Tips to Sell More Apparel at Water Parks and Amusement Parks

By Karen Appold

If you’re looking to increase clothing and accessory sales at your gift shop, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Sell what sells best at similar shops, stock appropriate items for each season, and display items in attractive ways in high-traffic areas of your store.
When it comes to top-selling apparel items, Gary Popp, manager of retail and premium services, Elitch Gardens Theme and Waterpark in Denver, Colo., said tie-dyed T-shirts continue to be the shop’s strongest seller. “They remind people of summer with their bright colors,” he said.

A T-shirt display at Nelis’ Dutch Village. Tie-dye shirts in adult and children’s sizes do particularly well for the attraction,

Popp said aqua socks are also popular because guests like the comfort of running around the waterpark and not having to take off flip flops to ride attractions or worry about losing them.
Jamie Hansberry, human resources manager and buyer, Enchanted Forest, Turner, Ore., said her number one selling clothing item is also T-shirts, particularly those touting Ice Mountain—the first large ride to open in the park in 1983. These shirts come in blue or yellow and feature a picture of the park’s Ice Mountain Bobsled coaster coming through a forest of trees and a snowy mountain. The shirt was designed by Garret Baker, the grandson of the park’s creator, Roger Tofte.
Enchanted Forest Socks are also popular. The socks contain images of park attractions, including Ice Mountain, the Shoe Slide, the Log Ride, and many more. They come in both child and adult sizes. “Guests love that many of the park’s attractions are pictured on the socks,” Hansberry said. The socks are one-of-a-kind and are designed by Susan Vaslev, Tofte’s daughter.
T-shirts are also all the rage at Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland, Mich., particularly child and adult tie-dye shirts, said Veronica Curtis, retail manager, Nelis’ Dutch Village, Holland, Mich. Items with tulip designs sell well too because Dutch Village was first a tulip farm. “It’s fitting for our heritage,” she said, adding that the town holds a tulip festival every spring.
Unsurprisingly, Chris Sanchez, director of guest services, Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark, Grand Prairie, Texas, said top sellers are accessories, specifically waterproof phone cases and goggles. “However, what surprises me is that our number one and number two top sellers for apparel are men’s water shoes and men’s swimwear respectively,” he said. “Oftentimes, fathers and uncles do not come prepared to swim in a waterpark, which is probably because they either forgot to bring their swimwear or they walk in and see how epic the waterpark is and decide to swim once they arrive.”
Jessica Moon, retail, games, and attractions manager, Six Flags Over Georgia, Austell, Ga., said her “Six Flags Over Georgia Crew Sweatshirt” is her number one seller for adult apparel. It comes in a variety of colors and is valued at $29.99. “The material is a soft cotton fleece that’s really comfy and on trend with the oversized sweatshirt look,” she said. Adults and teens flock to this item.
Moon’s number two hottest item is the park’s new Exclusive “Spring Tee” valued at $14.99 or two for $20. They come in six different colors available in youth and adult apparel, and are 100% breathable cotton.
For Giacomo Belardo, in park revenue director, Noah’s Ark Waterpark, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., higher-end branded swimwear and clothing from Quicksilver, Roxy, and Life is Good along with footwear from Cobian and Havaianas sell well. “These brands are iconic in the swim and surf categories and have broad appeal across all age groups,” he said.

Veronica Curtis, retail manager, Nelis’ Dutch Village in Holland, Mich., photographed with T-shirts in the background. The 10,000-square-foot store has a dedicated T-shirt room.

Changing Selections for Summer
As Six Flags Over Georgia prepares for the summer season, it will highlight its featured programs and place them on displays alongside complementary accessories such as baseball caps, visors, sandals, and fanny packs. Moon and her staff will dress mannequins in ways that enable guests to imagine themselves wearing these items. “Guests are mostly focused on riding rides, so we want to make their decisions to purchase souvenirs easy for them by having the product staged together,” she said, which makes the transaction go quickly. There are 20 gift shops throughout the park, ranging from 400 to 1,500 square feet.
For the summer season, the 800-square-foot shop at Elitch Gardens Theme and Waterpark will offer an edited selection of ladies’ swimwear. “Having the ‘Basic Betty’ in stock is key to sales,” Popp said.
Epic Waters maintains a temperature of 85 degrees, so it sells summer apparel all year round. In the winter months, however, people tend to purchase more hoodies, sweaters, and other warm clothing. Coming out of winter, the shop shifts its focus from winter apparel to a summer-focused collection. “By moving these items off the sales floor, we can make space for tank tops, cover-ups, and sunhats, which will sell better in the warm summer months,” Sanchez said.
For the summer season, Belard’s plan is to bring in styles that are classic and continue to be trending. “This keeps all guests excited about the products,” he said. “We feature selected items by line or display the lines up front on mannequins so guests can visualize themselves wearing products.”

Adult T-shirts in a wall display at Nelis’ Dutch Village. In addition to T-shirts, gifts with tulip designs also sell well.

Display Tips
The shop at Elitch Gardens Theme and Waterpark has two entry points, so it uses nesting tables at both entries to showcase apparel and accessories. Its wall displays and many floor fixtures are used to display swimwear in obvious girls, misses, ladies’, men’s, and boys’ sections.
Every visitor at Epic Waters Indoor Waterpark has to walk through its retail store to enter the park. Its top-selling item—waterproof phone cases—are within hands reach of the admissions queue line allowing for impulse buying. The shop also has large displays of its goggle collection on the back wall to grab the eye and encourage guests to walk through the store and potentially see other items they may purchase, Sanchez said.
Classic Enchanted Forest labeled apparel is displayed at eye level in the Entrance Gift Shop, located right next to the park’s entrance and exit. Therefore, it is either the first or last thing people see in the park, Hansberry said.
Most of the shop’s other shirts are displayed in its Western Town Gift Shop, named Opera House—which is in the center of the park and is its busiest gift shop. A video of the park’s history plays inside Opera House, which draws people into the store, Hansberry said. The shirts are located next to the video playing area. The park’s gift shops range in size from 300 to 1,040 square feet.
Nelis’ Dutch Village has a dedicated T-shirt room in its 10,000-square-foot main gift shop for customers to peruse its complete collection. Some of its shirts and sweatshirts are highlighted in other areas throughout the theme park, Curtis said.

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