How to Run a Successful Gift Shop: 7 Things Every Gift Store Should Focus On

A cashier checks out a shopper at a successful gift shop

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

Like any retail niche, gift shops or other similar types of stores have to find ways to separate themselves from others in the crowd. Unfortunately, the crowd is only getting bigger. But on the other hand, it’s not as hard to stand out as you might imagine. Through some creative gift shop marketing, in-store merchandising, and general passion as a small business owner, you can learn how to run a successful gift shop and grow your SMB.

1. Offer Products Catered Toward Tourists

Gift stores are most commonly found in areas teeming with tourists. They’re outside museum exhibits, inside stadiums, and other attractions, even at events and amusement parks. So wherever your gift shop is, focus on bringing in products that tourists in the area would want.

Of course, this is obvious. But what’s difficult is to do it well. Consider scaling back the shot glass or novelty rock selections and add items that hold a more unique appeal. Consumers are tired of seeing the exact same things in every gift shop. Happily surprise them with trinkets that they will be excited to bring home to family and friends.

2. Brand Merchandise and Novelty Items

Many gift store products will be branded with designs from nearby attractions and sights. But don’t be afraid to brand yourself with some of your products.

Other products, like t-shirts or other apparel items, might have both a nearby attraction and your retail store’s logo. If you do it right, your gift shop might even turn into as big of a tourist attraction as the attractions that surround you.

Take some inspiration from Wall-Drug. It started as a gift shop for those on their way to Mount Rushmore. Business was slow until the owners decided to offer free ice water to tourists traveling across the Midwest in the summer heat. It quickly became a destination in and of itself and now gets over 2 million visitors a year, nearly as many as its more spectacular neighbor. Here are a few common gift shop products that could easily be branded:

  • T-Shirts
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Water Bottles
  • Wristbands
  • Koozies

3. Carry Last Minute Essentials

If you have the retail space, try to stock your shelves with everyday items. Most tourists are traveling far from home, often times for several days or even weeks. And many of them forget at least one or two of these. A successful gift shop should be a one-stop shop for those in the area. If there are accommodations nearby, you may even be a daily stop for those staying in the area.

Also, be sure to carry a wide array of snacks and drinks. People who are vacationing are more willing to spend money on treats. Depending on the laws and regulations in your location, it might be wise to sell wine and beer as well or even to start a quick-service restaurant on your premises. Again, find ways to add convenience for tourists in the area. You may even get new regulars, even if they’re only regulars for a week.

  • Snacks
  • Toiletries
  • Sunscreen
  • Ponchos
  • Alcohol and Soft Drinks
  • Chargers
  • Books and Notebooks
  • Cigarettes

4. Get Creative with Your Gift Shop Marketing, Promotions, and Displays

Gift shops, in general, have the reputation of being outrageously priced for products that are typically inexpensive. Don’t let define your shop. Real estate next to tourist attractions will naturally be higher, so fair pricing is typically slightly more than your average market, but don’t lose new shoppers because of your prices.

One great way of doing this is by offering creative bundled deals. It’s rare that someone goes to a gift store for just one item. Remind them of what else they need by grouping similar items together. Adding a discount to these purchases is even better. They’ll be excited to save a bit of money on the boring stuff and spend more on your bigger gift shop items. A little creative marketing like this can go a long way.

Keep your displays fresh and clean across the retail space. Displays are meant to draw in customers and highlight a few products that you want to move quickly. Spend time sprucing up the display areas with new designs, products, and colors. Use your great staff to help with the process. These projects are a great way to get everyone involved and discover hidden talent and ambition.

5. Keep Inventory Cycling

Gift shops can often feel tired and uninspired. But remember that many of your customers are on vacation and excited about life. You should be on their level in order to support their positivity. Be excited about what you sell.

The best way to ensure this is to rotate your products. At the very least, most items should be cycled through seasonally: stock your shelves with more hoodies and beanies during the winter; sell ice cream and frozen drinks during hot summer months.

Try to mix up products in other ways, too. A/B test a select array of items to see which sell better at different times or in different areas of your store. Use your inventory management tools to better identify each product’s performance.

6. Use Technology to Improve Your Gift Shop

Like any modern retail store, integrating technology into your store is a must. While loyalty programs and customer resource management tools might not be as critical for your business type, you absolutely need solid inventory management, sales reporting, and product analytics. These should all be found in your gift shop POS system, along with retail metrics like revenue, gross and net margins, sales conversions, etc. A great solution will help your small business in ways you never thought possible. You’ll never have nightmares about your inventory again.

Adding mobile gift store POS tablets can improve the customer experience by making the checkout process more convenient and keeping your lines fast and short.

7. Add Basic Services

Providing a few services in addition to your products can push your store to another level. It shows your customers how much you care and how well they are taken care of. It will certainly set your gift shop apart from your competitors. Here are a few ideas for services you might be able to offer:

  • Gift wrapping – Many gift shop customers come in to buy small items for people back home. Provide a simple gift-wrapping station or have a staff member offer wrapping services.
  • Coffee and Pastries – Even a small cafe of coffee will go a long way. Most adults need it every morning; when traveling and having a lot to see, it’s all about convenience. A small cafe and/or bakery might be a great option if you have the retail space.
  • Tour Info or Guides – Think about partnering with other local tourism businesses. Offer to promote different destinations or tour guide agencies. Perhaps you might want to offer tours yourself. This can be a fun way to interact with guests on a deeper level.
  • Tickets – Many gift shops sell tickets for local attractions. If you can find a way to offer a slight discount on tickets, even better.
  • Events or Presentations – Show off how much you love the area in which you live and work by educating your guests on the history and culture of the area. Try hosting relevant events in your retail space.

How to Run a Successful Gift Shop with KORONA POS

Find out more about how KORONA can help your gift shop succeed. We’ve worked with many gift stores over the years and have software designed specifically for gift store owners. Click below to learn about more features that will benefit your small retail business. If you’re interested, sign up for a free trial, and one of our great support members will walk you through a demo of the gift store POS software. Click below to get started with KORONA POS.

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Written By

Michael Chalberg

Michael has long focused his writing on the world of retail and small businesses. He''s been a part of the KORONA POS team since 2018 and loves helping entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and succeed. In his spare time, you'll likely find him hiking somewhere in the Southwest.