Queen's Medical Center, Honolulu, HI

Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | August 15, 2021 💮

for Gift Shop Managers

Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers delivers practical, ready-to-implement content to gift shop managers, retailers, and volunteers across the country. We help our readership of over 3,000 retailers optimize shop operations, grow revenue, and connect with one another. The newsletter is published monthly and free since 2001.

Have you paid your dues this quarter?

The value and richness of this newsletter comes from your participation. Do your part by submitting two comments per quarter, at minimum. Reply to reader’s questions listed throughout the newsletter (in green) or simply share what is working or isn’t working in your shop, a great selling product, a helpful website or resource, an operating question, your biggest challenge right now, a terrific vendor you’ve come across recently, tips on managing volunteers, or tips on managing yourself!

LEAVE A COMMENT! Click the green comment tags throughout the newsletter, enter it in the comment section, or send to cindy@cindyjonesassociates.com.

AUGUST 15, 2021

Rev up your holiday planning now

12 Month Action Plan for Hospital Gift Shops
Twelve-Month Action Plan for Hospital Gift Shops

It’s time to begin developing your holiday buying and marketing plan! Retailing is like gardening. You must plant the seeds in the fall for blooming sales during the holiday season. You need to plan for those sales; they don’t just happen by themselves.

  • Create announcements for exciting holiday merchandise, special sales, and promos right now, when you have time.
  • Outline your schedule for the announcements in hospital publications, social media, and website. Then, in the frenzy of the season, you just have to more-or-less execute it.
  • All summer merchandise goes on clearance NOW!
  • Integrate cross-merchandising into displays.
  • Begin displaying higher-priced holiday merchandise and Christmas collectibles.
  • Begin displaying Halloween merchandise NOW!
  • Order and display next year’s calendars and datebooks.
  • Mark down slow selling merchandise to acquire space for just-arriving items.
  • Request that all staff and volunteers indicate when they will be out of town during the holidays.  Ensure that their job responsibilities are covered while they are gone.

Check out Cindy’s Twelve-Month Action Plan for Gift Shop Managers and Buyers!


Sep 6 – Labor Day
Sep 12 – Grandparents Day
Sep 22 – First Day of Fall
Sep 7 – Rosh Hashanah
Oct 10 – Handbag Day
Oct 11 – Columbus Day
Sep 15 – Yom Kippur
Oct 16 – Boss’s Day
Oct 16 – Sweetest Day
Oct 31 – Halloween
Nov 11 – Veterans Day
Nov 25 – Thanksgiving
Nov 26 – Black Friday
Nov 28 – Hanukkah Begins
Nov 29 – Cyber Monday
Dec 4 – National Sock Day
Dec 6 – Hanukkah Ends
Dec 25 – Christmas
Dec 31 – New Year’s Eve

Product Pick: LEGO flashlight keychains

Here’s a fun product for your gift shop from one of the world’s most beloved brands, LEGO! The fully posable, officially licensed LEGO minifigure flashlight keychains are for LEGO fans of all ages. Push a button on the character’s belly to activate bright LED lights in the feet. Batteries are included. The keychain lights shown here are available in eye-catching 16-count counter displays to make merchandising easy. These are great for hospital gift shops and can brighten the way for patients and medical professionals. They are available from Santoki, the exclusive US distributor of LEGO licensed LED lights. Contact Nikki at nikki@santoki.com to order.



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Top 10 display tips

by Michelle Sherrier / GiftShop Mag, Spring, 2021

I consider myself a creative curator. Spending the last 41 years in retail, I have learned a lot about merchandising and design. Between seven years at the iconic Fred Segal to another seven years at the mecca of retail, Anthropologie, I was able to hone my eye and business sense alike, and grow a deeper understanding of the intricacies of retail and the key role visual merchandising plays. Here are my “Top 10 Tips” that I learned along the way!


I know you know what I’m talking about…you just finished re-working your shelving unit and it looks chaotic…a lot of merchandise; some of it works together, a lot of it doesn’t. This is where this rule of thumb comes in handy. Try pulling together items by color. The color on label, maybe it’s the packaging or the product, you will see a common thread. Start pulling them together, little by little you will see it come to life. I often start with my groups and then start shopping the store for more that will create a more impactful statement.


The cohesiveness you see at Anthropologie is very deliberate. Merchandising by concept creates an impactful statement while telling a visual story. Our “Camp Concept” was a combination of books, Pendleton inspired games and campfire scented candles. Props to embellish your concept can be anything from tree slices as risers to an oversized marshmallow on a twig (they dry beautifully, by the way).


Bin “smalls” like lip balm, loose crystals, small books, and jewelry on cards in glass jars. A lot of vendors ship smalls in “displayable” case packs. I prefer to take them out of the packaging. By placing them in a glass jar, basket, or bowl you add value to the item and make them look so much more important and inviting.


Take a walk through a hardware store. There are so many things that are cost effective that create amazing risers, backdrops and displays. We created multi-levels for a jewelry case out of 2×4’s that have been cut different sizes and sanded down. I liked them raw but a coat of paint or stain would give them a whole new life.


Pick a theme, color or category. A lot of people think “more is better” but in the case of windows, putting everything you sell into a small window isn’t better, it’s just busier. The other rule of thumb is, never leave a mannequin undressed or without hair in the window. This should go without saying but I see it all too often. No hair? No problem! Throw a scarf on her head for a chic look or a hat. Just don’t leave her bald.

Read the other five display tips — #6 Show Items as You Would Use It; #7 Get Inspired; #8 Cross Merchandising; #9 Risers, Think Outside the Box; and #10 Lifestyle Props — in GiftShop Mag.

Stanford University Gift Shop
Stanford Health Care Gift Shop

SOURCE: Gift Shop Mag, Spring 2021

SURVEY: Do you have employee payroll deduction?

Do you have employee payroll deduction?

Employee payroll deduction can account for up to 40-50% of shop sales. The swipe of a badge is much easier than carrying around cash or a credit card, especially for hospital employees who are popping in while on break. Employees appreciate the convenience of buying without cash up front and interest-free! It’s all about removing barriers to sale and bringing value to your hospital employee’s lives by making the buying process quick and easy.


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Payroll Deduction and Inventory Management available.
Take your gift shop to the next level!
Ask for a FREE copy of our “Hospital Gift Shops:
Tips for Success” booklet.


Q. What is your current markup in the post-COVID market?

Q. Wondering what your markup is on items right now? We have been limited to mostly our hospital staff as shoppers and are noticing a decline in sales. Thank you! – Gina Richmond, Sunshine Gift Shop Unity Point Hospital, Dubuque, IA. 126 beds. 8/10/21.


Gina, markups should remain the same! Do not change your markups! Once COVID is gone and life and retailing get back to normal, you will want to go back to your usual markups and pricing standards, but then your customers will walk out saying ‘everything is overpriced in the gift shop’!

If you are not taking at least a keystone markup (50% above wholesale) plus shipping on most of your merchandise, it is unlikely that your shop is profitable. Hospital gift shops cannot make a profit on an initial 2x times mark on plus shipping. After mark downs, the gross margin is reduced even more. Profitability is based on many things but one of the most important is markup.

Instead, look for hidden opportunities to earn a little extra profit. Consider buying merchandise at closeout or negotiating discounts on your purchases. Some items will need to be marked down because they are slow sellers. However, discounting everything, such as a “20% off everything” sale, is not recommended. Keep in mind, a mark down is the most important tool a retailer has to move a mistake out the door. We all make buying mistakes. It happens with the best buyers! Buying a bad style, wrong colors, wrong sizes, wrong timing, too many, bad fit, etc. Just don’t fret, recognize mistakes early and mark down immediately!


Double price + 6-10% for shipping 
🎯 Formula: cost x 2.5 or more
30-33% markup
🎯 Formula: cost x 1.4 or more
**Higher for specialty candy
60-70% markup
🎯 Formula: cost x 2.4 or more
**Most jewelry comes pre-priced.
33-35% markup
🎯 Formula: cost x 1.5 or more
What is your current markup right now, post-COVID?
Enter your comment belowx
<– Click to comment!

What’s your take on markups right now? Give back. Do your part. Sharing is caring. Leave a comment here or enter it at the bottom of the newsletter.

Thank you!

PROMO: Summer Sizzler Father’s Day Raffle

Ginger Taylor, Gift Shop Manager at CoxHealth in Springfield, MO recently shared a terrific Father’s Day promo event that she’s held since 2010. She said the staff really look forward to. We know timing isn’t right, be it end of summer, but we wanted to be sure and share it. Archive the article and set a reminder on your calendar for Spring! Huge thanks to Ginger for sharing this great sale idea!

“At the end of the season or on Black Friday I purchase some sort of a grill plus a table and chairs set, fire pit, etc. We then sell raffle tickets from Memorial Day through the Friday before Father’s Day. The raffle tickets are sold in-store and over email. The price of the tickets varies year to year based on what we offer. This year, since we have two stores plus some items stocked up after being closed last year, we offered two different options – one for each store location. Tickets can be purchased for one or both locations.  The email for tickets made up about 50% of our sales.  Here’s what we offered: 

Summer Sizzler Prize #1
$3.00 each or 2 for $5.00

  • Pit Boss Pellet Smoker ($198 Wal-Mart. Basically $0 using Sam’s Club cash back from candy purchases)
  • Patio Heater  ($87 Menards. Black Friday sale)
  • Jack and Jill Table & Chairs ($99)
  • Two bags of flavored pellets ($10 Wal-Mart)

Summer Sizzler Prize #2
$2.00 each or 3 for $5.00

  • 3 piece bistro table chairs (close out $59.00)
  • Stainless Steel Fire Pit ($27 Wal-Mart. End-of-season sale plus Sam’s cash back)

When you factor in the Sam’s Club cash-back, total promo expense were around $255 resulting in total sales of $3,757 – even with limited COVID hours at 40 hrs per week. We change it up sometimes with a charcoal grill, gas, or combination depending on what’s the best deal available at the time.

We also offer tickets for a large TV (60” or more) following Christmas for Super Bowl. The cost is around $200-$300 on Black Friday. It is successful, but not as much as the Father’s Day event, probably because it’s too close to Christmas.” – Ginger Taylor, Gift Shop Manager, CoxHealth, Springfield, MO

Job Openings

Volunteer Services and Retail Gift Shop Manager
MelroseWakefield Healthcare, Medford, MA

Gift Shop Manager
SSMHealth DePaul Hospital – St. Louis, Bridgeton, MO

Gift Shop Manager
Christian Health, Wyckoff, NJ

Gift Shop Assistant Manager
Milford Regional Medical Center, Milford, MA

Gift Shop Coordinator
Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, MI

Gift Shop Manager
Mount Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, MA

Gift Shop Retail Manager
Adventist Health System, Tampa, FL

Gift Shop Manager
Univ of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA

Gift Shop Manager
Blessed Sacrament, Scottsdale, AZ

Store Manager
Jefferson Torresdale Hospital, Philadelphia, PA

Associate Manager
The Ohio State University Hospital, Columbus, OH

Gift Shop Manager
Joseph-Beth Gift Shop, Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, OH

Guelph General Hospital gift shop launches online store

GuelphToday.com / Jul 25, 2021

Courtyard Boutique
Guelph General Hospital, Ontario
Website: gghcourtyardboutique.ca
Hospital referring page
Ecommerce: SquareSpace
POS: Stripe
Facebook Page
Instagram Page

Friends and family members of patients at Guelph General Hospital can now shop online and have gifts delivered right to their loved ones’ hospital room. The Hospital’s volunteer-run Courtyard Boutique recently launched its new online gift shop.

“The online boutique seems to be blossoming,” said Erica Bite, Retail Manager of the Courtyard Boutique. “We have made more than a dozen patient deliveries which are from the patients themselves or family and friends gifting to a patient. The deliveries are brought to patients by a staff member and packaged up for them in a way that always seems to put a smile on their faces. One of our patients let us know that they were happy for the inpatient deliveries because they were able to satisfy their sweet tooth rather quickly.”

Items available at the online gift shop include a variety of gifts for adults, children, new parents and newborn babes, flowers and foil balloons. Personal care items are also available such as contact lens solution, ear plugs, lip balm, gifts and batteries. Mints, gum, chocolate, candy and other snacks can also be added to the gift packages (if permitted in a patient’s nutrition plan).

Same-day delivery is available weekdays if the order is made prior to 1 p.m. No weekend deliveries are available at this time. Deliveries are made right to the patient’s room or to the nursing station if the patient is in isolation. The Courtyard Boutique is located in the hospital’s main lobby. The GGH Volunteer Association Board has been meeting remotely to develop the on-line gift shop. “We hope this new service will make it easier for friends and family to support their loved ones while the Hospital has visitor restrictions in place,” said John Steggles, Board Chair, GGH Volunteer Association. “When visitor restrictions are lifted, the online boutique may remain as a permanent service if we find people are making good use of it.” To visit GGH’s Courtyard Boutique online store, go to www.gghcourtyardboutique.ca

Click image to expand

SOURCE: Guelph Today

Q. Is anyone selling vaccination card holders/protectors?

I just ran across vaccination card holder/protectors, and it made me wonder if anyone has tried them and how they sell for you? – Jamie Lee Hernandez, St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings, MT. 289 beds. 7/15/21

Are you selling vaccination card holders/protectors? If so, who’s your vendor?
Are you selling vaccination card holders/protectors?x

Do you find the comments helpful? Then do your part and leave your comment here or at the bottom of the newsletter. It takes a team!

Thank you!

Click to expand image

Marketing Tip: Tap into what motivates hospital employees

Hospital employees often say their main motivation to shop in the gift shop is to keep money in the hospital to support patients and for medical equipment. It matters to them that each purchase they make helps promote excellent patient care.

Remind your shoppers of this regularly with frequent messaging across social media, your website, at the register and other marketing mediums. Here is some sample language from Sprout Gift Shop.


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Call our in house specialist at 252-650-7000 ext 206

Social Media Example: Dot Sale Promo

Here’s a great example of marketing a Dot Sale on social media from the White Rose Gift Shop’s Facebook Page. Bright colors, seasonal graphics, catchy and succinct language. Plus, a link to the shop’s online gift shop!

Click image to enlarge

Check out last month’s articles, surveys, and discussions.

  • PART 4. Creating an Online Store:
    • Full and partially outsourced options
    • Getting help pro bono
    • Student volunteer, intern, work study
    • Ecommerce agency, developer, freelancers
    • Bundled ecommerce and POS services
    • Ecommerce managed services
    • Online resources and tools

  • Summer action list
  • How does loss occur
  • What is ‘Open to Buy’?
  • Merchandise mix Scratch-off card promotion (DIY Tutorial)
  • Protocol for reinstating volunteers
  • Plant vendors
  • Customer reward/loyalty programs
  • Calendar: Gift Markets and Regional Conferences



Is there a wholesale plant vendor you use to stock your gift shop? – Jamie Lee Hernandez, St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings, MT, 5/19/21

We have a flower business come in to deliver arrangements with an agreement that we receive a 20% commission from the flower sales. This business will also maintain or take back arrangements that do not sell. – Melina Dixon, Community Healthcare System, Hobart, IN. 225 beds. 6/16/21

Not sure what kind of plants you’re looking for, but a few years ago we ordered succulents wholesale from this nursery in Florida, Morning Dew Tropical Plants, for a succulent bar. They were great to work with and plants arrived in fantastic shape. Morning Dew Tropical Plants morningdewtropical.com – Shea Fowler, Unity Point


We are interested in starting a customer reward/loyalty program. Requesting any advice on a system that has worked well in your hospital gift shop. – Stephanie Byrom, SJRMC Gift Market, Farmington, NM 194 beds. 5/17/12

We have a punch card that I got through Vista Print. For every $5.00 spent they get a punch. It takes $100.00 to fill. Once full, they get 30% off 1 items. It works well and the employees love it. As we require a minimum of $5.00 purchase to use payroll deduct, this is another encouragement to spend at least that amount. – Ginger Taylor, Gift Shop Manager, Volunteer Services, Springfield, MO. 6/22/21

We do punch cards for every 5$ spent they get a punch, after the card is full, 9 punches, they get 10% off one item with that card. – Ann Payne. 6/17/21

We currently have a customer loyalty program that was easy to implement through our POS (VEND). Customers are able to provide their contact information which automatically enrolls them in the loyalty program. This has been a great bonus for return customers (mainly staff) as we do not offer employee discounts. – Shellee Laubersheimer, Stanford Health Care Gift Shop, Stanford, CA. 2300 beds. 6/16/21

We currently utilize MM Hayes Quickcharge POS. They have a built in Loyalty system that has several options and customizations. – Shea Fowler, Unity Point. 6/16/21


I am currently working on launching an online store. It has been several months in the making but this topic came up at the best time and has helped me so much with all the other shops providing information, tips and tricks. I will be look in to purchasing a photo box and using canva! I have saved all the previous articles to continually reference. Thank you to everyone for all the great information that has been provided. – Sarah, 7/30/21

Hi Sarah, we’re happy to hear that the article was helpful! Please let us know how the launch of your online store goes. On the interim, let us know what issues you run into…or questions. I’ll answer what I can and put it out for comment in the next issue. Good luck! – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

First of all, thank you for deep diving into this subject. I wanted to know if having a POS is imperative to having an online presence? Is there a work around? Currently we do not have a POS, but we would love to explore the online possibility. Thank you. – Jamie Lee Hernandez, 5/20/21

A POS is not required to have an online store. You can sell, process payment, and fulfill orders entirely through your eCommerce software. You’ll need to coordinate your in-store and online sales, plus financials, and inventory. – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

Cindy, this is absolutely the best newsletter that you have published. I will use as a reference over and over. We too realized that we were fortunate to have an online shop. We continue to update it as part of our hospital website. The big website will be new and fresher soon. We have been waiting a long time for this. Our on line business continues to grow even as we have opened our gift shop. We will send in our good news for you to publish. Have a great weekend – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Childrens Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

Congratulations on launching your online shop. It is terrific. The landing page image with the teddy bear is really effective. Did you set up and launch it yourself? What software are you using? Several managers are wondering how to coordinate online with in-shop inventory. Are you having the same issue? – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

Our gift shop is part of the hospital website. We are continuing to upgrade our part, as well as, the hospital having a new site. We do struggle with the inventory—as we are on Arba systems. We continue to keep up with inventory the old fashioned way, counting each week. We do keep the inventory separate from the shop back stock. Hope this part helps. – Kathryn, Carousel Gift Shop, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Corpus Christi, TX. 191 bed. 4/19/21

We do not have a web site but will be building one this summer. My question is, I do not want to offer delivery beyond our campus (no shipping). Anyone had success doing this? – Kevin Shaw, Methodist Hospital Gift Shop, St Louis Park, MN. 4/16/21

Yes! Our sole purpose of an online store is for Patient Delivery Only and our opening welcome message on the site reads: Through this site, you may order gifts for delivery to patients staying at our hospitals”. We advertise “pre made bundles” to simplify options. We have a binder kept at the register that lists all of our online gift bundles and what items are needed to fulfill the order so that all staff members can work on gift building. We recently added phone chargers as an option online as we get a lot of phone calls from customers looking to send a charger to a patient. Well now they can order that charger online as an “add-on” item!
For inventory purposes, we ring up each item at the point of sale and use “eHit” as our mode of tender; it’s an arbitrary tender that has its own line on our reports so that these sales are not getting mixed into credit card or cash sales. – Meggen Heuss, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI. 500 bed. 4/21/21

We do not yet have an online store however, this information is quite timely in that I am just beginning to explore one. I look forward to the next parts of the series as I am sure there are so many parts and pieces to consider. Without question, I believe it would be worth it, but getting it up and running and having manpower to keeping it going may prove to be more difficult. The shipping pieces is something that really worries me… Thank you all for your time to compile this information, it is appreciated. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 4/16/21

Remember, you don’t have to offer shipping. You can limit your fulfillment options to only those you feel are feasible: Patient Room Delivery, Office Delivery, In Store Pickup and, Lobby Pickup, Curbside Pickup. Phase in additional options, like shipping, later on when ready or not at all. We’ll discuss fulfillment methods in Part III. – Nicole, Cindy Jones Assoc

I am so interested to hear what others are doing, the pro’s and the con’s to having an online store. Who are you targeting? What merchandise will you sell? Where will the merchandise be stored? Delivery, mail out, curbside pick up etc. Who will manage it? Who will manage it when you are on vacation, nights and weekends etc. – Jamie Lee Hernandez 3/18/21

I’m not 100% sure so maybe Cindy could help us, but someone told me that if you are not for profit that you have to be very careful with online shopping because it could forfeit your nonprofit status. Cindy, can you help? Is this true? – Ali McCrary, Good Samaritan, Vincennes, IN. 232 beds. 2/16/21

It is a myth that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations can‘t make a profit. Most hospitals and their subsequent gift shops are for profit. They charge sales tax and operate as a business. The shops then donate all their profits to the hospital for patient benefit and equipment. Look for our upcoming article on how to start an online store. We’ve found some terrific online gift shops and currently interviewing their managers to share with our readers. In the meantime, here is a helpful article on launching an on-line store Overcome Common Problems Launching a Hospital Gift Store Website  2/17/21

We are a volunteer only hospital gift shop. No visitors in almost a year. We we closed for 7 months and now are only open in the afternoons. We’ve been having a 30% off sale and the store is still full! An online shop would be great but it would fall on one person to create it and manage and would be a full time job.  – Martha Burke, Rome Hospital, Rome, NY. 130 beds. 2/9/21


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