Summer 2014
Destination Shopping: Hotel Gift Shops Stay Ahead By Becky Tyre

Retail operations within the lodging industry vary greatly. Hotel gift shops may consist of little more than a small area near the front desk that sells magazines and snacks, to thousands of square feet of retail space in convention hotels and resorts. Regardless of size, most hotel gift shops offer products based on convenience – adding souvenirs, apparel, gifts and accessories with the hotel’s location and clientele in mind.

Experience sells

“Hotel retail is different from the stand-alone retail store because the items purchased help to prolong the experience even after the visitors check out.” notes Christina Daniels, PR Representative for The Standard Shop at The Standard High Line in New York City.

At the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo California, guests can take home a piece of the place. The inn uses exclusive jewel-toned goblets that come in almost every color imaginable. These goblets, designed to match the floral-patterned carpet in the hotel’s famous Gold Rush Steak House, have become a signature item for the hotel and both on-site restaurants. A local artist turns broken goblets into glass jewelry that is sold in the hotel’s boutique gift shop.

Sales are brisk at hotel gift shops during the holidays as many travelers do their shopping upon arrival. Airline fees for additional checked bags and the “no wrapped gifts” security policy have made it more difficult to travel with presents, thus increasing last-minute sales at hotel gift shops. Holidays provide additional revenue sources for resorts that cater to children. On Easter morning at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Petersburg Beach Florida, the Easter Bunny delivers a basket of goodies to those who pre-arranged the service through the gift shop.

Something for everyone

Since it was first built more than 120 years ago, the Hotel del Coronado has been a beacon of grandeur among vacation destinations in Southern California and the world. With its iconic red-shingled roof, The Del – as locals call it – has fifteen unique shops under one roof in the historic Victorian building. Locals, world-travelers and day-trippers enjoy a hotel bazaar of designer labels, fine jewelry, home accents, bath and spa products, eclectic brands, unique toys and games, books, nostalgic souvenirs, and Del-inspired keepsakes.

Hotel gift shop inventory categories run the gamut from sundries and necessities – to wedding gifts, apparel and home décor. In many cases, the same staff members are responsible for the buying decisions involving sunscreen and diamond earrings. Regional trade show organizers are aware of the need for broad product selection and local offerings. “Hotel gift shop buyers are looking to fill products across multiple categories that have the capability of being high quality and upscale and can also be personalized with their brand” says Donna Guess, Vice President of Urban Expositions, organizers of multiple souvenir, resort and gift shows.

Smaller hotel gift shops and those with high square footage devoted to sundries, souvenirs and food, do most of the purchasing online and by phone with occasional store visits from sales reps. Stores that carry apparel, home décor and more keepsakes than souvenirs attend the semi-annual, national gift shows and some of the apparel and regional shows, as well.

Saying ‘I do’ to weddings

AppleFarmSanLuisObispoCApetDuring peak wedding season, the Loews Don CeSar Hotel hosts up to five on any single Saturday. With 10 ceremony locations on-site and five wedding planners, this property is buzzing with bridal parties and their guests. Known as Florida’s legendary “Pink Palace” since 1928, “The Don” is a treasured landmark perched on the pristine beaches of the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida and is one of the bridal industry’s top choices for local and destination weddings. The retail department works very closely with the wedding planners and offers start-to-finish services, beginning with custom Don CeSar save-the-date cards. Occupying 3,400 square feet on the Garden Level, five unique retail gift shops provide everything from aspirin, sunscreen and magazines to the latest designer swimwear, resort clothing, fine jewelry and a toy store for the resort’s younger guests. Wedding guests find a large selection of wedding gift ideas that can be delivered to the couple’s room or reception location. Couples can design custom gift bags for their bridal parties or guests and have them placed in the hotel rooms greeting the special guests upon arrival. The hotel even has a shopping website for guests to plan purchases ahead of time or arrange for wedding gifts on-site if they cannot attend. Retail manager and buyer Julie Hicks, holds meetings twice daily, pre-shift, to brief her staff of 20 about any new products, large hotel groups or upcoming events like weddings and trunk shows.

Even hotels without wedding venues can profit from area weddings by staying in touch with the group sales department to be aware when blocks of rooms are reserved for out-of-town wedding guests. Front and center merchandising of items like greeting cards, gift bags and jewelry pays off on wedding weekends.

Satellite shops & leased spaces

GiardiniShopAtBellagioLasVegas1Some hotel properties lease the gift shop space to retail management companies and others invite well-known brands to open satellite stores in the hotel lobby. Cities that are known for exceptional shopping and more international visitors, like New York and Las Vegas find that exclusive brands are a draw for hotel guests. Smaller cities and towns are finding success by leasing retail space to local vendors.

Tucked into the lobby of the Ace Hotel in midtown New York, OC at Ace is Opening Ceremony’s very own twist on a hotel gift shop. As fellow travel enthusiasts, OC and Ace were natural roommates. Providing for guests and New Yorkers alike, the petite store is stocked with handpicked travel essentials from around the world, many items exclusive to the Ace location, as well as a curated selection of products available at other Opening Ceremony locations.

AppleFarmSanLuisObispoCAlobbySituated directly on the scenic San Antonio River Walk, the Hyatt Regency hotel has an in-house gift shop, but also boasts a variety of small independent shops, including an art gallery, a well-known local glass maker, jewelry store and ice-cream parlor, located off the 16-story atrium on the hotel’s Riverwalk level. Hotel guests admire the essence of every season recreated with gorgeous plants, flowers and trees thoughtfully arranged within the Conservatory & Botanical Gardens inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Offering a wide array of garden-oriented gifts and decorative items for the home from well-known design houses Jay Strongwater, Eva Gordon Ceramics and Mackenzie-Childs, the Giardini Garden Store borders the botanical area with floor-to-ceiling windows to incorporate the conservancy experience.

In addition to The Plaza Boutique gift shop at the legendary Plaza Hotel in New York City, there is a collection of gift boutiques including Krigler Perfumerie and the famous Eloise at the Plaza shop that has young readers of the popular book series pink with envy. The Shops at the Plaza also boasts an Assouline Books location. Assouline Books also has a NY location at The Mark Hotel, a tiny retail space that claims to be “the smallest luxury boutique in the world.” Though gift shop sales are a minor contributor to the hotel’s total income, the stores contribute significantly to guest satisfaction by providing everything guests need for a relaxing stay, as well as the opportunity to bring home a special memento.

Becky Tyre

Becky Tyre is the senior trends editor for GIFT SHOP Magazine and the owner of the Retail Details blog.

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