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Sophie Goad, guest services representative at the Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minn., photographed with merchandise. The assistant director of guest services said the wider the range of custom items carried, the better.
By Karen Appold

hen looking to sell more name-dropped souvenirs, take a good look at your logo and name drop. Are they appealing to the eye? “Some company logos are great for paper and ad purposes, but not for retail goods,” said Laura Vanlue, retail buyer, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, in Glenwood Springs, Colo. “If the logo is boring, the product will not sell.” Sometimes organizations will have one logo for merchandise and one for ad purposes. A colored logo is always a plus.

When choosing product, consider your demographic and target market; buy for that audience. “Think about what is special and unique about your attraction and gear your name-drop purchasing to that end,” Vanlue says. Also consider each product’s packaging. Will it hold up well and look nice on display shelves, baskets and with other merchandise? Will it travel well? Does the merchandise harmonize with your property and look like the market you’re targeting?

“Merchandise your logo product front and center and make sure it is highlighted with other like products,” added Amy Price, retail buyer of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Parks “sister” property. She explains that the geothermal hot springs formed the caves at the park. “Guests are walking into our ’living room;’ we want to have our most prized possessions for them to see, touch and buy. Create vignettes with specialty items. Tell a story to entice the buyer. Use the area around registers, the most profitable square footage in the store, for private label product.

Shown here with fudge is Laura VanLue of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colo., which is also home to Iron Mountain Hot Springs. The attractions’ retail buyer recommended telling a story with merchandise to entice shoppers.

At Virginia State Parks in Richmond, Va., Ann Henderson, enterprise business manager, said customer surveys showed that many state residents take mini vacations or weekend trips to their parks. “If they buy a T- shirt at one park, they do not want the same one from the next park,” she said. “Therefore, individual parks each have their own name-drop on their products.”

Furthermore, each park has its own logoed collectibles such as pins, patches, hiking medallions, bumper stickers and other small collectibles. Some customers work to collect all the pins, patches or medallions from each park, or pick an item to collect each year. “We have realized the need to develop new designs every few years to keep the collectibles fresh,” Henderson said. Most parks purchase their collectibles from L. W. Bristol Classics and keep the spinner rack on the checkout counter. “Parks have limited counter space, so the small footprint of the display is perfect for making collectibles impulse items,” said Henderson, who reports that annual revenue from merchandise sales is $1.8 million.

All apparel items are name-dropped; if the name-drop or main design is on the back, the shirts are displayed with the back out so customers see the design. Shirts that are folded have the design and name drop visible to the customer and/or a picture of the design adjacent to the display shelf, Henderson said. Because customers have requested that in addition to the park’s name the city and “Virginia” be included, these words have been added to the design.

Amy Price, retail buyer, Iron Mountain Hot Springs, the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Parks in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Price recommended placing logo product front and center.

Jim DeLong, manager, buyer and part owner of Crystal Cave in Kutztown, Pa., has found that displaying name-dropped souvenirs at eye level on shelves works well for the 2,176-square-foot gift shop. “We try to keep named-dropped items together in a particular area,” he said. “We display most named-dropped souvenirs in a display case in the front of the gift shop next to a cash register for impulse buys.”

Tim Murray, senior retail buyer, Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Tenn., advised keeping the design simple, classic looking and easy to read. “Our ’star’ animals, including river otters, penguins, turtles and sharks, look good with our logo and sell the product.” The aquarium’s three stores are 3,100, 1,400 and 1,300 square feet, respectively.

When looking to increase sales of name-dropped items, Kim Gefre, director of retail, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Fla., has also found that displaying souvenirs together works well at the 1,700-square-foot gift shop. For example, picture frames, shot glasses and mugs are all placed together on a nice fixture. “It makes a powerful statement and makes for an easy shopping experience for guests seeking logoed items,” she said. She’ll also include specific name-dropped items in feature displays. For instance, when celebrating Earth Day she incorporated both name-dropped recycled bags and mugs into a spring garden display.

Custom items at the Lake Superior Zoo. The whole family has a chance to take home a memorable custom item from the attraction.

Samantha Halligan, assistant director of guest services, Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minn., has found that the wider the range of custom items you carry, the better the sales. “From sippy cups, magnets, candy, drinkware and apparel, having something for everyone gives the whole family a chance to take home a memorable custom item,” she said.

Location and display in the 900-square-foot store also play a big role in sales of name-dropped merchandise. “Our custom merchandise display is front and center, which means it’s the first display customers see when entering the shop and the last display they see when leaving,” Halligan said. “This gives our customers multiple opportunities to view custom products before deciding on their final purchase.”

Maximizing Customer Service
Vanlue advised training guest service staff to highlight private label items because they are unique to your property. For example, try saying something like, “we sell these magnets so well; everyone wants to take one home to remember their day with us.” Or, “don’t forget your logo water bottle, we have water stations in the park for refilling.” Another suggestion: “You can use those plastic logo wine glasses around the pool and then take them with you in your camper.”

By asking a visitor about their experience, staff can learn what they enjoyed the most and what type of souvenir would be the most memorable for them to take home, Halligan said.

Gefre wants to make sure that each guest leaves with a smile and desire to return. “By creating a warm and friendly environment, you can lead guests to want to purchase a memory of the great day they had. Nothing does that better than something branded,” she concluded.

Pins and towels are available at the Virginia State Parks in Richmond, Va. “We have realized the need to develop new designs every few years to keep the collectibles fresh,” the enterprise business manager said.

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