Selling More T-shirts at Waterpark and Amusement Park Gift Shops

By Karen Appold

There are lots of ways to boost T-shirt sales at waterpark and amusement park gift shops, beginning with how they’re displayed. Dave Wright, retail consultant, Wild Water Adventure Park, Clovis, Calif., generally sticks to the basic rules of thumb. For a single design, he’ll buy at least four garment colors for a positive visual display and order heavier on colors he feels strongly about. When all sizes and colors are available in the back stock, he recommends displaying the full array. Grouping T-shirts by color is also key. “Pay attention to these simple items to maximize sales,” he said. “A potential buyer’s eyes are naturally drawn to a nicely balanced display of color. Once you have their visual attention, a display must be easy to navigate for size and color. Proper fixturing and lighting is also important.” 

Ernesto Lopez, director of merchandise and games, California’s Great America, Santa Clara, Calif., said the majority of top items are always placed at the 1,200-square-foot store’s front so guests are immediately introduced to them. “With graphic tees, we flash the design on mannequins or face-outs so that guests can see designs without having to walk up to them,” he said. “Compared to folded shirts, this method allows guests to see every design quickly.”

These logo onesies are available at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort.

For Annette Johansen, director of revenue, Old Tucson Company in Arizona, displaying T-shirts in a functional way works well. “They are on mannequins and are displayed with other functions like ball caps, backpacks, rope or a cowboy hat, depending on the demographic that the shirt is aimed toward,” she said. Shirts are also organized with other merchandise related to a theme, such as the 25th anniversary of “Tombstone,” which was filmed there.

At LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Fla., Michelle West, senior purchasing manager of retail, said that one of the most important tips for displaying a T-shirt is to ensure that the logo, graphic or embroidery design is fully visible to guests while on display. “Oftentimes, folded shirts don’t display the full graphic,” she said. “We prefer to hang as many apparel items as possible, even though they take up more space.”

LEGOLAND Florida Resort also merchandises by size and different themes such as LEGO City, LEGO Ninjago and LEGO Friends in some of its specialty stores, said Pam Seufert, retail visual merchandising manager. In a ride exit store, it is common to see all adult apparel in one section and youth apparel in another one.

Provide Great Customer Service 

For Lopez, having an appreciation for items is a great form of upselling. “Consumers tend to feel more confident about a purchase if the associate offers encouragement in the form of a compliment or affirmation of a good choice,” he said.

Staff members at Old Tucson aim to be social; if there’s a slow time they will step into the street and welcome guests. “They provide guests with show schedules and announce when shows are held,” Johansen said. “They anticipate customer needs, such as offering them water when it’s hot.”

Because customers at Old Tucson tend to make purchases in shops throughout their visit, staff will offer to collect their bags and place them in an area where they can pick them up at the end of the day, Johansen said. 

LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s store employees are trained to converse with guests to learn about the specific item they desire. Once they better understand what a guest is looking for, they can showcase an entire product range that fits those interests. “A great starter is to simply ask the guest what their favorite ride or attraction is and learn from there,” West said.

Sell What Sells 

It’s a no-brainer that it makes sense to keep selling best-selling T-shirts. For Wright, the park’s 2019 best-seller was an old classic surf design offered in four T-shirt/tank colors with a four-color print. “Temperatures of 100 degrees or more help make tanks a best-seller,” he said. 

Best-selling shirts at California’s Great America feature a collage of its roller coasters. “Our most popular souvenirs include all of our attractions because guests want something that reminds them of everything they experienced on their visit,” Lopez said. “Traditionally, we’ve had the most success with collage tees.”

Johansen said soft, comfortable bi-blends of polyester and cotton with current and fresh artwork tend to sell best, as do shirts with a dry-wicking capability. An under $20 price point also gets shirts moving. Its 80th anniversary shirt is popular, since it’s commemorative.

Best-sellers at LEGOLAND Florida Resort are T-shirts for the whole family. “There is a trend for families to wear matching shirts, so it’s important to have different styles available,” Seufert said. Its logo line comes in a full range of colors and sizes from infant to adult, allowing everyone in a family to coordinate together.

Of course, you can never go wrong with an “I Rode … ” tee, West added. Kids in particular love to show off the rides that they have conquered.

Best-sellers at LEGOLAND Florida Resort are T-shirts for the whole family. Of the LEGOLAND team, shown, left to right: Pam Seufert, visual merchandising manager; Jessica Jensen, retail purchasing manager; Michelle West, senior retail purchasing manager; Kyle Hamm, retail buyer; and Cat Marino, retail buyer.

Other Advice to Increase Sales 

If a park is fortunate enough to have a major new attraction, designing a T-shirt around it is a worthy risk, Wright said. If the design becomes a winner, retails can be pushed a bit higher. Also, tees that are one basic color and feature the park’s logo design on the front pocket or back will be movers as long as they’re priced to sell.   

Johansen encourages staff to upsell, by saying something like, “We have a cool hat that matches this tee or check out our limited edition 80th anniversary tees that will become collector’s items,” she said. “Or, provide great service by asking if a purchase is a gift and if so offer to remove the tag.” If a guest wants to wear a newly purchased tee, offer to put their other shirt in a bag.

Carefully Consider Changes 

Lopez is adamant about changing designs so guests see something new every time they visit. “The majority of new designs come out at the beginning of our season in March, and change with the start of new events and festivals,” he said.   

Johansen is also keen on switching things up at the seven shops at Old Tucson, which features rides, shows, old movie sets and more. “We always have something new, but if something won’t slow down on sales—we keep it,” she said. “I try to stock a shirt for at least a year, but I may change the color and keep the same design for a second year. If it doesn’t come out of the starting gate with some ‘bam’ to it, it’s a one-shot deal.” Attendance was up due to cooler weather and some rain. Furthermore, the state’s department of tourism has done a good job promoting the state and the Old West is regaining popularity.

Wright said his volume doesn’t allow for a wide variety of styles at the 1,000-square-foot shop. “We added one new design for 2019,” he said. “Wild Water brought back two strong designs and offered different color options compared to 2018. We also expanded the tank top selection.”  

Attendance in 2019 was up slightly at Wild Water compared to 2018 following a rare Memorial Day weekend rainout. “In Central California, we generally have zero rain over our 100-day operating season,” Wright said.

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