It’s not always easy to be a gift retailer in today’s economy. Customers have myriad ways to spend their money, rents are up, and there’s competition for attention and commerce everywhere you turn. This said, by the end of 2018 it’s expected that sales of gift, novelty, and souvenir stores in the United States are projected to reach approximately $17 billion. That means people are still spending their money on gifts and souvenir – and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be spending that money in your store.

Being a destination-based retail shop means you have your own set of challenges that traditional retailers might not have to deal with. But the good news is that there are ways to overcome these challenges and turn them into creative opportunities that will benefit your store — and your customers — all year long. Ready for the challenge? Read on!


#1: The Market Is Increasingly Competitive

 Tourist-based retail is becoming increasingly competitive, which means retailers have to strengthen their inventory assortment in an effort to stand out and increase store sales. You’re not just selling a souvenir, you’re selling a memory of their experience. This means that it’s no longer enough to offer keychains and mugs. You need to offer personalized keychains and name-dropped mugs they can’t find anywhere else – on top of other exciting inventory specific to your unique tourist destination. Mix in some licensed products with a name drop and you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Selecting the right products for your shelves is only half the battle. No matter how good they are, they won’t sell well if not showcased properly. Create displays that are destinations in and of themselves that catch the eye — and hopefully the wallet — of all your gift shop guests. Be sure to routinely introduce new inventory, as well, to ensure your customers are attracted to the latest trends in the marketplace that you are selling in your store.


#2: Shoppers Need an Experience That Stands Out

 Being a tourist based retailer, the majority of your customer base will be people on a vacation, business trip or one-day leisure experience. Keeping this in mind, they don’t want the same shopping experience they can get at home — they want to be completely immersed and gain a memorable experience. Thus? It’s your job to bring them that. To help do this, consider how in-store demonstrations or classes that showcase items available for purchasing in your store can leverage their enthusiasm to shop at your store. Consider bringing in a local expert or even mascot (make this something unique to your unique tourist area) or create a fun selfie station where shoppers can literally create their own memories — and souvenirs — to take home. Whatever works best for your niche, the point is to create an experience that they can’t get online or at any other tourist gift shop.

Another tip? Don’t overlook the value of personalized service. Talk to customers, get to know where they’re from and how their vacation is going, what kind of souvenir will mean the most to them — and then offer them a variety of options. No store should dismiss this customer care opportunity but instead, embrace their customers by making them feel welcomed and delivering a red-carpet customer service experience.


#3: Consumers are Choosing Multichannel Buying Experiences

Gone are the days when shoppers only made purchases in store… but you already know this. With more complete e-retail experiences available, it’s no surprise that around 96% of Americans use online shopping in one way or another. However, those same people spend about 65% of their total shopping budget in traditional brick-and-mortar locations and almost 50% of shoppers said they would prefer to see and touch an item in-person before buying.

Bottom line? There’s no one way to shop anymore… and there’s no one way to sell.

Effective retail strategies incorporate everything from brick-and-mortar locations and ecommerce marketplaces to social media and everything in between. Retailers need to deliver a consistent experience across offline and online channels, all while taking into account the different ways your customers are doing their browsing and their shopping.


#4: Shoppers Are Looking For Convenience

Most of your shoppers will be tourists on vacation or busy business travelers, which means they’re going to be looking for the most stress-free experience that they can get. Keeping this in mind, the retailers that give them not just what they want but what they need are the retailers that will get glowing online reviews and repeat business.

From practical items like snacks, refreshments, toiletries, ponchos and more to top-selling souvenir products unique to your destination, make sure you have something for everyone at every price point so that all shoppers can leave with not only what they came into your store for but more.


#5: There Will Be Seasonal Slumps

The fact of the matter is that whether you run a gift shop in a beach-town hotel or a ski shop in Colorado, you’ve experienced the challenges of the off-season when tourists aren’t flooding your store with their money. That’s a reality for many stores, but that doesn’t mean you twiddle your thumbs and wait for the shoppers to come back next season.

During inevitable slow times, reassess your operations, increase your marketing efforts, and do those tasks you might not have time to do during your busy season. This includes cleaning and organizing everything from store shelves to your back room of inventory to investing in employee training to boosting your online presence and more. There is no shortage of work to do to help your business!

Finally, remember that your store is not just a spot for people to stop in at when they’re done with their vacation experience. Your gift shop should become a destination in and of itself — becoming part of their vacation or trip experience!


By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle

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