Keeping a clean store at the right temperature, as well as creating inviting displays, were just some of the toy selling tips offered by zoo store managers for this article.
For the Michigan City, Ind., Washington Park Zoo, affordable prices and variety are two other concerns when trying to increase sales. “Our biggest seller is plush of any kind, but I make sure to have a large variety of toys and games available,” said Gift Shop Manager Shawne Sheldon.
For Sheldon, variety is key and it’s important to have something that works for kids of all ages. Having a lot of a certain product or product group is a way to draw attention to what is for sale. “Make sure things are stocked up and looking full.  I have plush [of all different types] located throughout our store. I have found for toys and games, though, I need to keep them located close to each other.”

The Abilene Zoo is gearing up for the launch of a Giraffe Safari exhibit in 2016 and giraffe merchandise will be part of the gift store’s inventory.

The Abilene Zoo is gearing up for the launch of a Giraffe Safari exhibit in 2016 and giraffe merchandise will be part of the gift store’s inventory.

The zoo’s gift shop is 800 square feet with over $100,000 in annual sales. Sheldon’s displays draw the attention of potential buyers. “I mix bright colored plush with natural colored [pieces] to draw your eye over there and get you to look at everything. I can put plush up higher, but toys and games I need to keep at kid level.”
Kramer Richardson, the retail manager of the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, divides plush, toys and books into separate departments around the shop to help guests find what they are looking for more easily. “Merchandising is key,” explained Richardson. “If you have a poorly merchandised shop you will almost surely not do well in sales. When a guest walks into the gift shop first impressions are very important. The first things they should see are the popular items that are most commonly purchased set up with a nice display.”
First impressions can be enhanced by engaging your guests. “It’s very important when it comes to sales and loss prevention,” said Kramer. “Simply approaching a guest and asking to be of assistance or [making] small talk about their visit at your establishment makes them more comfortable, which in turn makes it easier for them to purchase more merchandise.”
Along with proper, eye-catching displays, the store environment is also very important and ties in with merchandising. “The shop needs to stay clean – from the glass doors and windows down to the floor being swept/vacuumed on a consistent basis. Having a bright, colorful shop helps catch the eyes of potential customers and is sure to pique their interest to take a look.”
Music, if possible, also can add to a gift shop’s ambience. Kramer uses nature sounds and African safari tunes, which the guests seem to enjoy. A final tip from the Central Florida Zoo is to keep the temperature of the store comfortable. “During the summer heat keeping the shop cool is the easiest way to keep guests shopping and [spending] more.”

Linda Camacho, manager for the Abilene Zoo’s gift shop, said she expects giraffe plush, shirts, globes and frames will sell well due to a new giraffe exhibit.

Linda Camacho, manager for the Abilene Zoo’s gift shop, said she expects giraffe plush, shirts, globes and frames will sell well due to a new giraffe exhibit.

Linda Camacho, manager for the Abilene Zoo’s gift shop, is gearing up for the launch of the zoo’s Giraffe Safari exhibit which will open in spring of 2016. Camacho is certain that this exhibit will spark the sales of many giraffe-themed items.
“[Guests can get] up close and personal with our giraffes,” she said of the new exhibit. “We have also received a new male giraffe and he will be introduced to our public when the new exhibit opens.”
It’s very obvious that the gift shop’s displays will be all about giraffes in the near future for this zoo. Plush toy giraffes are predicted to be a top seller. “Anything to do with giraffes,” Camacho said. “Plush being the best-seller followed by shirts, globes, frames.”
If a zoo has something they are proud of, something that nearby attractions may not offer – like a new exhibit or new animal – then it’s a great way to get visitors into the store. Use what is new to make themed items an important part of the shop. Clean displays, eye-catching items and a friendly, comfortable environment will help with sales.