Flower Fever
Best-Selling Apparel with a Botanical Theme at Botanical Garden Gift Shops

Among wearable souvenirs, scarves are a winner at botanical garden and arboretum gift shops. Easy to wear and easy to give, these versatile accessories are blank slates, design-wise; they accommodate a range of botanical prints, from roses to maple leaves, that might not work on a hat or a pair of pants.

Organic-themed scarves are the top selling apparel item at the Freshly Minted gift shop in the Mary Ellen Mulder Arboretum in Seattle, Wash. “A lot of our scarves do have some kind of floral print,” said Program Manager Alyssa Henry, who oversees the all-volunteer gift shop. Customer favorites vary by season: Darker tree bark designs, often in wool materials, do well in winter, while brighter flowers or vine themes are popular in summertime, when wool-silk or all-silk fabrics prevail.

A view of the Mary Ellen Mulder Arboretum Gift Shop. Apparel colors and botanical designs on merchandise changes with the seasons at the store.

Sun hats have also become a best-seller for the 400-square-foot gift shop, which earned $165,000 in revenue last year. “We could not keep them on the shelves last year,” Henry said. The hats come in multiple cloth and wax-braided styles, with colors that coordinate with the arboretum’s seasonal blooms. At $25-$30 apiece, the price point is “low enough for an impulse buyer, but not so low that we compromise on quality,” the manager added.

As the seasons change, the foliage on display outdoors ties into the featured apparel colors and botanical designs, Henry noted. “When we know something’s going to be peaking here, we’ll buy something that has that flower on it,” she explained, noting that magnolias and cherry trees are most popular in spring, hydrangeas and wisterias in summer, and yellow and red maple leaves in fall.

Alyssa Henry, volunteer programs manager and general manager of the Mary Ellen Mulder Arboretum Gift Shop in Seattle, Wash., photographed with Whit Carter, operations manager and assistant manager of the gift shop. Sun hats are a best-seller for the store, Henry said.

All year round, cactuses are the hot botanicals at Las Vegas Springs Preserve — at least on scarves, kimonos, sweaters and hoodies. “People really love the casual wear related to cactuses,” said Marcela Gomez, assistant gift shop manager at the Springs Preserve. “We have sunglasses, T-shirts, and matching décor and key chains with cactuses on them.”

It’s no accident: Cactuses and butterflies are among the visitor highlights at Springs Preserve, a 180-acre desert botanical garden with walking trails, a museum and a cultural center operated by the Las Vegas Water District. Desert-inspired nature themes inspire sales of scarves and sunglasses, among the top selling apparel items.

Merchandise at the Mary Ellen Mulder Arboretum Gift Shop. The all-volunteer gift store does well with scarves.

Exhibition tie-ins are another way to boost sales: A recent jungle theme coincided with a National Geographic exhibition at the Springs Preserve museum — and jungle-printed scarves, T-shirts and hats were a hit with visitors, Gomez said. 

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