According to country store staff and owners, there’s a wide variety of gift, sign, and home décor items that make best-sellers at their store locations. In short, country stores aren’t just about sweet treats or postcards – a rich collection of merchandise is available nationwide.
At Mt. Lemmon General Store in Mt. Lemmon, Ariz., General Manager Leanne Mack described her top-selling gifts, signs and home décor items as a varied lot.
“For gift items, I’d say shot glasses, mugs, T-shirts, and the home-made fudge we’re known for all do very well. In home décor, I would say local pictures, wind chimes, figurines of bears and wolves, and nice gemstone displays do best for us. As to signs, the most popular include sayings such as ‘This is my Happy Place,’ things that reference home life that appeals to cabin owners in our area. Many are seasonal owners, so we tend to rotate our stock a lot, and take the signs out of our displays when the owners leave around Labor Day, and then put them back up in the spring.” Recently, Mack brought in some Raku Japanese pottery décor items, which she described as unique. “We selected this because it is not a common item that you can find in area gift shops. We always try to find items that you won’t see anywhere else.”
For Mack, selling more gifts at the 3,000-square-foot store is based on interaction with customers, and the seasonal rotation of stock to keep displays fresh. “We have many regular visitors come through, and they need to see something different, so fresh displays are important. Many of our displays are seasonal, and that seasonal change also helps to sell more items. We do Christmas and fall displays, and when the mineral shows come through to the Tucson area in February, we bring a lot of our rock and gemstone items in.”
At The Crushed Grape in San Luis Obispo, Calif., General Manager Gretchen Gonyer said, “In home décor, wall art is doing the best for us right now, photographs of the area around us, that type of thing. We also do well with hanging wine racks. We have many wine-related signs in the store. As to gift items, picnic baskets are number one. They relate well to the foodie vibe of the area, and we can add in wine and other food items from us as well.” Gonyer recently brought in new glassware, coasters, bags, and wine openers. “All of these items do well because they can be name-dropped. We do very well with anything that has ‘SLO’ on it. The wine rack, which I also brought in recently, was selected for a different reason: because it was different, and had such a local feel to it.” To sell more gifts, Gonyer cited the positive impact of suggestive selling, showing new items periodically on social media, and displays that are both seasonal and feature cross-merchandising.
Terry Smoke co-owns the Troutdale General Store in Troutdale, Ore., with wife Jodi, and daughter Cassie Smoke. The family-owned business does well with holiday-themed items which are always big sellers year-round for the store. “Halloween and Christmas are our two biggest things. We have a downstairs where we keep that merchandise all year, and during the holiday season we decorate the whole store with these kinds of items. We are also located at the Columbia River Gorge, so we do well with gift items such as T-shirts, stickers, and locally-made jams and jellies, too.” Smoke added, “We have lots of different signs that sell well: wooden, tin, metal, everything from humor to homey. Our number one décor item, I would say, are nature pictures from international artist Dean Crouser. He actually lives just eight miles away, and we let everyone know he is a local artist.” Smoke said the home décor item he most recently brought into the store are gnomes. “They have been a big hit. They’re holiday-themed, and they sell well both as décor and as fun fluffy presents.” In general, Smoke said he is always bringing in new items. “We go to the big trade show in Atlanta in January, so we are always looking way ahead and bringing in new items. At the moment we brought in 25 to 30 themed trees, with ornaments of all kinds. Some ornaments can be used as décor items, and others make great holiday gifts.”
To sell more gifts, Smoke relies on word of mouth, and the store’s large-scale displays. “My wife and daughter have worked since August setting up our Halloween displays, and now we are switching to Christmas. People know us as having these big displays and great new items every year, and they actually fly into the area from Florida, Texas, and California just to come shop here in the Northwest with us.”
At Orange Patch Too country store in Mesa, Ariz., Assistant Manager Irma Sotelo, speaking for owners Michelle Smith and Katie Hunsaker, said top-selling gift items include “many unusual items you just can’t find anywhere else. We carry Mud Pie dishes, linens, and pillows as home décor and gift items; we carry signs from many different companies that focus on heart and home such as ‘Home is where Your Mom Is.’ Many are wooden and created by the brand Primitive by Cathy. Along with their signs, we also carry their towels, many of which have funny sayings on them.”
In terms of what new home décor items she’s recently seen come into the store, it has been holiday-themed items all the way this season. “We have brought in a lot of new ornaments and greenery. We choose a lot of our ornaments like we choose anything else we carry – based on their uniqueness, which is really key to great sales.” Like Smoke, Sotelo said at Orange Patch Too, word of mouth is important. “We specialize in our customer service, and people who live here really know us; even tourists who come in only once from out of town may have heard of us for this. We’ve been in business 30 years and we really focus on our service. Providing personalized touches like gift bags with tissue, and having good interaction with customers really helps to sell gifts. We also have terrific displays; we have someone who is in charge of creating our displays here, and she does beautiful, thematic work by season.”
In Randsburg, Calif., at the Randsburg General Store, Co-Owner Carol Dyer said one of her top sellers are locally made, repurposed feedbag purses. “They’re exactly what you use to feed chickens and horses, but lined with unique materials, and beautifully recreated. We also do well with Mexican blankets as both décor items and gifts; another popular gift are what I call funky sodas – they have funny flavors like Ranch dressing, butter, or dirt and grass flavors. We sell a lot of those as fun gifts. Books about the mining industry and the history of this area are also popular, as are coffee mugs and shot glasses,” she attested. A new décor item the store recently brought in comes from a local mining claim owner. “We carry his gold ore and processed gold, and they both make beautiful display pieces.” The general store is attached to a motorcycle and surf shop in the same building, and in that section, surf boards and Hawaiian shirts are top gift sellers. “People think it’s funny and fun to be able to purchase beach-type items in the middle of the desert, not near any water,” she noted.
To sell more gifts, Dyer said, “Displays are important, and talking to the customers, personally interacting with them. Our displays are simple but easy to see on shelves. People often wander in here to enjoy our soda fountain items, and then they come into the store and see what we have to offer.”