Natural Beauty Spurs Natural Sales
If the second and third longest caves in the world were combined, they would still not be as long as Mammoth Cave. At more than 365 miles long, it is the largest known cave in the world. Geologists estimate that the oldest part of Mammoth Cave began forming about 10 million years ago. It is one of the oldest tourist attractions in North America, with tours of the caves having been offered since 1816. With this much history surrounding Mammoth Cave, the gift shops of the park have the unique opportunity to offer a wide range of products to the park’s visitors so that they can take home a part of the history they explored.
Mammoth Cave Hotel
Two gift shops are operated in the lobby of the Mammoth Cave Hotel: Kentucky Home and The Cave Company. Kentucky Home focuses on selling interpretive gifts and Kentucky handcrafts. The Cave Company sells Mammoth Cave National Park souvenirs, apparel, interpretive media and books. Both stores occupy 2,000 square feet and offer a comfortable and spacious country environment for visitors to shop in. Merchandise is displayed on farmhouse tables and hutches to further add to the country feel.
Mammoth Cave Hotel provides visitors a unique and quality shopping experience,” said Don Wallace, senior vice president of retail. “As a concessionaire in America’s National Parks for more than 27 years, Forever Resorts has experience in educating visitors about our valuable natural resources through not only the lodging and foodservice operations but also through merchandising and valued products in our retail stores.”
In 2006, 597,934 people visited the caves, and approximately half of the visitors passed through the Mammoth Cave Hotel. The two gift shops employ eight to 10 people to help visitors with their shopping experience. They follow Forever Resorts Merchandising 101 guidelines to serve the customers in the best possible manner.
Seasonal merchandise and gift souvenir collections are continuously being updated. The goal of both gift shops is to offer a unique and quality shopping experience with a wide variety of price points, Wallace said.
In order to keep merchandise fresh, Wallace attends numerous national and regional trade shows, such as Atlanta Gift Markets, Kentucky Crafted The Market and the Smoky Mountain Gift Show. Among top-selling items in the gift shops are Kentucky handcrafts and gourmet food products; souvenir apparel, magnets, pins and key chains; and interpretive media DVDs, books and postcards.
“We search throughout the U.S. to find suppliers and artisans (who) provide high-quality merchandise that is earth-wise, environmentally friendly, regional, sustainable, or made from recycled or reclaimed materials,” Wallace said.
Finding environmentally friendly merchandise is part of Forever Resorts’ commitment to setting a good example according to how they operate their business.
“Through Forever Resorts Environmental Management System, called Forever Earth, we have implemented a Green Procurement Program at each of our Operations,” Wallace said.
“It is a sound business choice in preserving our national parks for future generations.
“No detail is overlooked,” Wallace continued. “We insist vendors provide minimal or recycled packaging, utilize compact fluorescent lighting throughout the operations, furnish recycled paper gift bags and take opportunities to educate through product labeling and display signage. Even the cleaning products used throughout the stores and Mammoth Cave Hotel are naturally derived, non-phosphate, non-toxic, biodegradable, concentrated and animal-friendly. Forever Resorts is serious about our commitment to the environment.”
Fueled by this desire to keep the Earth clean, green and environmentally responsible merchandise are popular selling items in the stores. Locally made and handcrafted items also are best sellers.
When asked what advice they would give to other specialty store managers, Wallace said, “be creative, take risks, be different and step outside the box.”