Zazu Gifts is a well-known, established retailer in an affluent region close to Washington D.C. Owner Marilyn Park purchased the business, located in Ashburn, Virginia, in 2015. She and her 12 employees are dedicated to providing excellent service.
Park sat down with Gift Shop Plus to share more of Zazu’s story.
Tell us about the inspiration behind starting your business and describe your brick-and-mortar location and its appeal.
Marilyn Park (MP): I had six years of retail experience through high school and college and always dreamed of owning my own shop. After a 34-year career in commercial interior design, I decided to pursue my dream. We are located in a shopping center, which is easily accessible. I am always thankful to the previous owners who decided on this location, as it’s an easy “in” and “out” for customers when they are running their errands in the shopping center.
Describe the type of merchandise you offer customers?
MP: We have a wide selection of gifts and feel we have something for everyone. Our main categories are home décor, tabletop, jewelry and baby.
Describe any trends you see which impact your buying decisions, specifically in apparel and items that promote your geographical region.
MP: As shutdowns from COVID are slowly being lifted, we are beginning to see a shift in the way people are buying. People are able to socialize more and gather for special occasions, and they are purchasing gifts for these special occasions. Customers are getting a little more dressed up and we’re seeing an increase in customers buying dresses and jewelry. There’s also an increase in travel so naturally there’s an increase in vacation related items. We’re also seeing more bridal shower and wedding gifts being purchased.
Tell us what makes Zazu Gifts so unique and appealing to customers.
MP: Our goal is to help people find unique and special gifts for all of life’s celebrations; any reason, any season! We are also known for our customer service and we have several long-term employees who have been here for 10+ years – they know the products and they know our customers. We also offer to put any gift in one of our gift boxes with a bow so that it’s ready for gifting when a customer walks out the door.
What has worked well for business during the pandemic?
MP: When the pandemic started, we continued to regularly update our social media with available products and urged people to call the store to virtually shop with an employee. We offered shipping, curbside pickup and local delivery. We also were open by appointment. We also set up our e-commerce site and have been growing it ever since. It was always on our “to-do” list and the pandemic pushed us to get it up and running. It has paid off and I feel it was instrumental in helping us get through this pandemic. We’ve been open again full-time since July 2020 and still offer those services and our website continues to grow and we ship all over the country now.
Are there any pivotal changes you made that will remain post-pandemic?
MP: We will continue to grow our website and will continue to do local deliveries and shipping more than in the past. In the past we did our Holiday Open House for about 5 hours in one evening. This year, due to the pandemic, we sold tickets for hour-long appointments throughout the day. We offered a gift certificate for the cost of the ticket, so the customer was guaranteed a spot, but yet was able to get the cost of their ticket back upon check-out. We had such positive feedback that we are going to continue to do our open house all day.
How do you keep in touch with customers now, does that differ from methods you used prior to the pandemic?
MP: We are sending out more emails to our customers than we previously did. We try not to inundate them but do let them know when we have a new line or promotions going on.
What are your top three best-sellers and the vendors used to source them?
MP: Our top sellers are Mud Pie home décor items, Brighton jewelry, and Scout Bags and accessories.
Do you have any display tips to share with other retailers?
MP: I feel that merchandising and product offerings are key. We strive to make our displays fresh and change them frequently. I’ve learned that having complementary products help to sell add-ons. For key holidays/occasions we will show our best-sellers and new merchandise worked into a display but it helps to have that “wow” factor even if it means going out of your comfort zone and purchasing a higher priced product.