The buyers of two hospital gift chains, St. Vincent’s and Integris, exploded their revenues by adding fashion accessories(!) to their stores. They explain why looking beyond your core categories can totally transform your shop. Here’s how they did it.
ASD Insider continues its Retail Success Stories series with the following piece on hospital gift shop trends.
Once Upon a Time…
Once upon a time, hospital gift shop shelves were stocked primarily with sundry items curated to put smiles on the faces of those striving to restore their health. One could expect the usual bouquet of carnations, assortment of off-label chocolates, or collection of stuffed teddy bears.
Today, these stores have modernized their inventory with aisles of high-margin, on-trend fashion accessories including jewelry, clothing, and even holiday decorations that entice both visitors and staff to enjoy a fashion-forward experience.
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A Gift Shop Renaissance, Thanks to Fashion Accessories and Clothing
According to Lee Patterson, Regional Services Manager for the St. Vincent’s Hospital chain in Birmingham, Alabama, the hospital gift shop industry began its renaissance during the economic recession.
“The economic downturn changed the way people buy. During Halloween, for instance, we’d normally sell a lot of decorations like pumpkins and witches and things that sit around on your desk. We don’t sell as much of that kind of stuff anymore. The same thing is true with tchotchkes and the little things that you would previously find in gift shops, like a little angel or bird feeder,” he observes.
The variety of hospital retail items became more robust and sophisticated out of necessity, but the trend away from stocking traditional gift items has provided these stores with dividends the owners had not previously seen.
“We were on a downward trend three years ago. Now, we’re seeing double digit increases every month,” says Patterson.
“The focus on fashion from gifts has been the change needed to shift the tide of the once stagnant gift shop industry,” says Daisy McNeill, Managing Director of Volunteer Services/Gift Shops in the non-profit Integris Health system in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“Employees and visitors see the gift shop as their first opportunity, in a lot of instances, to look for what is new and what is trendy. We have seen swings from dishware and tabletops, which were huge items ten years ago, to home décor, and then to jewelry. Now, it’s fashion.”
The Fashion Craze
St. Vincent’s gift shops are also cashing in on the fashion craze.
“We’ve embraced the trend in fashion accessories and clothing, especially one-size-fits-all, ready-to-wear pieces. That’s turned our business around. In every store we now have ladies’ handbags, jewelry, and scarves,” says Patterson.
McNeill’s Integris stores aim to stock the most requested accessories for visitors, employees, and everyday buyers. “We always have people asking for items for men, but we don’t carry many men’s accessories because men are not shoppers, generally speaking. For the ladies, we carry all lines of apparel from sundresses, tunic tops, shawls, scarves, and ponchos to leggings, slacks, and shoes. Anything that you might go to the mall to find, you can find here,” boasts McNeill.
Fashion + Accessories Trend Snapshot
- Tunic Tops
Insider Tip: Men’s accessories sales are climbing fast. Here’s a quick men’s accessories product trend primer to get you started.
Future Trends, a Younger Audience
As for future trends, fashion will probably be on the radar of the hospital gift shop industry for some time to come. “I think hospital gift shop sales of women’s fashion accessories and jewelry will be a consistent trend going forward. I don’t see any sign that it’s slowing down,” claims Patterson.
Furthermore, he believes the next iteration of gift shop trends will cater more to the millennial generation, who prefers electronics and handcrafted jewelry to cookie jars and angel ornaments.
Crossover buying – i.e., the adding of fashion to your gift shop product mix, and vice versa, is the wave of the revenue future.