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Resort Merchandise Roundup

Trends and Selling Tips

By Jessica Leigh Brown

A view of the Five and TENN general store decorated for Christmas at the Omni Hotel. Low prices and brand storytelling contribute to retailing success for the hotel.

he retail angle of a resort store depends primarily on its location and target demographic. Increasingly, resort stores located in urban areas are aiming to attract locals in addition to hotel guests-a strategy that’s bound to boost sales.

Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., has several demographic targets. “We’re a Native American-owned casino resort that’s been in business for more than 23 years and we are just over 8 million square feet, which makes us the largest in North America,” said Retail Manager Annette DuBois. “We really are a regional resort casino, so we have a huge locals business during the week, with out of town guests on the weekends.”

Eye-catching novelty items tend to sell well at the resort, which has a number of retail venues ranging in size from 500 to 2,800 square feet. “We sell a lot of fun novelty gifts, capitalizing on the impulse buyer,” said DuBois. “Our audience isn’t as transient as it is in a big city like Las Vegas or in an airport, but we change up the assortment regularly.” Successful products include Pusheen plush, Hello Kitty items, and Kimmidoll, a new line with Japanese-inspired gifts and home décor items. “The color and the characters are what drive sales,” DuBois said. “People have more fun when they’re impulsive and the price points are right, so it’s not an investment. The impulse items range from $10 up to about $50.” Seasonal home décor, snacks and body care products from Bliss and Philosophy also do well at the Foxwoods lobby shops. “We’re a hotel, so sometimes people check in and they forgot a needed item,” she said. “We also have fashion items like scarves and hats, very well priced, anywhere from $15-$25 for scarves and $15-$50 for hats.”

The Five and TENN general store, located at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tenn., focuses on bringing in local customers as well as hotel guests, said Debra Hollenbeck, retail manager. Hollenbeck is pictured here.

Fashion accessories are also one of the top sellers at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. “Our top-selling categories, if I had to break them down, are logoed items, gift items, apparel, jewelry and other accessories,” said Spa and Retail Director Mary Waldman-Seay. “Logoed items are probably the biggest classification that we sell here.” The 1,000-square-foot shop carries a variety of logoed items in addition to the expected apparel. “We have logoed gift items like mugs and ornaments, wine openers, bathrobes, beach towels, tennis balls and accessories, and golf balls,” said Waldman-Seay. “Mugs are probably the biggest logoed item we sell.”

Dominique Soracco, retail manager at Roche Harbor Resort in Harbor, Wash., explained why logoed items are so popular at resorts: “Everyone wants to carry something home, whether it be a sticker for the car, a sweatshirt, keychain, magnet or apparel item.” Top-selling logoed items at Roche Harbor Resort include shot glasses, coffee cups and glasses. “As far as anything that’s not branded, my gift store is item-driven by tops more than anything—ponchos or unique sweaters, trendy and not necessarily part of a collection.”

Each of the resort’s three stores represents a different category of items, and together they generate over $1 million in annual sales. “Everything is not in one place in our resort,” said Soracco. “Each store has a different feeling and personal brand, so each has its own following.” Because Roche Harbor is a world boating destination, Soracco’s clientele are often looking for larger items as well as souvenirs and apparel. “Clothing is very important, but in my lifestyle store, I sell dressers, outdoor furniture and sets of crystal or towels or sheets for our customers’ yachts.”

The 500-square-foot gift shop at Laconia, N.H.’s Lake Opechee Inn also carries a variety of logoed items. “We have clothing with our name on it, like T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats,” said Innkeeper Michelle DuPont. “We also have some relaxation clothes, like pajamas. Once guests get here, they like the idea of hanging out in comfy clothes.”
Humorous novelty items also sell well at Lake Opechee Inn. “Poo-pouri is very popular,” said DuPont. “You spray it before you go to the bathroom and it helps with the odor. People give them as gifts, and it’s a funny line.” Since the inn is a pet-friendly resort, DuPont also stocks a number of canine-centric items such as dog toys and natural shampoos.
The top-selling category, though, is jewelry. “It’s a perpetual hot seller for us and we sell more jewelry than anything else,” said DuBois. Other trends include lightweight, fitted tops for women and inspirational shirts and sweatshirts.

An exterior view of the Five and TENN general store at the Omni Hotel. The 3,000-square-foot store partners with local artisans and singer-songwriters, inviting them for trunk shows and live performances to draw in customers.


The Five and TENN general store, located at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is incorporating a variety of creative ideas in its retail strategy. “We’re a general merchandise store and a gift shop in a convention hotel,” said Retail Manager Debra Hollenbeck. “We offer merchandise from state and local businesses and vendors.” The Five and TENN focuses on bringing in local customers as well as hotel guests. “The trend seems to be country chic,” said Hollenbeck. “People are very interested in local vendors.”

Brand storytelling is a big part of making sales. “We carry four local jewelry designers, and some of them have a history of being stylists for country music stars,” Hollenbeck said. “We tell that story, and our associates tell the story of the product as well.” Keeping price points low is another key to Five and TENN’s success. “Our sales have exceeded corporate’s expectations as Omni’s largest retail outlet out of more than 50 hotels,” said Hollenbeck. “The genuine local approach, designing the space more like a boutique than a gift shop, and having price points for everyone are our secrets to success.”

The 3,000-square-foot Five and TENN also partners with local artisans and singer-songwriters, inviting them for trunk shows and live performances to draw in customers. After hosting a large event last year, the store garnered an award from the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association in 2015. “The Five and TENN is an interactive shopping experience,” said Hollenbeck. “We want to create our own image and welcome local vendors and artists to share their work.”

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