museums&MORE Summer 2010
Store Room–Summer 2010

Our column is devoted to what works and what doesn’t — for our readers, from our readers

Q. “At our gift shop we have very successfully filled the youth niche of souvenirs, but we often struggle with adult gift sales as a percent to overall gift shop sales. What adult gift items are other gift shops finding to be successful?

Christine Stoppa
Museum of the Rockies
Bozeman, Mont.
We have found regional items such as locally made edible gifts, jewelry, pottery, and books to be a great addition to our souvenir selection for adults. These items are unique take home gifts for travelers. Plus, we carry a few vendors who do not sell anywhere else in town, so that drives the local consumer to shop at our store.

Kelli Trammell
Blanchard Springs Gift Shop
Fifty Six, Ark.
We are a non-profit organization that has a gift shop in the Visitor Information Center at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Fifty Six, Ark. We provide educational products for the public to purchase during their visit to the caves/national forests. One of our best selling items for adults are books. We have a large selection of Civil War books, coffee table books, wildlife books, outdoor activities books and books by local authors.

I try to keep the books specific to Arkansas or the local area, and it seems to be working very well. The coffee table books go over really well, even though they range from around $30 to $35. We also have customized magnets, coffee mugs, lapel pins, hat clips, key rings, hiking stick medallions, shirts, hoodies, caps and tote bags for adult souvenirs.

There are three items that I’m not allowed to sell that we get requests for all of the time: shot glasses, thimbles and spoons. These would be customized to have something on them about your area.

Bob Wolz
Harry S Truman Little White House State Heritage Landmark
Key West, Fla.
As over 60 percent of our visitors are seniors, this is an easy question. Books are our No. 1 seller for adults, and we are very focused on presidential titles and local interest historic resources. We do not discount off the suggested retail, but we emboss a seal of the museum on the title page that “personalizes” the book as a souvenir of the museum.

Books can account for over 50 percent of sales per day. Custom designed bookmarks and paperweights have consistently proved popular as keepsakes with adults as well.

Then we have the “grammy” appeal items: toys, especially educational items and books, and clothing for small children. Grandmothers find they must take back something for the grandchildren

Brenda Woolard
North Carolina Estuarium
Washington, N.C.
We have found that our visitors DO NOT buy expensive gifts from the gift shop, but will pick up nice and/or pretty gift items for family and friends that are reasonably priced. So, keeping prices low is key to turning over merchandise; and turnover means your shop always looks fresh and new.

Tonda Rae Silinsky
The Gift Shop of Samaritan Regional Health System
Ashland, Ohio
With our shop being a hospital gift shop, we find that angels, cute fuzzy animals, and inspirational merchandise are popular. A lot of our customer base is our employees. They work long shifts and are grateful to find a place to pick up a gift item, rather than having to run out after work to a discount store.

We carry Laurel Burch purses and scarves, along with Victorian Heart quilted purses that are attractive, well made and durable, as well as at a good price point. Keeping up with the current trends in jewelry works well, too. I always consult the ladies’ magazines to see what the latest colors and styles are shown.

Mary Ellen Downing
Squam Lakes Natural Science Center Holderness, N.H.
I have found clothing and books to be a mainstay for adult purchases, and also sell a lot of books that are carefully selected to stay within information about the science centers’ region and the natural world around us.

I carry boutique-quality, high-end T-shirt blanks and design my own graphics to enhance that T-shirts design. I’ve used images of our own animals to produce graphics, as well as original art that I have bought the rights to.

This gives the customer a great T-shirt they like to wear with an image only available here at the science center. I stay away from generic graphics completely.

Erica Raspberry
Knit 1 Bead 2
Jerome, Ariz.
Anything made locally is a hit with tourists, but the problem is finding anything made locally. We solve the problem by having the employees make jewelry when it is not

Kay Dudley
Science Spectrum Museum and Omni Theatre
Lubbock, Texas
We are a hands-on science museum, and we carry several desktop fidget items, such as Newton’s Cradle, Pin Screens, magnetic sculptures and Bead Works Creations from Grass Roots Creations.

We also have Omni Max DVD’s that we show in our Omni Theatre and music DVD’s from a local pianist who we spotlight. In addition, we also carry books relating to our exhibits and Omni movies that are of interest to adults, as well as to teachers.

Susan Wolniakowski
Lake Superior Zoo
Duluth, Minn.
I find that with the tough economic times, adults won’t splurge without a good reason. It’s easy to get cheap nick-knacks at big stores like Target, so we reel people in with things that they feel a connection to or that can make a difference in the world.

I stay away from the regular old animal statues that one could find at Hallmark, and go for sustainable eco-friendly items. Our fair trade section has grown exponentially, and our tagua nut animal sculptures and beaded animal sculptures from Africa are the most popular for adults, as are Snow Leopard Trust items, which have a direct connection to our own snow leopard here at the zoo. Even teens like the batik items available from Global Mamas.

I think it’s important that we have unique items they won’t find discounted somewhere else, and that gives them a connection to what they have just been inspired by at the zoo.

Scott Bockelman
Rockin Chair Gift Shop
Houghton Lake, Mich.
We find that for tourists, especially woman, like moccasins and tourist-oriented jewelry. Rings, earrings and necklaces with stones or paua and abalone shells move well, as do souvenir shirts.

Mari Elizabeth Cutone
Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center
Pomona, Calif.
We are a hospital gift shop that does $350,000 a year gross. I am responding to this question because interestingly enough, during these hard times our best sellers have been shopping bags, totes and purses. Who knew?
Our store is always trying to find items for men, any help?

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