museums&MORE Spring 2013
Industry Spotlight, Jill Pildner, March 2013

The Nature Realm Gift Shop has become a local destination for unique gifts, with regular, repeat customers — not something that might be expected for a gift shop in a visitors' center.

The Nature Realm Gift Shop has become a local destination for unique gifts, with regular, repeat customers — not something that might be expected for a gift shop in a visitors' center.

Jill Pildner
Nature Realm Gift Shop
Metro Parks, Serving Summit County
Akron, Ohio

1. What makes your store unique?
We focus on educational, local, eco-friendly, recycled and American-made products. It’s in our mission statement! We are a tiny shop that has had wonderful success because we focus on providing a service to our customer, enhancing their time at our visitors’ center and offering quality gifts and mementos from their visit.

2. What is your retail background?
I worked at Borders Books and Music for 16 years, much of the time as a manager at a high-volume store. Our gift shop here is 1/100th the size of the bookstore, but a lot of the skills transfer.

3. What is the most popular product you sell?
Our bestselling products are recycled glass suncatchers made by Glass reFactory, a non-profit company in southern Ohio. Their products are beautiful, have a great price point and provide lots of interesting designs. They run their local recycling plant, and any proceeds support their social services.

However, our top two departments are books and clothing. We have an unexpectedly deep” book selection for such a small shop. I frequently stock new titles, and everything from field guides, kids’ books and local history/travel books are popular.

4. What are your top three retail tips?
Provide a range of price points and don’t exclude quality items just because they cost more. We have items from $1 to $128 in our shop, with many in the $10-$20 range. We have something for kids that have a dollar to spend, all the way up to one-of-a-kind items that cannot be found in big box stores.

Try to make it easy on your customers to complete their gift purchases. We provide eco-friendly gift packaging for free, and now sell beautiful greeting cards that are very popular. We have become a local destination for unique gifts, with regular, repeat customers — not something that might be expected for a gift shop in a visitors’ center.

Try to make sure the shop continues to look fresh and inviting with new products and vendors brought in. I want to make sure the shop doesn’t look static. It’s challenging, but worth the effort to make it a dynamic space.





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