Resort guests don’t always want to bring home a name-dropped T-shirt or magnet. Sometimes they prefer a souvenir that is a bit more sophisticated or meaningful. With this in mind, resort shops stock a select amount of higher price point merchandise for guests seeking unique, quality gifts for themselves or someone special.
At the Spa Boutique at Topnotch Resort in Stowe, Vt., which measures a cozy 600 square feet, Spa Manager Alex Braaten said their various skin- and body-care products are top sellers in the quality gift category. “For us, products we use in the spa are very popular because you can experience the product before committing to it,” she explains. “Since we offer luxurious treatments, the skincare, body care, and even hair care items are on the higher end of the pricing scale and our guests love the high quality of the products we offer.”
Kitchen and houseware items with a local flair are standouts in the quality gift category at The General Store at Rush Creek Lodge and Spa at Yosemite [National Park] in Groveland, Calif. “We work with a local craftsperson named Lori, of Lori’s Woodworking. She makes the most beautiful, handcrafted cutting boards from hardwoods. They are available for sale in the shop and also used in the Tavern as charcuterie boards. They are a lovely, unique, and functional reminder of a great vacation,” said Darcy Locke, assistant retail manager.
Michele Johnson, retail manager for The Boutique at Mission Point at Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island, Mich., said gifts with local flair of any kind—whether made by local vendors or products that reflect the area in some way—are their biggest sellers. “I carry over 25 local Michigan artists in the store,” she explained. “I have a silversmith who does beautiful jewelry for us. They are one-of-a-kind pieces—they are displayed in a cabinet near the register so we can tell the story [of the items] and people can see them. We have candles, we have woodworking—all custom pieces.” Supporting local vendors and the community is at the heart of what Mission Point is all about, Johnson explained. “We believe that supporting local is the key to not only the island, but the resort itself. When people come on vacation, they’re looking for unique, locally-specific items. I love having so many things that are locally made. Guests ask for them year after year. Vendors come to me via referral. We had one jewelry artisan who was staying at the hotel. She walked into the store, handed me her card, and said, ‘I’d love for you to carry my work here.’ [The local artisans] are a tight-knit community—they often refer each other. I’ll look to them to see if items will fit with our store. I also look to see if they can put our logo on the items—that’s also very important. People love logoed items.”
Johnson added that glassware is another big seller: “I have a stemless wine glass with our logo on it—two Adirondack chairs—it’s one of our top sellers. It’s a fun gift to bring home.” Edward Delgado, director of retail for Aramark Destinations, the retail vendor for Lake Quinault Lodge at Olympic National Park in Quinault, Wash., said they sell stemware and beer steins engraved with the Lake Quinault logo in the store, and customers who order beverages at the on-site restaurant can purchase their glass as a souvenir. According to Delgado, the quality gifts in the 1,200-square-foot shop at Lake Quinault “are usually going to be your local gifts—either made on the Olympic Peninsula or West Coast of Washington. We sell pillows, lotions, lavender products from Sequim [a town in Washington]. Another top seller are Pendleton products. They’re an Oregon-based company, but a national brand known for their high-quality blankets. We sell quite a few of them.” He added, “I try to find things the customers will love and will remind them of their experience in Lake Quinault. They want something that will reflect their experience on the lake.” Their small but meaningful selection of Native American and artisan jewelry is another way customers can bring home a unique souvenir representative of the area.
Artisan jewelry, particularly custom pieces, are usually among resorts’ biggest sellers. Braaten said they carry it at Topnotch and it does well. “We are currently carrying a great jewelry line that is made by a local artist in Stowe and she also makes custom pieces on request. Artisan jewelry is unique and special, and it gives the feeling of something more personalized. Guests love buying something they cannot buy in most stores. Most of the time the artisan jewelry made in small quantities adds a layer of exclusivity people enjoy and adds value to the product.” Braaten added it’s important to support local vendors: “Nowadays you can purchase pretty much everything online, so to offer items which are locally made makes guests more interested in them. Local artisan products do well in Vermont and a town like Stowe. Guests want to feel connected to the place when they visit, and they can do that through the local products. Also, a locally made item works as a souvenir that reminds them of the experience and adds a sense of place. Local items can be ‘trendy’ in the sense that they are popular for a certain area before spreading on a wider scale. For example, the CBD craze started in Vermont a few years ago, earlier than other states. Offering CBD products in our Spa Boutique when it wasn’t available elsewhere made it a very sought-after product, as well as a great gift for guests to bring home with them.”
Locke explained, “We carry a small selection of sterling silver and natural stone jewelry, as well as some handmade craft jewelry in the General Store. We do quite a bit of business in both categories, but the lower priced pieces sell better to young people.” She added, “Because we are a General Store and also supply groceries, beer and wine, we sell quite a bit of glassware and mugs. They are very popular branded items for us. Our customers like to take home a small item that reminds them of their adventures at our resort and at Yosemite National Park.” The General Store measures approximately 1,200 square feet.
Although merchandising is essential for all items, retailers say for the quality gifts, sometimes unique positioning is necessary. “A lot of thought and consideration goes into the displays around the higher priced items,” Locke continued. “Maintaining a clean, bright and focal location while making sure to refresh the merchandising regularly is an important part of our business.” Carrying products by local vendors is an important part of Rush Creek’s retail mission, as well. “We have a small amount of local artisan jewelry and personal care products. We try to focus on bringing in pieces which are unique and representative of our area. They are a little soft as far volume drivers but add a personal touch that is irreplaceable,” Locke said.
Delgado said, “Displays should be clean and not cluttered. Keep them simple. I might add a prop or a plant, maybe some signage, but the focus remains on the product. The customer should really be able to see the item, especially if it’s something high end. We really want to focus on it and make the experience great.” He said the return guest motivates the retail team to keep the inventory fresh and new. “Someone who comes to Lake Quinault Lodge—[most] have been coming for many, many years. They have lots of experience going back and forth with their families. It’s a nice way to purchase items for the gift shop—I’m always challenged to find something new, exciting, and local. That’s the beauty of Lake Quinault—the return customer who always wants to find something new. It’s fun.”
Johnson strives to give customers a visual recreation of the average home in the 1,200-square-foot Boutique to determine what items may look like in various rooms. “I have the store set up in such a way that there is actually furniture—wooden tables, wooden shelving units. Display is very important,” Johnson stressed. “We have a large wooden table [in place] right as you walk in the door—on it, we display everything from an $11 candle to a $200 afghan which was made by a local island resident. Flow is so important. I make it so when a customer walks in, it’s almost like walking into your own home. Can you look at a piece and see it in your home? For the clothing, I have complete outfits on mannequins. You have just a few seconds to capture your guests’ attention. Most people come in and say, ‘Wow, this place is so welcoming,’ then you have a quality product, and a locally-made product—it’s a win-win for everyone. We see the boutique as a small reflection of the hotel and its focus on customer service and supporting local—that’s our goal at the end of the day.”