Making Tee Sales Tops
Selling More T-shirts at Caves, Resorts and Beach Stores

T-shirts are often tops with a capital “T” when it comes to sales. At resort shops, beach stores, and cave shops, these tried and true shoppers’ favorites are uniformly popular.

At Cave Without A Name in Boerne, Texas, Patty Perlaky, the cave’s educational manager, said T-shirt sales improve as the result of stand-alone displays that are moved frequently around the gift shop. “Moving items keeps them looking fresh. Our displays are pretty consistent when it comes to T-shirts year-round, but moving them around, always in high traffic areas, definitely gives sales a boost.” She added, “They are currently about 15 feet from the register, and to get to the other side of the gift shop, you have to pass right by them. Previously, the placement was such that if you wanted to leave the shop, you had to walk past the shirts, as we had them by a door. Keeping them in a high traffic area is very important.”

A woman tries on a hat in a promotional photo for Red Mountain Resort. Seasonal displays and cross merchandising help sell more apparel for the store, according to the manager. Photo credit: Red Mountain Resort

Perlaky noted that hands down, the 1,600-square-foot cave shop’s top seller is a glow-in-the-dark T-shirt. “Reflective images really do the best for us. These shirts have a cave scene on them that glows, and they are name-dropped. That is by far our number one shirt. As a matter of fact, we’re thinking about just selling this T-shirt and eliminating other shirt selections that don’t sell as strongly.” The shop primarily sells gem and mineral items such as geodes, salt lamps, and carved marble figures. “Not including those T-shirts, 80 percent of everything else is rock related.”

At Hy’s Toggery in Panama City Beach, Fla., General Manager Ken Rose said that in his men’s beach and resort clothing shop, display is the ticket to higher sales. “Every company that we carry has their own section in the store. We carry Patagonia, North Face, and many others, including our top seller, Vineyard Vines. Having our clothes grouped into sections helps our customers find what they are looking for.” The Vineyard Vines tees are in one section within the brand’s area of the store, and not cross-merchandised with other fashion items from the same line. “They are our top-sellers for a number of reasons. They’re a classic line, and everyone loves their logo and the design they do with it,” he said. Rose described the logo pattern as being on the back of the shirt. “While we are successful with many companies, it would be hard to pick another brand that we do as well with for T-shirts.”

An exterior view of the Red Mountain Outfitters store at Red Mountain Resort. This Ivins, Utah, resort is a destination that is all about recreation and relaxation. Photo credit: Red Mountain Resort

In Florence, Ore., at the Sea Lion Caves gift shop, General Manager Jim McMillan agreed that display is the most important aspect when it comes to improving sales of T-shirts, which are already a staple buy for customers at his shop. “Really, it’s just about making them visible, and making sure we have proper stock during the busy seasons, which are the Spring Break period and summer. The shirts are in their own area, and it’s all just T-shirts on the rack. We don’t cross merchandise them,” McMillan explained. His best-sellers are coastal themed. “Shirts that have a photograph or drawing of a sea lion and are name-dropped are by far the most popular. They do well for us because they make such a good souvenir. We have a lighthouse just a mile north of us along the coast, so T-shirts that feature lighthouses also do well.”

T-shirt photographed at the Red Mountain Resort. Patterns are changed on the resort’s shirts every six months. Photo credit: Red Mountain Resort

Further south in Oregon, at The Sassy Seagull in Brandon, Ore., Shop Owner Karen Richmond has two top-selling types of T-shirts in her 1,400-square-foot shop. “I don’t sell our location, I leave that to other businesses in the area. I have a dog section, where I carry a lot of humorous dog shirts, and I have a simple T-shirt design that features a heart and the shape of the state of Oregon. I sell far more of the different styles of dog shirts than of the Oregon-related shirt,” Richmond reported. “Funny shirts such as “In dog beers I’ve had just one” or “In dog years I’m dead” are very popular. The dog shirts are unique for the area, and people always comment that I carry different types of T-shirts than anyone else.” She described her store as atypical, not just a standard souvenir or beach shop. She carries women’s clothing of all types, home décor, golf paraphernalia, jewelry, wind chimes, and work by local artists who create painted pieces on local-area driftwood, she attested. Richmond is planning an update to her Oregon-themed shirt this year to capitalize on her unique offerings. “The new shirt I’ve just ordered will be something different thematically. It’s not uncommon to see an outline of the state with a heart in the middle of it, which is what I have been carrying.” While she was not able to share the new design at this time, she noted that it will be more of a “stand-out.”

To sell more T-shirts, she agreed with staff members at other shops. “It’s all display,” she said. “Within my dog section, which goes across two rooms of my five-room shop, we have a T-shirt room. I have one shirt displayed of each style and the rest of the sizes are on hangars or racks. I do have one dog shirt, and one of my Oregon shirts on mannequins in my front windows, but primarily, I display both styles of shirt on ladders built out of local drift wood. I hang each shirt on a rung of the ladder so that people can look down the ladder and see what we have,” she explained. At times, she may also hang a few shirts on the walls of her store as well. “You just want people to be able to see them.”

Women look at gear in a Red Mountain Resort promotional photo. T-shirts with logos and positive messages sell well for the store. Photo credit: Red Mountain Resort

At Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, the destination is all about relaxation, rejuvenation, and a spa experience, as well as offering hiking and biking experiences among the red rocks of the area. The shop offers clothing to fit all these activities, according to Manager Steve Graves. When it comes to T-shirts, his best-sellers are resort logo apparel and “shirts that have a positive message on them. We literally change the pattern on our own shirts every six months so that we are not reselling the same logo shirt all the time, and what we carry is seasonal and fresh even for repeat guests.” To sell more? Graves, too, focuses on displays that are prominently placed within the store. “We create seasonal displays and we do cross merchandise with other items in the store.”

In short, displays that are highly visible, and kept fresh and well-stocked, along with carrying merchandise that fits the aesthetic of the shop and the shop’s location, are the key ways to sell more T-shirts at cave shops, beach stores and resort locations.

A sticker with the Red Mountain Resort name. Hiking, biking, a spa and more make a visit to the attraction worthwhile.

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