Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | August 15, 2023 💮

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

AUGUST 15, 2023

Norton Healthcare Hospital, Louisville, KY

Credit Card Competition Act could lower swipe fees

The Senate plans to vote on the Credit Card Competition Act. The bill is aimed at credit card swipe fees, which average 2.24% of the transaction but can range as high as 4%.

Swipe fees have more than doubled over the past decade and rose $22 billion last year to a record $160.7 billion when debit cards are included. They are one of the highest operating cost for most merchants.

The legislation would require big banks to give merchants a choice of two different networks to process credit card transactions. Visa and Mastercard – which control over 80% of the market – currently price-fix swipe fees charged by banks that issue cards under their brands.

The legislation would require large banks (those with more than $100 billion in assets) to provide merchants a choice of two different unaffiliated networks for processing transactions (e.g., NYCE, Star or Shazam).

Giving retailers network choices would spur competition between them and result in lower interchange fees for merchants, which could be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.

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A. Our payroll deduction was discontinued. Now what?

Q. Earlier this year our health system discontinued the option of payroll deduction. This has significantly impacted our sales. Have others experienced this and how have they rebounded? Thank you. – Beth Meadows, Marion General Hospital, Marion, OH. 6/21/23

UPDATE: Thank you for all the comments regarding payroll deduction. Since that last message, we have been in talks with our payroll team to consider the option of a one-time deduction through an automated system that is already set up in our cafe area. We are hopeful this will work out and will bring back at least a portion of the lost sales.

In addition to this, we did institute a “two-week hold” option to allow associates to come back when they have their credit cards or cash to pay for their product, that has been positively received.

Cindy, you asked why it was removed, and the short answer is automation. The process we had in place was more manual. Thanks again for the help. – Beth Meadows, Marion General Hospital, Marion, OH. 8/21/23

Our payroll deduction was discontinued before COVID. We now give hospital employees a 10% discount and volunteers 20%. That seems to help somewhat. – Helen Travis. 7/18/23

We have payroll deduction and it is a large percentage of our sales from staff. We do not have a limit as to how much they can put on payroll deduction. We did have to work to mainstream some issues on the backend for this to work more efficiently. – Jan Friedman, Unity Point, Dubuque, IA. 7/26/23

We use GemPay for our deductions. – Tricia Rochman, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Carbondale, IL. 154 beds. 7/26/23

With a $25 minimum we allow team members to do payroll deduct up to 3 pay periods. If amount is $200 or more they can get it out of 4 pay periods. If we don’t have a sale going on, team members and volunteers always receive 10% off most items. Payroll is our highest form of payment. – Jessie Davis, Hannibal Regional Hospital, Hannibal, MO. 99 beds. 7/19/23

76% of shops reported having payroll deduction in 2021. It can account for 40-50% of shop sales.

Losing payroll deduction is a serious blow. Employees will not spend as much. We have talked to administrators and are trying to revive it. Shopify has Shop Pay so we may try this payment plan. – Mary Ann, St. Francis Hospital Gift Shop, Columbus, GA. 350 beds. 7/19/23

We had our payroll deduction stopped due to software being dated. Our solution was to go with a professional POS system (i3 Verticals Counterpoint). We know that 65% of sales are payroll deducted, so it was critical.  – Mary Ann Brunette. 7/18/23

We currently still have payroll deduction through Quick Charge / Kronos payroll system. We do up to 3 pay periods depending on the amount the spend. Very successful. – Ramona Kennedy, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Auxiliary, Ogdensburg. 115 beds. 7/18/23

Our gift shop has always deducted the full amount of the purchase made in the gift shop during one pay cycle. The limit for full-time employees is $150 and part-time is $75. PRN (as-needed employees) are not permitted to use payroll deduction. We have not had feedback that this deters spending. The only area that will carry over multiple pay periods is the pharmacy and the local uniform store. – Andie Kirchner,  Spartanburg Medical Center, Spartanburg, SC. 524 beds. 6/21/23

Why did admin decided to remove payroll deduction? You will need to preserver and find other means to make up the sales (e.g., online store, fundraisers/events, remote kiosk, etc.) Make a case for one or more of these by outlining your sales loss due to this decision. – Cindy

PART II: Read the follow-up question: Q. Is there supporting data that justifies payroll deduction?

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

Four Instagram engagement stickers that actually work

First, if you are not marketing your shop on social media, start today! We understand it requires time, but having an online footprint validates your shop. It shows shoppers that you’re a professional retail establishment worthy of their time and dollar. And, it is FREE!

Instagram stickers

Even if you only post once a month, it means you’re regularly engaging with customers. This helps drive them to your store. If you have an online store, social media is a seamless way to drive customers to your website.

What are engagement or poll stickers?

Instagram stickers are dynamic graphic elements that are added to Instagram Stories. Some are animated, some are clickable, and others allow users to interact directly with your Instagram Story.  Stories with a question or poll allow your audience to vote or answer. They are a terrific way to boost interest and engagement.

Instagram Stories allow you to post as many videos and photos as you want to – without impacting your Instagram grid aesthetic. Letting you step away from your potentially carefully curated, on-brand feed and show off a different side of your personality – as well as sometimes alerting people to your new grid posts.

With approximately 86.6% of Instagram’s users posting Stories every day, Stories enable you to still reach your audience even when they don’t have lots of time to scroll through their newsfeed.

But how do you make your Stories stand out? Be fun? Engaging? Here are some engaging sticker ideas to try…


The Quiz sticker asks your audience a question with up to 4 answers to choose from. Choosing an answer will either turn green for correct, or red for incorrect.

Quiz Sticker, Instagram Story


Poll stickers are pretty straightforward – add the sticker to your Story with a question and your audience can vote on the answer they want.

Poll Sticke, Instagram Story


The emoji slider is perfect for surveying your Instagram audience about their interests, likes, dislikes, and more. To use it, ask a question, place the emoji slider on your Story, and encourage your followers to drag the slider left or right.

Emoji Slider Sticker, Instagram Story


Use the countdown sticker and schedule stickers to alert shoppers of coming events and sales. Generate anticipation and excitement. With the schedule sticker viewers can tap it to set a reminder for the upcoming event. Cool!

Countdown Sticker, Instagram Story

How do I add Instagram Story stickers to my feed?

After you’ve taken or uploaded your photo or video, add stickers by tapping on the sticker icon in the top right corner in the editing window. Learn how.

Cargo volumes steadily growing

Imports have been down year-over-year, but August 2023 numbers are expected to be the best in a year.

The ports in the US will handle around 22.3 million TEU in 2023, a 12.8% year-on-year drop. This makes it the second consecutive year that has seen a decline in cargo imports from an annual all-time high of 25.8 million TEU in 2021.

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major container ports is expected to hit its highest level in nearly a year this month as retailers stock up for the winter holidays, according to the Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said, “There are always supply challenges to be faced but holiday merchandise is flowing into the country, and we expect to see a smooth shipping season ahead of the winter holiday shopping season.”

Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said double-digit year-over-year decreases in cargo volume this year have come even though consumer spending and U.S. employment have increased.

“Dollar figures for international trade show imports remain in a year-over-year decline and cargo volume shows the same,” Hackett said. “The discrepancy between rising growth in sales and declining cargo volumes is happening because retailers are working their way through inventory built up over the last 12 to 18 months. Cargo growth should resume as inventories are depleted.”

SOURCE: National Retail Federation (NRF)


Sep 4 – Labor Day
Sep 9 – Star Trek Day 🖖🏼
Sep 10 – Grandparents Day
Sep 15-17 – Rosh HaShanah 🍯 🍎
Sep 25 – Yom Kippur
Sep 23 – First Day of Fall 🍁
Oct 10 – Ntnl Handbag Day
Oct 9 – Columbus Day
Oct 13 – No Bra Day 🤣
Oct 16 – Boss’s Day
Oct 21 – Sweetest Day
Oct 28 – Ntnl Chocolate Day 🍫
Oct 31 – Halloween 🎃
Nov 11 – Veterans Day
Nov 13 – World Kindness Day
Nov 23 – Thanksgiving 🦃
Nov 24 – Black Friday
Nov 27 – Cyber Monday 💻

Q. Who is a good vendor for large art prints?

Q. Where do you purchase large art prints to sell in your shop? Looking for a good vendor for bigger art prints, not necessarily the word/phrases. Like the big sunflowers, fields of wheat, abstract art, etc. to sell to our customers. We are in a smaller town, and we don’t have places to look for such items. I have purchased several from Gift Craft, but I am looking for new ideas and vendors. Thanks – Jaci Gottschalk, HaysMed Hospital, Hays, KS. 6/21/23

What vendor do you recommend for large art prints?
Enter your comment belowx

Do you sell art prints in your shop? Who’s your vendor?! 🖼

Do your part and leave a comment here or enter it at the bottom of the newsletter.

Thank you!

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

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Gift shops still reopening three years post-pandemic

SHELTON, WA – The Mason General Hospital Gift Shop, operated by the hospital’s auxiliary to raise money for scholarships, has reopened after being closed for three years due to the COVID pandemic.

The shop reopened June 30, and is open from 10am – 4pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Most of the volunteers are seniors, which factored in how long the shop was closed following the worst of the pandemic, said volunteer Monica Bates.

During the past three years, the auxiliary has hosted some in-house one-day sales, including one last month that offered items at 75% discount. “There was a lot of dust collecting,” Bates said.

SOURCE: Shelton-Mason County Journal

💮 Gift Market Calendar 💮

Jul 30-Aug 3, 2023
Las Vegas Summer Market
Aug 22-25, 2023
Dallas Apparel & Accs Market
Sep 18-20, 2023
Atlanta Fall Market
Sep 19-21, 2023
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market
Oct 14-18, 2023
High Point Fall Market
Oct 24-27, 2023
Dallas Apparel & Accs Market
Nov 6-8, 2023
Atlanta Fall Cash & Carry
Jan 10-16, 2024
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market
Visit Gift Shop Mag Trade Show Calendar for local and regional shows.

A. Do you have a good vendor for vinyl die cut stickers?

Q. Does anyone have a good recommendation for a vinyl die cut sticker vendor? Our campus includes a lot of students and those stickers are trending with our students right now. Would love to find someone who has some medical themed or state themed stickers. – Alyssa Feller, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS. 6/26/23

I Heart Guts has a terrific collection of anatomy stickers, plus pins, buttons, keychains, and funny socks. They are a loyal advertiser in this issue (see their “Product Pick”) and were terrific to work with. – Cindy

Stickers Northwest Inc. Fast easy low cost and personalized if you want for 0!! – Tricia Rochman, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Carbondale, IL. 154 beds. 6/26/23

Check out Big Moods and Ellembee Gift– Sally Miller, Ahuja Medical Center, Beachwood, OH. 6/26/23

We just picked up Nice Enough Stickers. The display is great and the cost is low. They’re represented by Anne McGilvray. – Erin. 6/25/23

We use Stickers Northwest. We get them through our rep at – Vesta R Smith, Adventist Health Columbia Gorge, The Dalles, OR. 6/22/23

The best sticker vendor around is Stickers Northwest. They are highly durable, ship quick, have oodles of designs and best of all you can customize designs for only a 25 piece minimum! – Angela, RoadRunners LLC, Wholesale, Atlanta, GA. 6/16/23

ISO sticker vendor! 🔎 Didn’t get a chance to comment!? Enter your response here or at the end of the newsletter.

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡


ARBA Point-of-Sale Solution

Designed for Hospital Gift Shops, the volunteer-friendly ARBA POS system manages your inventory and automates payroll deductions. Easy current inventory import.   

Optional online store pulls from the same inventory as in-store and accepts payroll deductions and credit card payments. 

Survey: Gift shop manager Facebook Group

We are exploring the idea of starting a Facebook Group for our readers following several requests from this community.

The group would be private and administered by us here at Cindy Jones Assoc.

Engagement levels can make or break a Facebook group. We want to gauge your interest and engagement. Please answer the survey here!

Would you join a Facebook Group for gift shop managers?

Did you miss last month’s articles, surveys, and discussions?

  • Custom apparel + accessories still trending high
  • Q. Our payroll deduction was discontinued. Now what?
  • Changing seasons. How to move from one time of the year to another.
  • 2023 Retailer Excellence Awards
  • Eight toy trends for 2023
  • A. Is your shop large enough to hit sales targets?
  • Q. Do you have a good vendor for vinyl die cut stickers?
  • Free cash wrap/checkout counter resources
  • Gift shop cited for “combustible” candles
  • Gift Market Calendar


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Q. What is the smallest square footage you have seen for a gift shop in a larger hospital (e.g., 645 beds)? We will be losing our existing space of ~700 sq ft (+ back office and storage) and are currently evaluating our (very limited) options. The new space will likely be a much smaller footprint (300-500 sq ft). – Wendi Vela, Shop Manager at UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA


Small hospitals contain fewer than 100 beds. Medium hospitals contain between 100-499 beds. In large hospitals, defined as +500 beds, gift shops are typically a minimum of 1,000 square feet of sales space. That equates to 2 sq ft/bed (sales space). Remember, this is a benchmark, not an absolute.

Sales space does not include stock rooms, fitting rooms, back office space, etc.

Target sales per square foot
In evaluating both successful and failing shops, I have found that a minimum of $400-$500 per square foot (at retail) in annual sales is doable for most shops. But, many shops around the country are generating well over $1,500 in sales per square foot per year.

NOTE: This benchmark applies to shops that are proportionate in size to their hospital (number of employees and beds). A small shop in a big hospital should generate higher sales per square foot. A disproportionately large shop in a small hospital will generate lower sales per square foot.

To maximize every square foot of a shop’s selling space:

– There should be very little storage (drawers or cupboards) in the selling space.
– Merchandise must turn fast.
– Maintain appropriate pricing structures for maximum profit margins.

Let’s see how other shop’s sized up in comparison.

We asked readers to provide their shop’s square feet (defined as “selling space”) and the number of beds. Here are the responses from shop managers:

1000 sq ft500 beds2 sq ft/bedBenchmark: minimum sales space per beds
600 sq ft25 beds24.00 sq ft/bedMemorial Hospital, North Conway, NH
549 sq ft56 beds9.80 sq ft/bedVail Health Gift Shop, Vail, CO
320 sq ft100 beds3.20 sq ft/bedMercyOne Cedar Falls Medical Cntr, Cedar Falls, IA
1,000 sq ft161 beds6.21 sq ft/bedMayo Clinic, Mankato, MN
335 sq ft525 beds0.64 sq ft/bedSpartanburg Medical Center, Spartanburg, SC
800 sq ft225 beds3.56 sq ft/bedAscension Providence, Waco, TX
1,115 sq ft230 beds^4.85 sq ft/bedHSHS St. Mary’s Hospital, Decatur, IL ^2022
1,300 sq ft268 beds4.85 sq ft/bedBaxter Health, Mountain Home, AR
425 sq ft269 beds1.58 sq ft/bedQueensway Carleton Hospital, Ontario, Canada
1,528 sq ft348 beds4.39 sq ft/bedSilver Cross Hospital, New Lenox, IL
900 sq ft366 beds2.46 sq ft/bedMercyOne Waterloo Medical Cntr, Waterloo, IA
3,000 sq ft613 beds4.89 sq ft/bedStanford Health Care, Stanford, CA
700 sq ft645 beds1.09 sq ft/bedUC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA
**Sales space only – not including stock room, fitting rooms, office space, etc.

While this is a small, informal poll that assumes data provided is accurate. There is clearly a large range, multiple variable, and we don’t have sales data for these shops. With hospital administration often dictating shop space, many find their square footage undersized. Older hospitals or inner-city hospitals may not have room to expand.

In Wendi’s case, her current sales space of 700 sq ft is already below the recommended benchmark of 2 sq ft/bed. We do hope this information is helpful and you’re able to retain larger space for your shop!

Is your shop large enough for the hospital size and to feasibly generate the desired or prescribed sales? If not, check out the template letter requesting additional gift shop space in last month’s issue. But remember, it is best to plan shop renovations for January or February when sales are slow.

Thanks to everyone who responded. Your input helps this community grow and succeed.

Information is based on the consultant’s general experience, knowledge of gift shop management, and data from sponsored national surveys.


Q. Today we were paid a visit by our Director of Environment of Care and Life Safety telling us the hospital was cited by the Fire Marshal for a doctor having an unlit candle in his office. We sell candles in our gift shops and now they are suggesting we no longer carry candles as they are considered “combustible”. Can you tell me if you have ever heard of this before? I have been here over 10 years and have carried candles for just about that amount of time. I have never heard of it. – Deborah R. Kerr, Director of Retail Strategy & Gift Shop Operations, Children’s Mercy, Kansas City, MO. 4/24/23

In my +30 years working with hospital gift shops, I have never heard of a case where selling candles violates National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code for healthcare facilities. Once a candle is sold it is not the responsibility of the gift shop to determine how or where it will be used. It is up to the hospital and the employee who purchased the candle to follow the policies. There are many more flammable and combustible compounds in a hospital that fall under this code.  Thank you for sharing!


Q. I would be interested in hearing what other hospital gift shops do about shopping bag expense. We have been giving them away when the purchase is a gift, but this is getting out of hand and prices of bags have really gone up. I would like to start charging but, not sure how this will go over since we have been giving them away for so long. Even the plastic “thank you bags” have gone up in price. – Cheryl, Novant Health, Charlotte, NC. 3/22/23

At Pink-A-Dilly gift shop we have always charged for specialty gift bags. We carry 3-sizes and prices are $1.75, $2.25, and $2.75 which includes tissue paper and ribbon. We have done this for 21 years and people love it. They can choose their size and pattern which we keep all bags in view on a slatboard wall. I order them from Nashville Wraps. Bags given at purchase of merchandise, we do not charge for. We use pink plastic bags also purchased from Nashville wraps. Works great! – Debbie Swan, Pink-A- Dilly Gift Shop, Mountain Home, AR. 268 beds. 6/16/23

We charge for the specialty birthday, congratulations etc. bags but not our regular paper bags. We do have reusable bags with our logo that we recently got. Right now, we are doing a promotion to get customers into the habit of using them (and saving us money by not needing our paper bags). We hand out to our loyalty customers at purchase. Inside the bags are coupons for 10% and 15% off in the month of May, June and July. It has been very effective. In addition, it advertises for us too. – Jodi Babineau, Sunshine Gift Shoppe, Lakeview Medical Center, Rice Lake, WI. 40 beds. 4/18/23.

We do not charge and they remain pretty inexpensive for us through Nashville Wraps, but the key is ensuring that you receive free freight. I did switch to a plain plastic bag and I think that cost us .24 cents per bag. Most of our customers spend well over that so it’s okay. – Ali McCrary. Good Samaritan, Vincennes, IN. 232 beds. 4/22/23

Yes, we charge for gift bags. We have basic price points for the kraft paper bags and do have some premium glossy bags. We use Nashville Wraps. – Greg Holtgrewe. Baptist Health Paducah, Paducah, KY. 300 beds. 4/18/23

We charge for the specialty birthday, congratulations etc. bags but not our regular paper bags. We do have reusable bags with our logo that we recently got. Right now, we are doing a promotion to get customers into the habit of using them (and saving us money by not needing our paper bags). We hand out to our loyalty customers at purchase. Inside the bags are coupons for 10% and 15% off in the month of May, June and July. It has been very effective. In addition, it advertises for us too. – Jodi Babineau, Sunshine Gift Shoppe, Lakeview Medical Center, Rice Lake, WI. 40 beds. 4/18/23.

We only charge for specialty bags (1st baby, birthday, etc.). We do not charge for regular merchandise bags. – Peter Waugh, Memorial Hospital, North Conway, NH. 25 beds. 4/21/23.

No, we do not charge for shopping bags.  – Nancy Collins, New London Hospital, New London, NH. 25 beds. 4/26/23

We do not charge, use some reusable plastic and also Kraft bags with handles. Both can be used as gift bags when we add colorful tissue and curly ribbon. Customers really appreciate this. We buy from American Retail. – Whidbey Health Medical Center, Coupeville. 35 beds. 4/19/23

We do not charge for gift bags and we purchase from Dollar Tree and Amazon. We are a small hospital gift shop. – Janet Sherwood.  4/19/23

We buy gift bags from Dollar Tree and order from Kellis gift shop supplier to have for customers to buy when purchasing a gift. – Karen, South Austin Medical Clinic, Austin, TX. 4/19/23

No charge. We use Nashville Wraps; the price is reasonable – Tricia Rochman, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Carbondale, IL. 154 beds. 4/19/23

We do not charge for gift bags. We offer brown handle bags with colored tissue and ribbon as a courtesy to our guests. We do offer gift bags from the giftwrap company at retail for those who want a little more. – Kevin Shaw, Methodist Hospital Gift Shop, St. Louis Park, MN. 4/19/23

We do not charge for gift bags as we feel this is a courtesy for shopping with us. If they do not purchase a gift from the Gift Shop and they want a gift bag, we do charge a small fee. – Deb Kerr, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City. 385 beds. 4/19/23

We charge for gift bags and we have all different sizes and shapes. we carry pink merch bags that we do not charge for and get them through Nashville wrap. – Christine Parker, Kent Hospitality Shop, Warwick. 359 beds. 4/19/23

We do not charge at time of purchase however we build the cost into our product costs. – Shauna Morgan, Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, Canada. 4/19/23

We do not charge for shopping bags if the customer makes a purchase. However, we do charge if they don’t. – Laura Keipert, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, GA. 4/18/23

See similar question from 2022: shopping bag vendors. 


Q. When it comes to social media and you are restricted to nothing outside of the hospital, how do you make this work? We do have a Facebook page, but it is a closed group. As volunteers, we are part of this group and we do invite friends. But feel this doesn’t reach more in the community. – Jan Friedman, Unity Point, Dubuque, IA. 1/24/23

I would love to join a facebook group for gift shop managers!  We are a small hospital gift shop in Hays, Kansas.  I love seeing the ideas of other managers. – Nikki M. Director, Volunteer & Associate Services, HaysMed. 7/26/23

We use Facebook to promote events, fundraisers, merchandise and more. Facebook groups are also a great way to share, to remind people to come to your business! This is especially helpful when unable to visit the hospital gift shop during COVID with visitor/public restrictions. – Jennifer Bahlmann-Ballantine. 3/7/23

Does Cindy have any social media groups or message boards for gift shop managers and buyers to collaborate in a more effectively and allow for real time reactions? I know many gift shop personnel may participate in volunteer management professional networking groups and organizations but there doesn’t seem to be anything out there specific to gift shop retailers. Is anyone a part of any local groups for networking? -Holly Verbos, Penn State Health, Hershey, PA. 628 beds. 2/22/2023

I love this idea! I would love to have something to be able to connect with other hospital gift shop managers. It would be great to be able to ask questions, bounce ideas and just overall support from other managers :)  – Lanie Ray, Wishes Gift Shop/Fairfield Medical Center, Lancaster, OH. 2/24/2023

Even a private Facebook group would be really helpful. We could post pictures of displays or products for each other to comment on and discuss. I think it would foster greater newsletter comment and discussion too! -Holly Verbos, Penn State Health, Hershey, PA. 628 beds. 2/24/2023

We have a closed Facebook group, as well. And need advice also. – Nancy Williams. 2/17/23

As a not-for-profit hospital, we are not allowed to post outside of the hospital. We are allowed to email our employees internally. – Craig McKneely, Scripps Mercy Hospital Gift Shop, San Diego. 412 beds. 2/17/23

We use our hospital’s communications and public relations office for that purpose. – Peter Waugh. 2/17/23

Our health system requires social media posts go through marketing. As ‘just’ the gift shop it is difficult to get regular postings. Pre-COVID we would have annual events throughout the year, usually four. Post-COVID we only have two, Poinsettia and Pastries for Christmas and The Planting Patch in May right before Mother’s Day. With annual events marketing creates a design/sign that they will post on social media. Each year we use the same design and change the date or times as needed. I feel gift shops are the cherry on top of the hospital and are usually an afterthought for marketing. Non-retail people don’t fully understand the value of real-time information. – Noelle Boardman,  St. Luke’s Floral & Gifts, Cedar Rapids, IA. 530 beds. 2/17/23

Yes. I’ve always been told that there are restrictions and that you have to be careful posting pricing if you’re a non-profit, so we have an open gift shop page and post pictures of new product and fundraisers. Would love to see an article on the do’s and don’ts of non-profit social media pages!! – Ali McCrary. 2/17/23

Our hospital requires all social media posts to go through marketing for the entire health system. Gift shops are never part of the information that is shared with the community. We haven’t found a solution. – Amy Saye 2/17/23

It’s great to see so much interest in this question! Let’s address some of the comments.


Hospital gift shops are permitted to use social media and to advertise, but they must be related to the hospital’s exempt purpose of promoting the health of its patients. They need to:

  1. Explicitly state that proceeds go toward supporting the hospital. “All of the proceeds from the gift shop directly benefit patient care at Ascension Via Christi Manhattan and the Mercy Auxiliary.”
  2. Be directed toward patients, medical staff, employees, or visitors
  3. Comply with HIPAA laws (e.g., no patient info or images)
  4. Typically follow branding guidelines set by the hospital or health system to ensure consistency and coherence in their messaging and visual identity.
  5. Follow advertising regulations set by the FTC or other regulatory bodies. For example, gift shops may need to disclose if they are sponsoring a post or using paid advertising.

There are several hospital gift shops with terrific Facebook Pages:

From: Top 6 hospital gift shop Facebook pages

It is counter intuitive to restrict a gift shop from using social media. The shop’s goal is the raise funds for the hospital, after all. Limiting its reach and online footprint is, in turn, limiting the funds raised. Ironically, it can only hurt the hospital funding goals, in the end. Social media is arguably the most powerful tool a nonprofit has at their disposal. It’s free and a simple way to “push” great products in front of hospital employees and customer’s via their feeds. See last month’s article, “Proof that social media can increase sales“.

Along the same lines, it is also a myth that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations cannot 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. Read more on IRS rules on advertising for hospital gift shops.

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