfect cactus, agave, or plant to bring home or plant,” Herrera shared.
Other successful events include a plant sale (in the fall and spring) and the Dog Days at the Garden, which is an event where invited guests can bring their dogs on the trails in the early morning hours. “The shop embraced this opportunity to expand our selection of pet merchandise, and of course offer water refreshment and treats to our canine guests – in the full and glorious air-conditioned shop,” she added.
From Dec. 3, 2021 through June 19, 2022, Chihuly in the Desert showcases Dale Chihuly’s stunning, large-scale installations nestled among the garden’s world-class collection of desert plants.
- Cactus garden kits and living plants such as miniature cactus/succulents/saguaros, desert themed ornaments.
- Prickly pear infused licorice, chocolates and elixirs top the customer-favorite list.