Quality Gift and Home Décor Best-Sellers at Beach and Resort Stores
By Genie Davis
At beach and resort stores, quality gifts and home décor items are doing well for shops that feature items appropriate to the location. Despite some supply chain issues, these stores are ready to provide the perfect take-home gifts for visitors and locals alike.
At World’s End in Port Townsend, Wash., Owner Joyce Janetski explained that her store sells clothing and home décor, with her top-selling most expensive gift being a wall clock. “It’s Steam Punk style with gears that move. It’s just cool. People simply love it.” According to Janetski, she’s sold hundreds of the clocks. “It’s large, made of metal, and we have a Steam Punk festival here in town in June. It really fits the vibe of our Victorian seaport town.” Additionally, she also does well with hats as a gift item. “We also do a lot of jewelry. I don’t do antique jewelry, but I have pieces that looks as if they are. And we do well with telescopes, pocket watches, and nautical and cast-iron decorator hooks. All these items fit the beach location, the seaport, and the history of the town, and that is part of why they do so well.”
Janetski’s top seller in home décor is a cast iron key holder. “It’s wall mounted and looks like an octopus. The keys each hang from a tentacle.”
Like so many shop owners these days, she has been affected by supply chain issues. “Our telescopes and compasses come from India, and anything that comes from India and China have really slowed down. And on top of that, shipping costs have risen. That led me to do something I try not to do – increase prices. But the large increase in shipping really has affected me. It’s doubled in cost.”
Heading south to Astoria, Ore., Patricia Fagerland, owner of Forsythea, specializes in artisan home décor with work by local and regional makers.
Fagerland’s high-end gift top sellers include Motawi tile and paper-mache lamps, which she described as “gorgeous. They’re both very unusual and hand crafted. People see the value in them right away, they’ll say they haven’t seen anything like it before.” She also does well with concrete sculptural pieces created by an artist in the Levinworth area nearby, hand-made pottery and original artworks including paintings and linoleum block prints that Fagerland herself creates. “My whole shop has a very artful vibe to it,” she said.
In home décor, her top seller is the Motawi tile. “The smallest pieces go for $40 and larger pieces do go up from there, but people buy a great deal of it. I also have really fun kitchen tablecloths and other kitchen linen that fit that category. I didn’t think I would be that heavily into those kinds of items, but I started bringing it in and my customers responded to it.” She added, “They are all very different, nothing you would see at a big box store.”
Fagerland has also been affected by supply chain problems. “It’s slowed certain things, yes. But I have found ways to fill in with quick-response ordering platforms. I don’t know if it was already happening before COVID or not, but there are certain wholesale sites that even some of my regular vendors show up on. They have products that are ready to ship, which helps me a lot.”
Her 1,100-square-foot store has a small boutique toy department, and recently she was not able to get her usual Melissa and Doug items. “So, I went on one of those quick-response sites, and I was able to order some of the items, as well as some other types of items. It was an opportunity for growth and expansion because I found other toys that I liked,” she said. “I also went more heavily into children’s books, and now many people come to me for that, all because I made that change.”
In Venice Beach, Calif., Dena Simpson, director of operations for Whimsy and Row, said the store’s top selling more expensive gift items are primarily clothing. “We are also a clothing brand, and we made a lot of our own clothing. We also do well with eco-friendly, locally made candles.” Both items sell well as gifts because they are “locally made and unique. That’s what people like about them. We sell a lot of gift cards, so that people can pick out what they want as their own gifts, and we sell a small selection of straw hats as gifts that are geared for beachwear.” Simpson described the PS brand candles carried by the store as the top sellers in home décor. “We used to carry pottery and art pieces, but it wasn’t doing that well for us,” she attested.
Simpson noted that “We were absolutely affected by supply chain issues. We’ve gone to some different vendors, but mostly we’ve just stuck it out and been patient. In some cases, we promised people who pre-ordered items that they would be here in January, and they didn’t come in until February.”
Also in the Los Angeles area, in Marina Del Rey, Calif., Petals n’ Wax has gift and décor items that are different than Whimsy and Row. Evelyn Taplin, executive vice-president of merchandising for the 1,200-square-foot store, reported that her top selling more expensive gifts include “candles, diffusers, baby gifts, any gift related to wine, and greeting cards, because we carry a lot of various quality brands like Papyrus, and we also make them ourselves, as we have been doing for 43 years.” She proudly noted that the shop has been voted “Best Gift Store on the West Side” for the past nine years. “I’ve had stores in many malls for years, but now we just have this one marina location, it’s a great business with loyal customers.”
In the décor category she said, “We do a lot of sales in signs, many of them are either inspirational or humorous, because people really want to laugh. We also have beach and mermaid signs because of our location. We also sell a lot of Botanical-brand candles, we do absolutely phenomenally with those.
Unlike many other stores, Taplin said she has not been much affected by supply chain problems. “Part of that is because I am known as the ‘queen of the over-buy.’ We always have plenty of merchandise in stock,” she reported. “We make our own or import tissue packs, picture frames, candle holders, some of our inspirational signs and more, so we also always have some of those products in the warehouse.”
But Taplin attested that “The main reason I would say we have no problems is that I have always bought a lot. I have had some items that were backordered, and I forgot I ordered them, and so we ordered again, and now we have plenty. I have been teased that I do so much business at my store because people know that when they come here, I will have the items they are looking for.”
At Within the Wild Winterlake Lodge resort in Anchorage, Alaska, Kirsten Dixon, owner of the seafront gift shop and resort said that among her top-selling high-end gifts, the most popular include sea-glass earrings and sea glass items in general. “We do a lot of local crafts as well as a commercial brand in nice comfy sweaters, called Barefoot Dreams. We also sell a lot of Patagonia gear, and ocean-based products like lotions and creams.” She stressed that “People are buying things that fit the area, that fit the idea of Alaska and being along the ocean coastline. Hopefully everything in the store fits that idea.”
In home décor, she said it is primarily art that sells the best. “We sell a lot of local artists whose work is hung around the lodge and in the guest cabins, and guests can purchase it at the gift shop. We also do well with linens, nice quality napkins, and Alaska-made wood products like handmade wooden bowls.”
Like Taplin, Dixon’s gift shop has not been too much affected by supply chain problems, but for different reasons. “So many of our products are local,” she said. “Freight to Alaska is extremely expensive, particularly with new surcharges being added, so I have to be a little bit smarter in terms of the cost of freight for everything.” Dixon added that along with the 300-square-foot shop, Winterlake also has a small café which is more affected with supply chain difficulties than the store. “It’s getting harder for perishable commodities with freight going up, that is definitely the case.”
Overall, despite supply chain concerns, gift shops in beach towns and at resorts are thriving, at least in part due to carrying merchandise that resonates with the community in which they are located. ❖