Dressing Guests with Apparel Extras
Selling Wearable Merchandise at Water Parks and Amusement Parks

By Karen Appold

Even though a visit to a water park or amusement park may only last one day, there a lots of things to remember to take along. Swimsuit—check! Hat—check! Sunglasses—oops! Or, in some cases, a guest may not think that they will need a certain item, such as an extra T-shirt if theirs gets soaked on a flume ride. 

Stocking apparel and accessory items that guests might forget is a great way to ensure sales at your gift shop. For Eric Bertch, owner of Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, Iowa, Wilcor water shoes are among his top-selling apparel. “Some guests fail to realize how hot the deck can get when temperatures get over 85 degrees,” he said.

Isherrie Dunk, retail assistant manager, Pier Gear, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier in California. Unique unisex T-shirts sell well for the store, according to Dunk.

Even if guests remember to bring everything they need, many like to purchase a memento of their special day. If they choose to buy clothing, they are most likely to buy a Gildan sweatshirt or T-shirt with the park’s logo on it, Bertch said. “We carry a variety of unique designs that change each year,” he said. “They are popular with first-time and returning guests.”

In the apparel category, Isherrie Dunk, retail assistant manager at Pier Gear, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier in California, said unique unisex T-shirts from Lakeshirts, The Duck Company, Teemax, and Passion Imports, to name a few, sell well. They often have clever sayings and capture images that reflect the Santa Monica Pier, such as its infamous Ferris wheel, the Santa Monica yacht sign, palm trees, and sunshine. The shirts are soft and comfortable for day-to-day wear, and are perfect for family members who didn’t go on the trip, she said.

Lifeguard apparel by Popularity Product is another top seller. “Our hottest seller is a red hoodie that is name-dropped Santa Monica,” Dunk said. “We not only carry the hoodie, but also matching crewnecks, shorts, tanks, and hats—which grabs the attention of guests walking the boardwalk.”

Crop tops have been in style the last few years and always sell out for Dunk. “Ever Hottie provides a few of our popular styles that include unique photos of Santa Monica,” she said.

Senior Retail Supervisor Alexandra Choquehuanca, Pier Gear, at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, photographed with gifts. In an effort to sell more accessories, items are organized by color and style, the retail assistant manager said.

For Jennifer Vance, retail manager and buyer at Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Lake Geneva, Wis., tie-dyed youth T-shirts are all the rage. In addition, red, black, and navy tees, are also a hit. For adults, sweatshirts with fun fonts bearing the park’s logo fly off the shelves. Swimwear is another best seller, particularly for men. “They must forget their suits often,” she said.

Ryan Burke, general manager of DeSoto Caverns in Childersburg, Ala., which has an amusement park in addition to a cavern, said agate pendant necklaces sell well. “They are affordable, make for a great accessory piece, and contain letters which can represent either a first or last name,” he said. The polished agate pieces of rock measure approximately two inches by one inch and come in a variety of colors.

Designs are easy to see in this hanging apparel display at Lost Island Waterpark. Stocking apparel and accessory items guests might forget is a great way to boost sales.

Selling More Accessories

In addition to apparel, accessories can make or break a day out at a water or theme park. So how can a gift shop get these items to fly off the shelves?

“A display’s location is important,” Bertch said. “A prominent large supply of jewelry, sunglasses, and water shoes near the entrance or register attracts guests. Keep displays well-stocked; if items look picked over guests tend to avoid purchasing them.”

Dunk organizes items by color, style, and in the same area, in an effort to sell more accessories. “It helps to have the name of the city or some sort of personalization,” she said. “Lighting also always plays an important part in highlighting merchandise.”

Creating attractive displays is key to increasing sales, Vance said. “And don’t over-price anything; keep it affordable for families,” she said.

In an effort to boost apparel sales, Burke recommended making sure displays are fully stocked. “Organize them by color, and make sure you have good lighting hitting the jewelry to make it appealing with a nice shimmer and shine,” he said. 

Jessie Hayes, group sales manager, Raging Rivers Waterpark, Grafton, Ill., places jewelry at the check-out counter to boost sales. Cruz necklaces and bracelets that are priced between $6 and $12 are her top sellers.

Apparel and gifts on display at Lost Island Waterpark in Waterloo, Iowa. Water shoes are apparel top sellers at the attraction.

Surprise! Surprise! 

When choosing new merchandise, you never know for sure how well it will sell until it’s out on the shelves. Sometimes, an unexpected item does amazingly well. 

For Bertch, Fiesta’s Cutie Beans, with a mystery toy hidden inside the “bean,” have been phenomenal hot sellers. “They were trendy at a gift show, and kids (including staff) are buying them like crazy,” he said. “Kids like the ‘surprise’ component.” The shop sells them for $6, and they are nearly gone. The supplier is sold out.

Bertch’s 480-square-foot gift shop garners $150,000 annually. “Guests are spending far more this year, but we’re going to miss out on a considerable amount of sales due to supply chain issues,” he said. “A six- to eight-week lead time cripples seasonal businesses when hit with unexpected demand.”

Dunk said the most unique items sell best. Soaps from Luna Los Angeles’ vegan collection have creative sayings that are hard to leave behind. “You don’t often see bars of soap in a souvenir store, but the delightful smell and creative wording always grabs guests’ attention,” she said. The shop also sells tons of small dishes by Down to Earth. These simple yet universal dishes are mostly used for jewelry placement, but can be used in many other ways.

A T-shirt and gift display at Lost Island Waterpark. Logo souvenir T-shirts and sweatshirts sell well for the park.

Sales of swimming goggles by Bling2o for $10 have shocked Vance. “They are priced well and are packaged in a clear case,” she said. “Sales have been incredible.”

When she took a chance on cotton candy, Hayes wasn’t sure how it would be received at her 780-square-foot shop. She was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a popular seller. “It’s great when someone gets a sweet tooth and it’s priced affordably,” she said. 

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