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The DreamMore Resort™: A Dream Come True for Dollywood Guests Where the Retail Continues the Story

A view of the Pokeberry Lane store, DreamMore Resort, Dollywood. The retail mix at the resort includes typical park souvenirs, hand-crafted items, fashion apparel, home décor and specialty gifts.

ollywood is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015, and last summer this high-quality park added an equally first-class resort to its offerings, Dollywood’s the DreamMore Resort™

The resort is built around the rich traditions of storytelling, family and togetherness. Located in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., it is just minutes away from the award-winning Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country in the Great Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge near Gatlinburg, Tenn. The resort upholds the spirit of the South in a fresh new way, as can only be imagined by Dolly and Dollywood. Guests can choose from over 300 rooms, including a wide variety of room and suite types designed with families in mind. Amenities include exclusive Dollywood park privileges, retail, complimentary theme park and waterpark shuttle service, Kids Club, unique resort dining and entertainment experiences, an on-site spa and more.

A view of a pool at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. Dollywood’s retail leadership attend gift and souvenir shows and travel extensively to benchmark top relevant retail establishments.

Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties (SGN) got the picture on the resort’s retail operation in exclusive interviews with Sara Van Pelt, vice president of revenue, Herschend Family Entertainment, and Cyndi McCormack, publicist, The Dollywood Company

Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties (SGN): Please describe the DreamMore retail operation, including stores and merchandise.

Sara Van Pelt: We named the resort’s gift shop Pokeberry Lane. The name pays homage to Dolly’s childhood memories of growing up in East Tennessee where pokeberries dotted the landscape, offering her the perfect accent to a world filled with wonders to delight and charm, just outside her back door. In designing and selecting the shop’s offerings, we took that sentiment to heart, choosing items that we felt would serve as the perfect accent to the memories families create while staying at the resort.

Product-wise, we tell several different stories within the space, with each vignette highlighting different aspects of what we believe is so special about Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, the Great Smoky Mountains and Dolly herself. There really is something for everyone. The mix is broad, including things like home décor accents customized with our very favorite Dollyisms, hand-crafted pottery made right here in East Tennessee, specially selected Southern cookbooks including Dolly’s own, hiking accessories to use when exploring the beautiful hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, and plenty of custom souvenir items including a rocking chair picture frame inspired by the signature white rocking chairs throughout the resort.

Custom-labeled jellies at the Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort retail store. The retail operation strives to appeal to a wide audience.

SGN: Please describe the retail operations at the rest of the Dollywood park, including stores and merchandise.

Cyndi McCormack: For a theme park, Dollywood’s retail mix is quite diverse, as the offering includes typical park souvenirs as well as hand-crafted items, fashion apparel, home décor and specialty gifts. This mix presents both opportunities and challenges. A traditional souvenir buyer could struggle to speak to the park’s need for unique higher-end items. On the other hand, the varied selection allows Dollywood’s merchants to offer something for every park guest.

SGN: What special retail environment is Dollywood trying to create for shoppers at the DreamMore location?

Van Pelt: When creating the retail environment for Pokeberry Lane, it was important to us that we stay true to all that the resort intends to inspire and evoke: family time, storytelling, Southern charm and hospitality and especially the sharing of the beauty, wonder and welcome of Dolly’s beloved Smoky Mountains. Fixtures and décor include a backdrop of antique whites, natural woods and metals and is accented with eclectic pops of our signature Pokeberry Purple throughout, including pokeberry sprigs peeking out of mason jar vases and unique roped throw rugs tucked just under entry tables, to name a few. All of these touches were chosen with care to evoke that warm, welcoming feeling that is so prevalent throughout the resort.

Name-dropped candles at the DreamMore Resort. The attraction strives to evoke family time, storytelling and Southern charm and hospitality while sharing the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

SGN: What do you think will be the merchandise best sellers for the DreamMore retail operation and why?

Van Pelt: We’ve seen success in most story groupings so far. The rocking chair picture frames have already proven to be a very popular. Many of our guests identify the white rocking chair as one of the signatures of the resort, so it really resonates with them as a great way to remember their visit in a personalized way. Our branded home accents have also been very popular with the guests. It’s a nice way to take a little piece of the resort’s look and feel home with them.

SGN: What display strategies are being used at the DreamMore retail operations?

Van Pelt: Our strategy with both product development and display is to tell individualized and authentic stories within each vignette that all tie together in a big picture way to support the overarching brand. This allows us to reach a wide audience while still making sure we are able to flesh out each grouping in a way that is interesting, specific and unique.

SGN: How many retail merchandise buyers work at Dollywood, and how do they find new merchandise?

McCormack: Dollywood staffs two dedicated buyers, but has the advantage of working with the larger HFE team to gain knowledge of trend, supplier, product and design information. Knowledge is shared between other HFE Properties and the HFE Property Support Center. In addition to internal sources, Dollywood’s retail leadership/buyers attend gift and souvenir shows and travel extensively to benchmark top relevant retail establishments.

A view of the DreamMore Resort on opening day last July. The resort’s gift store, Pokeberry Lane, was named to pay homage to Dolly Parton's childhood in East Tennessee where pokeberries dotted the landscape.

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