Gift Shop Plus Spring 2022
Positive Impact By Debbie Eisele

Retail shops at Zoo Atlanta inspire stewardship of the planet

Zoo Atlanta is a destination that is “dedicated to connecting people to animals and inspiring conservation action.” For more than 100 years, the zoo has served Atlanta and it is the oldest cultural institution in the city, according to Katherine Messer, store director for Zoo Atlanta. 

“The Zoo Atlanta shops offer an array of items that inspire stewardship of our planet, and assortments that help make a positive impact toward conservation and promote a more sustainable lifestyle to help protect species, the planet and natural habitats,” explained Messer. “For example, we offer a collection of crochet animals, coffees, jewelry, and other artisanal goods made by people living in communities that are susceptible to poaching land and animals. When guests purchase these wonderful gifts, we uplift the communities and create less need for tapping into vital resources for their livelihoods.” 

Zoo Atlanta Panda Pagoda Shop
The Panda Pagoda at Zoo Atlanta. All photos courtesy of Event Network.

Panda Popularity 

Zoo Atlanta offers two brick-and-mortar stores, as well as several kiosks that are positioned near exhibits. “At 4,000 square feet, the Trading Company is the largest retail store at Zoo Atlanta. Due to its placement within the zoo grounds, it is a popular meeting point,” Messer shared. Merchandise includes Zoo Atlanta themed gifts, apparel, accessories, toys, educational toys, books and more. 

The Panda Pagoda is very popular as it celebrates the beloved giant pandas. Messer explained that the Panda Pagoda recently experienced a makeover in November 2021 and now features a new concept that was “inspired by traditional Chinese architecture and Chinese gardens.” 

Zoo Atlanta
Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Pagoda offers an assortment of toys, t-shirts, books and more.

Inside, everything is panda-related — bamboo-themed details depict the pandas’ natural habitat. “By dedicating the shop specifically to giant pandas, we are able to create an immersive experience and really expand the related product offerings. We feel this level of focus creates a wonderful guest experience that further supports and reinforces the important work that Zoo Atlanta does to help pandas thrive and what guests can do to help support,” she said. 

Call to Action 

Zoo Atlanta has opted to procure merchandise that reflects its values — “specifically those that are made responsibly and those that give back to initiatives that help the planet.” Messer also explained that the vendors it uses also are aligned with the Zoo’s mission. 

Quality merchandise, produced in a sustainable manner, is important. Messer said it is just as important to display items that “spark conversation and thought” about conservation and will help spur positive action. 

The retail shops offer collections, from flamingos to orangutans, that allow visitors to connect with a product that resonates and appeals to them. “Guests will also find items that they can customize to reflect their personal style, such as stainless-steel water bottles that they can decorate with stickers of their favorite animal. Since many visitors are exploring the city for the first time, we also offer collections that celebrate Atlanta as a unique destination,” she said.

Zoo Atlanta
The recently renovated Panda Pagoda is a shopping destination that celebrates the giant pandas and a place where the retail team is the “face of the retail experience.”

Panda plush is the best-seller, but other panda-themed items are very popular items. “There’s just something so special about these giant bears … they are certainly a big draw for guests and seeing them is a highlight of the Zoo experience,” Messer explained. 

Jewelry is another good seller. “Guests will find Animal Conservation Jewelry that support wildlife through a partnership with 1% for the Planet, and designs that specifically support endangered species such as orangutan, giraffe, and lion,” Messer detailed. “Coming soon, we’re introducing a new line of youth jewelry that plants a tree for every item purchased.” 

Zoo Atlanta Panda Pagoda jewelry wall
The jewelry wall at the Panda Pagoda.

Store displays focus on collections and stories and depict a particular zoo theme or experience. “A single clear message is easier for guests to absorb, so we tend to keep a theme tight,” Messer explained. 

Zoo Atlanta retail team
The retail team.

Zoo Atlanta stores offer more than just products, it offers an experience with excellent customer service. “It begins with the people. Our team members are the face of the retail experience and are genuinely interested in engaging guests, providing help or information and being a part of the lasting memory of the visit,” she shared.

Debbie Eisele

Debbie Eisele is the former managing editor for Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and a variety of special issue publications, including: The Guide, Holiday Shop, Celebrations & Occasions and Waterfront Living.

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