Getting Guests to Go For Gleaming Gifts
Gem and Mineral Merchandise at Science Museums and Caves

All that glitters can be gold when it comes to sales of gem and mineral gifts at cave shops and science museums. Staff members share their tips for top sales and discuss their best-selling items.

At the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, Ariz., Assistant Store Director Grant Burkhart said the best way to sell more gem and mineral gifts are to offer the right price point and create attractive displays. “You have to recognize that kids on field trips and people on vacation have different price points. We create a price point just for kids because we have so many field trips come into the museum. In terms of display, it’s important to have as much available and displayed as possible in different shapes and sizes. When it comes to gems and minerals, certain things speak to certain people. I have 40 different shapes and sizes of amethyst, for example,” Burkhart related. His top-selling gems and minerals? “One of my most popular is a simple bag that children can fill with polished rocks for just $5. We have a large table of the rocks, so it’s very appealing, and the kids can come in, and for a few dollars get a small collection.” In front of that table is another, with 16-slots in which Burkhart displays a variety of other stones “from pyrite to gems inside a bottle like sapphires and Tiger’s Eye stones, to geodes, gold, magnetic rocks, selenite, we have it all, and our visitors enjoy selecting what draws them. I also do well with Bonsai trees positioned on a chunk of amethyst, the trees are made of gemstones. I also sell a lot of small animals positioned on geodes, little stone carved animals, heart stones, and rocks that are dyed for color effect,” he attested. “The key is to have items that start at $5 which are perfect for children’s allowances, on up to $40.”

With jewelry, as with the gems and minerals themselves, display is very important to make sales strong in Burkhart’s shop. “Along with displaying them attractively, it’s important to keep jewelry together in one area so that people can see all the variety that we offer. We have necklaces with healing stones on them, crystals, all different shapes and sizes. That way it is easier for people to make a choice. We display our gem jewelry next to our gemstones and minerals so that there is a smooth transition to the rocks themselves. That kind of flow is key.” He added that putting out new jewelry items as soon as he receives them is also important to keep displays fresh.

As to who buys gemstone jewelry, Burkhart reported that the demographic is wide open. “Literally it’s both genders from age 3 to 99. I have small children who are just fascinated with the gems. I [have] really cool stuff in my store,” he enthused. “Primarily though, with jewelry it is pre-teen to teenage buyers and some adults. They gravitate toward different items. We have many of our jewelry items priced at around $9 which is very appealing to ages 5 to 6 up to 15 years; adults will gravitate toward more expensive items such as geode earrings and necklaces.”

In Vallecito, Calif., at Black Chasm Cavern, a natural national landmark, Buyer Denise Marshall uses social media to promote her shop’s gems and minerals and gem stone jewelry, but she also relies on display. “Lighting with displays is especially important for those items, you want to make things sparkle and shine. We often display our jewelry with the raw gemstones; for example we’ll put a necklace on a large chunk of amethyst. We primarily keep our jewelry and our stones together,” she explained. Marshall’s top sellers include onyx figurines such as animals and pyramids, and she notes that small children especially appreciate the carved animals. Children are also drawn to gem and mineral bags which they fill through an interactive tabletop mining experience. “Pretty much anything that is amethyst, rose quartz, or loose gemstones in the rough are all good sellers for us.”

When it comes to jewelry, social media is especially important to elevate sales, Marshall attested. “Around Mother’s Day last year our marketing director had them on Facebook, and we displayed them in the store with other merchandise such as candles with gemstones in them, other items that moms might like.” The shop does rely on cross merchandising for seasonal displays such as for the Christmas season. “We create thematic displays that group potential gift items together, gifts that are appropriate for the holiday.”

Gemstone jewelry is a big seller for Marshall. She described the demographic that primarily buys her jewelry as teens and older female buyers. “It’s surprising how much jewelry we sell here, honestly. For younger buyers, hematite jewelry does well for us; kids’ rings and necklaces, including an arrowhead necklace, all do well. For women, I would say our line of copper and turquoise jewelry sells the best. It’s important to have more fine jewelry for older buyers and less expensive items to appeal to the kids.”
In Pullman, Wash. at the Palouse Science Center, Front Desk Manager and Gift Shop Buyer Marcella Linn said the non-profit science center’s gift shop is small and does not carry gemstone jewelry. When it comes to gem and mineral gift items, rocks sold by the gram are a popular item. “We have a large basket of these rocks, and the children pick them out and weigh them. It’s an interactive activity that is fun for them,” she asserted. To display the rocks effectively and elevate sales, she’s sure to keep the basket at a level that children can easily see and reach. “We also position it near the door at the front of the store, so it’s something they can see easily and can quickly be attracted to it.” Price point is also important, Linn said. “Since primarily it is children purchasing everything, we try to keep everything under $10, and there is nothing over $20,” she said. The children buying range in age from toddler to age 12, according to Linn.

At Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown, Texas, General Manager Taunya Vessels relies on strong displays to attract buyers from the 130,000-some visitors to her 1000-square-foot shop. “We try to put our gem and mineral items in high-traffic areas, and we try to put our sparkly rocks where they will get the most light. We also use groupings of like-items to make them more eye catching. For example, we will place all of our amethyst together, with a large, $550 piece in the center that attracts attention. People are drawn to that, and then look more closely at and will buy the small, $20 pieces that are placed around it,” Vessels said.

Her best-sellers are rocks “in general, but amethyst and really anything that sparkles is good for us. We also do well with hematite magnets. Kids love to play with them, they’re kind of mesmerizing, really. Children will fill small bags with the round orbs, and they like to see just how many they can fit in a bag. The round orb shapes do especially well.” When it comes to jewelry, they display the pieces on hanging, spinner racks. “That way they are multi-sided, and we try to have as much light on them as possible to encourage sales. We could use more light, but what gift shop can’t?” she laughed. As to who buys the shop’s jewelry items, it is a mix of families and school children. To attract both types of buyers, Vessels positions items in different parts of the store. “We have more expensive jewelry, in the $20 and up range, grouped where families like to go in the shop. For children on school tours, we have our less expensive items grouped at the end of the gift shop. I have to say we sell a boatload of jewelry there. I bet we sell 20,000 $3 mood rings annually. I could be exaggerating, but only slightly, it’s way up there,” she attested. “We usually buy those rings by the hundreds in a variety of different styles.”

In Grants, N.M., Debbie Reinschmidt, owner and manager of the Ice Cave and Bandera Volcano gift shop, said that at her 1,000-square-foot shop, display is also the important element when it comes to improving sales. “We do have a website that also shows some of our gift shop objects and describes the store, but it’s really display in the store that boosts sales. Primarily, for us, it’s important to keep rock and gem items under light and in the center of the store, where they attract the most attention.”
Reinschmidt said polished, tumbled rocks “sell the best of everything, although we do have stones in the rough that sell well. People are attracted to the colors of the polished pieces.” She shows her jewelry in two ways: expensive items are kept under showcase glass and positioned with other attractive or thematic items such as small kachinas. Inexpensive items are out in the store where shoppers can examine them and touch them. “We tend to keep our like-items together such as rings, earrings, bracelets, each in their own areas. Our primary buyers are families, couples, and teens. It’s important to keep less expensive items out of the case so they can see them and pick them up.” To reach these different demographics, Reinschmidt makes sure to carry jewelry items that fit a wide range of price points.

Overall, gem and mineral sales shine brightly at cave shops and museum stores.

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