From stickers to magnets, to stuffed animals, both name-dropped and generic souvenirs are big sellers at zoo gift stores nationwide.
At the Big Bear Alpine Zoo in Big Bear Lake, Calif., Merchandising Manager Christine Bice described her top-selling inexpensive souvenirs as “little cuddly stuffed toys. Those are by far our most popular merchandise. We have mini-Flopsies on display in a big bin in the middle of the store that do extremely well.” While the display is attractive and eye-catching, the popularity of this item is also due to a reasonable price point of $7.50, and a wide range of animal choices. “They are the best seller we have, for sure,” she said. Made with soft plush, the small toys are also appealing for their quality.
When it comes to other inexpensive items, magnets are a top-seller as well at the recently expanded gift shop. Bice sees a trend in the appeal of magnets due to how easily customers can purchase and carry them, and the custom styles that the store carries. “Our magnets are a good grab and go. And we had them all customized, which people like. One in particular is very popular. It was drawn from the animals here at the zoo, and it shows that the animals residing here are all rescue animals. That one is an especially good seller,” she reports. “One of the most prominent features on the magnet is an image of our two snow leopard sisters here. They each have only one eye. The magnet reminds people that the animals here are being taken care of, and that they couldn’t be taken care of or safe elsewhere.” For Bice, custom magnet designs are definitely a top trend.
With that in mind, while name-dropped magnets tend to sell better overall than generic items, when it comes to plush animals, name-dropping matters less. As Bice notes “Plush is king in our gift store, and most of our plush is not personalized. Some stuffed animals do have hoodies on them that feature the name of the zoo, and those sell very well, but then so do generic plush.”
At Zoo Montana in Billings, Guest Services Manager Kathy Barton described her best performing inexpensive souvenir items as “Colorful little rainbow candy tops or lollipops that have stuffed animals around them. They are a really strong seller. We were sold out and just restocked today, and the display is almost empty again already.” The item has wide-spread appeal, she related. “We see both kids and adults purchasing them. They are both crazy for them, and I think it is because you get both a sweet and a little stuffed toy both at one time.” The candy and plush combination is also offered at an attractive price point for customers. “You get two things for a lower price, and one is consumable, while the other one sticks around,” she said, making the purchase a win-win for guests.
Barton also does well with stickers and magnets. “I saw that trend coming, and I have orders in right now for a ton of both of those items. Our magnets are already on the floor and they are doing just fantastic.” She added, “I get requests for stickers all the time, and when the new order comes in, we’ll get that display up and we will have a whole wall of them. The wall will include some bigger decals, too.” Price point and ease of purchasing these small but memory-making items are both part of the appeal.
Name-dropped inexpensive souvenirs sell better than generic items at the gift shop, Bice said. “Name-dropped items for sure appeal to people the most. They want to remember where they got something. They want that memory.” Along with offering name-dropped merchandise, Bice said top-sellers throughout the shop feature images of the animals at the zoo. “Anything with a red panda, an otter, a sloth, any of the animals they see here, those will be the top sellers.”
Tom Harvey, owner of Safari Zoological Park located in Caney, Kan., revealed that the top-selling inexpensive souvenirs in his gift shop are plush animals. “They sell anywhere from $4.99 to $34.99. We have a lot of white tigers and grizzly bears, and any of the animals that we have here at the park people will want to purchase them in plush.” The animals are not name-dropped. Along with plush toys, reasonably priced T-shirts are also sold at the 1,000-square-foot gift shop and do well. The store does not stock inexpensive stickers, magnets, pens and pencils or keychains. As to name-dropped items, T-shirts that feature the zoo name are the only type of wearable that the store carries. “We simply don’t have any shirts without a name-drop on them. We have our own design logo shirts, and others which are from the mountain in the area with a nice design of an animal and our name drop on the back.” The trend in wearable souvenirs as well as in plush appears to be customer interest in well-made items, Harvey asserted. “Our plush animals are from Rhode Island Novelty. They are very high quality.”
In Winston, Ore., Crystal Banks, gift shop supervisor at Wildlife Safari, described stickers, magnets, key chains, and smaller stuffed animals as best-sellers. “They are all inexpensive and easy to grab. And we have many new designs.” Name-dropped merchandise sells best for the store. “Customers want a souvenir that brings a memory with it,” she explained.
Banks has also observed some specific trends with inexpensive souvenirs. “With magnets, the design aspect is very important now,” Banks said. “Our customers are looking for the animals we have here. For example, we feature giraffes at the park, and have lots of items that have giraffes on them, including magnets, as well as stuffed animals that represent giraffes, and they do very well.” She also sees another trend. “I would say people are looking for things that are more upbeat.” With magnets particularly, upbeat look and animal design are both key for strong sales. With that in mind, Banks is always looking for new and appealing magnet styles, she related. “I just ordered a batch of new magnets 20 minutes ago,” she laughed. “They are Clay Critters and feature the safari park animals on them. Others have Swarovski crystals on them, which is a great look. I would expect them to be popular, too.”
Overall, top-selling inexpensive souvenirs at these four zoo locations feature site-specific animals, with plush animals a very strong category.
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