Wild about Jewelry Best Display Techniques to Sell More Jewelry at Zoos and Aquariums

At zoos and aquariums, gift shop jewelry can sometimes take second place next to other, more animal-centered souvenir items. To sell more jewelry, gift shop staff offer their tips for display and described their best-sellers.

In Galveston, Texas, Valencia Temple, gift shop manager and buyer at Moody Gardens Rainforest & Aquarium, said her jewelry displays most often are provided by the reps for the companies whose jewelry she brings into the store. “Our top seller is the brand Periwinkle Aquatic, which focuses on the animals and exhibits we have on property. For kids, we have jewelry from Cool Jewels.” She related that she has name-dropped both brands with images of either the aquarium or rainforest, and that this is one of the reasons that these items sell well for the shop  – the pieces make great, wearable souvenirs. “Both companies bring free-standing metal displays into the store and rotate items for us to keep them fresh. We also use mannequins to display some jewelry,” she said. Temple said the best types of racks for displaying jewelry are the rotating racks. “With that type of rack, people can really get a good look at everything when they are selecting jewelry.” She oversees two shops at Moody Gardens, the largest 3,500 square feet, the other store 2,700 square feet.

At Seaquest Aquarium in Layton, Utah, Gift Shop Manager Rachel Nebon displays her jewelry in two locations: at the checkout counter in the shop, and outside the shop with a mermaid-clad attendant. “The mermaid doesn’t move around the aquarium, she’s at a small stationary table, but having that extra place where people can see our jewelry items really does seem to help move them.” Nebon said that the shop does not carry a lot of jewelry items; necklaces that she carried in the past did not sell well for the gift store. “We do well with mood rings and with children’s jewelry items,” she explained. “Mood rings are just a lot of fun for people and are easy to purchase.” She said the best fixtures for displaying this type of jewelry reflect the theme of the aquarium itself. “We keep our items on the counter or table in little sea shells. I think that kind of thematic display fixture works best.”

Also in Utah, at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Retail Lead Parker Davis, speaking for Manager Natasha Elander, said, “We have our jewelry on two different spinning racks near the register. One has our more expensive items, and the other displays inexpensive pieces. We feel that spinning racks work the best for display, because guests can look at what we have from all sides; they’re easy to maneuver around; and we can stock a lot of different items on them.” He described the shop’s best-sellers as “mood rings, mood necklaces, and mood bracelets. They all have animal figures along with the mood stones. We have elephants, bears, and giraffes, and they all sell well for us, because they represent the animals that we have here.”

Darien Wolfe, supervisor for the gift shop at Zoo Boise, Idaho, described his shop’s best-sellers as crystal necklaces and mood necklaces. The crystal necklaces are a mix of real crystals and synthetic stones. Some have animal images or references, but they’re mixed. The pieces without animals actually do the best for us, because we have more unique items in that type of jewelry, and a lot of different styles.” He noted that Zoo Boise shares its shop buyer with Utah’s Hogle Zoo. Wolfe’s shop uses several different fixtures to display the jewelry on hand. “We have many pieces on a large jewelry tree which is placed inside a big souvenir rock bin. We also have jewelry stands throughout the store. The main thing,” he said, “is that people can reach the jewelry and see what we have very easily, and that’s important. Having something accessible and having these items at several places in the store is the best thing for sales.” According to Wolfe, “We like to keep everything within arm’s reach of the visitor. Making something easy to see and touch is important.” He added that “We also do thematic displays of individual animals and include jewelry with other types of merchandise if the pieces look good together.”

In Camp Verde, Ariz., Sydney Raitano, manager and buyer for the Out of Africa Animal Park, sells a great deal of jewelry. “Because we are an animal park, the brand Wild Bride does well for us, as do authentic African jewelry pieces such as necklaces and earrings that represent the region our animals come from.” The latter pieces are imported to Arizona from Africa. “These pieces also sell well because they work with the women’s outfits that we carry, and of course, they’re very pretty. They are among our strongest sellers in the store.” Also a good seller: porcupine quill earrings and necklaces. “We have porcupines here at the animal park, and people really enjoy getting these types of jewelry as souvenirs. It helps them remember the experience here.” She described the quills as coming in long, short, and thicker and thinner, and some pointed quill styles. Raitano displays individual quills that the shop sells in “a long dish-type display. People can choose a quill they want to purchase by type, skinny or fat, short, or long. On either side of that dish, we have the quill earrings and necklaces hanging for people to see. We also have some very classy plush porcupine animals that we cross-merchandise with the jewelry pieces.”

The African jewelry items are kept under glass in counter spaces. “We have them in the counter under glass, as they’re a higher end item. You can build a great story in there, and have everything laid out nicely and priced. For example, we have jewelry boxes in animal shapes that we can show open with a necklace inside them. We will incorporate that kind of display with other necklaces and bracelets, and create a story that is well-lit, and one that people won’t mess around with too much.” She added that “once in a while, we will have a vendor who supplies a rounder for something like gold hoop earrings, but in general we don’t have a lot of room to display the jewelry items outside of the cases. In the future, we hope to spread them out, and bring in some beautiful natural stones, too.” She said that “Sometimes, we will display the Wild Bride items on a rounder as well.” 

Lack of space in her store, which she described as essentially the size of a double-wide trailer, means that she is limited in terms of all the jewelry she would like to bring in to the shop. “At the moment, we have decorative knives and camo knives that we took on as a fluke, and they do really well for us, but they take up a lot of space.” She described the shop overall as being “unique. We are not your usual tourist-oriented shop; we have a wide range of items, including a lot of interesting jewelry.” 

Best-sellers and display types may vary from shop to shop, but zoo and aquarium gift stores across the country find jewelry items that make a splash, and are often a roaring success when displayed accessibly and well.

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