museums&MORE Winter 2014
The Xcursions Store

Explore unique offerings from around the world and feed your curiosity

The Xcursions Store at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., is the original Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Conservation shop and what Busch Gardens’ and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s message is all about —conserving, educating and caring about the environment. Whether it’s through selling products using recycled matter or educating guests about conservation through kiosk centers, their eco-friendly message remains consistent throughout the store and Busch Gardens.

World of Wonder

Busch Gardens Tampa itself offers nearly 300 acres of attractions based on exotic explorations around the world. With a unique blend of thrilling rides, one of the country’s premier zoos with more than 12,000 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games, Busch Gardens provides excitement for guests of every age.

And offering exciting, non-traditional, eco-friendly products with a strong focus on conservation for guest of every age is Xcursions, located in the Bird Gardens area of the park and the site of the first gift shop built back in 1959. The shop was redesigned in 2000 into the conservation store.

The design mixes a contemporary feel with a focus on celebrating and educating about animals through a conservation theme. The store is surrounded by natural planter beds with floral and seasonal colors, and when guests walk in the store they are instantly immersed into cultural masterpieces, including hand-carved bongos and hand-made lanterns. Not only is it filled with eco-friendly products, apparel, educational toys, books and jewelry, but it is also home to several fish, reptiles and amphibians that you can visit with while shopping.

Our main key to success in dwell time in this store is what we call the path of discovery,” said Brian Kilpatrick, vice president, merchandise. “Our store planners and visual teams put a lot of time and focus on presenting and displaying products and programs in a ‘seek and discover’ fashion.

“Different from a mass mall retailer who goes vertical with product, we want it be about learning, about discovery and about finding something around that next corner that you didn’t expect,” Kilpatrick continued. “That approach creates longer dwell time for our guests who become more interested and intrigued about experiencing the entire store.”

They keep the merchandise new and fresh by consistently rotating different products that make guests look at what the world gives us in a different way. For example, what can a fallen palm frond offer us? One of their products is a fallen palm frond that is painted and turned into a tiger’s face.

“We try to tie our products back to the animals or a habitat,” Kilpatrick said. “When Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run opened, Xcursions featured a cheetah section alongside the opening. The idea is that we not only sell a product, but also its story. With that we are able to educate people and add to their experience here at the park.”

Education and Conservation

They do this in two ways: (1) they always have a big display in the front of the store that features our newest, most unique offerings, and (2) they also get the word out through print publications, collateral and blogs, including feature stories on their Busch Gardens Blog.

The feature section, or front half of the store, is the most popular area. They have a section of rocks that sell at different price points to appeal to all budgets, and they also consistently rotate the new items that are featured in this section to offer exclusive products that stay true to their mission.

“A lot of research takes place when choosing what to integrate into the store,” Kilpatrick said. “We pick up eco-friendly stories by word of mouth and attend trade shows and local craft shows to stay relevant and provide what guests are looking for.”

They not only shop traditional trade shows where eco programs and trends are presented in the general market, but they also shop local and regional craft and bazaar markets. In addition, they occasionally have people submit ideas and products to them for consideration, which is something they fully embrace, and Kilpatrick said vendors are a great source to share and present ideas and programs they find through their sourcing and market trips.

With products that range from home décor to animal plush, the beauty of Xcursions is that everyone can learn something about conservation, no matter how the message is crafted.

“Our jewelry lines and bag and tote accessories appeal mostly to women and young ladies,” Kilpatrick said. “And there is definitely already a niche that expects eco-friendly products, and it is continuing to grow as time passes. A lot of research takes place in order to fuel innovation in this already-identified niche market.

“For example,” he continued, “the merchandise team has noticed a trend in men being eco-friendly. In response, we developed a ‘manly’ elephant, one of our newest décor items crafted completely from automobile parts. The elephant is just part of an entire line of metal animals crafted from automobile parts and tools.”

Along with selling meaningful products, another key to success is the focus they put on guest interaction with their team members. Kilpatrick said they go through extensive training not to directly push or hard sell the guest, but instead to educate, inform and inspire. One of their guest service principles is to tell a story, and nowhere do they maximize that more than in Xcursions, where they not only tell the guest their story, but are often asked to tell guests more.

As such, they have two computer stations aimed to educate guests about the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Because many guests are inspired to help protect the animals they encounter and get involved with wildlife conservation after visiting a SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment facility, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund was created to fulfill that desire.

“Launched in 2003, the Fund was created to provide guests with an easy, direct way to get involved and make a difference,” Kilpatrick said. “While the Fund itself is relatively new, the parks have been committed to wildlife conservation for decades. The Fund has already contributed more than $9 million to protect wildlife and wild places and intends to continue this legacy and create an even greater one.”

Guests can contribute to the fund by donating in $1, $3 and $5 increments. In addition, for every reusable bag purchased in any one of the 10 SeaWorld parks, a percentage of its profits are contributed to the Conservation Fund.

“The main message is that Xcursions is what our company is all about — conservation, education and care,” Kilpatrick said. “Busch Gardens and Xcursions share a mission to be as eco-friendly as possible and to educate others to do the same.”

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor

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