Sacred Heart Hospital, Port St. Joe, FL

Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | February 15, 2020 💮



Gift Shop Managers

Cindy’s Newsletter provides its readership of over 3,000 gift shop professionals “actionable content” to help optimize their shop operation, grow revenue, and connect with one another. LEAVE A COMMENT: Click the colored comment tags throughout the newsletter or email Cindy at

FEBRUARY 15, 2020

Valentine’s Day spending to soar 32% to a record $27.4 billion this year!

By Warren L. Wise  / Feb 4, 2020

Retailers of cupid merchandise are expecting a big payday this year.

Valentine’s Day spending is expected to soar 32% over last year with a record $27.4 billion lavished on loved ones, according to the National Retail Federation.

“The same strong employment numbers and higher wages that boosted holiday sales should make it easier to spend a little extra to say ‘I love you’ this year,” the trade group’s President and CEO Matthew Shay said. 

Twenty-seven percent say they will buy Valentine’s gifts for their pets, the highest figure in the history of the survey and up from 17 percent in 2010 for a total of $1.7 billion.

The most money will be spent on jewelry, followed by dinner outings, clothing, candy, flowers, gift cards and greeting cards. 

Source: The Post & Courier



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Contagious Customer Service

by Anne M. Obarski / Feb 15, 2020

If you want to deliver a positive contagious customer service experience  to every customer in your hospital gift shop, you need to deliver it in a way that will make your customer say “Oh!”, and be willing to spread that information to everyone they know.

Let’s look at three classifications of “O” customer service.

1. Ordinary Customer Service. This is probably the most popular type of customer service that we all experience.  In a hospital gift shop, cashiers (both paid and volunteers) do the job they are asked to do.  They try to be efficient and take care of customers as quickly as they can. If they smile, that’s an extra. If they go out of their way to do anything more than handle your request, that’s really an extra! Managers are always happy that their staff and volunteers show up to serve.  Unfortunately, training may sometimes be at a “bare minimum” and is sometimes sporadic. What does that mean for the gift shop customer?  That they don’t receive anything out of the ordinary nor do they feel compelled to tell anyone else about their shopping experience.

2.  Ouch Customer Service.  We’ve all experienced ‘ouch’ customer service.  The cashier or volunteer is “merely doing their job” but their lack of knowledge may cause a negative reaction from the customer.  We’ve all been a “lost” customer at some point.  Unfortunately, it translates into a loss of revenue for the gift shop because people love to tell customer service “horror stories” to everyone they know.  “Ouch” customer service not only hurts the customer, it hurts the business as well.

3. “Oh!” Customer Service.  I believe to get the gift shop customer to say “Oh”, you have to do something unusual and different!  Considering the level of service most businesses offer, however, being unusual could mean a genuine friendly staff person that would go out of their way to sincerely make the customer more than satisfied. Here are a few things that will help your “Oh!” factor and increase your contagiousness  in your gift shop:

  • Turn on your switch! As a cashier or volunteer, when you walk into your gift shop, leave your issues and non-productive conversation outside the door.
  • Greet every customer with a genuine smile.
  • Make eye contact with every person who walks into your gift shop
  • Start your conversations with the word ‘What’ and end the sale with ‘My pleasure’.
  • The cashier counter is ONLY for a sales transaction. Get out on the floor and be available!

I’m sure you could add a dozen ideas to this list. Service is about consistency. Small, simple, mannerly techniques that can turn into large rewards through your customer’s contagious marketing of your “Oh!” customer service!

Anne works with organizations and businesses who want to become CONTAGIOUS on purpose!  She provides strategic “contagious” ideas that will inspire your customers to refer others along the way! All as a result of their…infectious, enviable, repeatable, and remarkable, customer service. Contact her at or visit

10 Display Rules

1. Group related items together.

2. Use one tall item to anchor the display.

3. Place taller items at the back.

4. Display merchandise in groups of three or more.

5. Create a focal point and work around it.

6. Display in various heights and depths by using risers.

7. Add pizzazz. Be creative. Be bold.

8. Use good spotlighting.

9. Bigger items sell the smaller items.

10. Amuse, don’t confuse.

Click to zoom

Does this display work?

How would you improve this display? Comment on what it gets right and where it goes wrong. 

(click the tag to comment)

Are you ready for Mother’s Day and Easter?

Jewelry should be top sellers in your shop if you are doing it all right. They require a savvy buyer! Always look for lines where you can take at least a triple markup.

Be careful with trendy items. You don’t want to be stuck with it once the season or trend ends.

Jewelry Display Tips

  • Display best-sellers at eye level.
  • Sales clerk can wear jewelry for all your customers to see.
  • Good lighting makes metals shine, and colors glow.
  • Place a standing two-way mirror close to jewelry.
  • Keep a polishing cloth nearby to perk up tarnished silver.
  • Informative signage can go a long way in increasing sales.
  • Have something for everyone. Offer items in a range of prices.
  • Create groupings of matching necklace, bracelet and earrings.
  • Offer high-quality jewelry boxes.
  • Post jewelry return policy at the register, especially for earrings.

Flower sales should make up about 13-16% of your gross sales. Flower contracts are typically put out for bid to all area florists. Be sure to interview numerous florists and wholesalers until you arrive at the best service and highest percentage of profit on flowers. Work to negotiate a rate of 35 – 40% of the profits.

Baker’s racks are great for displaying
plants and dish gardens.

Some shops that own their own cooler have 2-3 local florists that rotate servicing it monthly or quarterly. Most florists deliver 5-6 days a week and will make an additional delivery if needed. They should also replace or take back and credit anything that doesn’t sell in a certain amount of time. And, request that they fulfill special orders.

Keep a Flower Phone Order Form at the register.

Candy typically accounts for the highest percent of gross sales, even though they have a low profit margin. Nonetheless, they are a high-volume category and bring people into the shop! Display snacks and candy in the middle or back of the shop so customers have to traverse the entire shop to get their sugar fix!


by Fantasia Greetings

Consists of a six-inch teddy bear,
attached to a seven-and-half inch bud vase with
a four-inch engraved mylar balloon and a
silk rosebud complete with a gift card.

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical
Virginia Commonwealth University Medical


What POS system do you use?


Do you get an annual bonus or sales-based incentive?

The results were overwhelming – a majority of gift shop managers do not receive bonuses.  Don’t be discouraged! Find pride in what you do, knowing you strive to be the very best at it every day. Knowing you provide an invaluable service to your patrons, staff, and volunteers. 

Thank you to everyone who participated!

The current state of the hospital gift shop industry

by Cindy Jones, Editor / Feb 15, 2020 💮

If managed properly, hospital gift shops can contribute to both a hospital’s healing culture and they can also be significant sources of revenue for their organizations.

But, how in the world does a gift shop that grosses over a million dollars in sales end up with a low net profit? Unfortunately, it’s not that unusual. A shop can gross $1-5 million or more and still have a very low net profit to give back to the hospital.

Five to ten years ago, the majority of shops were auxiliary operated. Now, it’s almost 75% paid managers . They are hospital employees hired, paid and reporting to a hospital administrator (most often to a Director of Volunteer Services). Most major healthcare system’s gift shops have paid managers with college degrees and a strong retail background.

There is no limit to a shop’s net profit when managed by a savvy paid or volunteer manager that knows what it takes to get a good bottom line. The same basic retail axioms apply just as if you were running one of the big flagship stores in a mall! It’s all about the financial management and the merchandise mix!

Sadly, many hospital gift shops do not make a respectable profit! Let’s say you go to one of the major gift markets and buy $20,000 worth of merchandise to fill up your shop. If it isn’t the right merchandise or if you don’t price it correctly, your profits could be less than the cost of the merchandise!

Just picture a manager or buyer going to a gift market and buying tons of great, exciting merchandise to fill up the shop. Everybody is oohing and aahing when it is delivered! Then, five to six months down the road, after it’s all sold, somebody asks what the shop’s net profit is and sadly it’s just a big goose egg! All that was for nothing!




See our ALL NEW Spring 2020 collection of foot coverings!
Simply Pairables in children’s, women’s and men’s sizes.
More new styles, more new designs to keep your customers coming back!
Did you get our new spring catalog? View Spring 2020 Catalog!


I published the first hard copy of this Newsletter in 1996. Then in 2002, I published the first electronic copy. It has been a labor of love! After 23 years, I still enjoy writing it and getting to know you all through it.

I couldn’t have continued without the tremendous support of you – this country’s hospital gift shop managers and buyers! You’ve sent in tips, responded to readers’ questions, and supported our advertisers.  You’ve sent me wonderful notes and given abundant thanks — virtual and real. I am most appreciative. Thank you!

 – Cindy

If you know someone who could benefit from the newsletter, tell them why, and send them here to subscribe to the Gift Shop Manager Newsletter today!



Mar 8-11, 2020
Georgia Society of Volunteer and Retail Professionals (GSVRP) Annual Conference. St. Simons Island, GA Visit
Mar 22-24, 2020 
Society for Healthcare Volunteer Leaders (SHVL) Education Conference. New Orleans, LA Visit
Apr 28–May 1, 2020 
Hospital Gift Shop Manager’s Assoc of the Carolinas. Myrtle Beach, FL. Contact 
May 7-8, 2020
Ohio Healthcare Volunteer Management Assoc (OHVMA) Spring Conference 2020. Toledo, OH Visit
May 14-15, 2020
Minnesota Health Care Gift Shop Assoc. Onamia, MN Visit
May 13-15, 2020
Michigan Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals Spring Conference. Shelbyville, MI
May 19-21, 2020
New England Assoc Directors of Healthcare Volunteer Services (NEADHVS). Woodstock, VT Visit
Jun 3-4, 2020
New York State Assoc of Volunteer Services Administrators (NYSAVSA) Professional Development Conference. Albany, NY Visit
Jun 11-12, 2020
Wisconsin Assoc of Directors of Volunteer Services (WADVS) Annual Conference. Pewaukee, WI Visit
Nov 4-6, 2020
Missouri Hospital Assoc Annual Convention & Trade Show. Osage Beach, MO Visit


Mar 22-25, 2020
ASD Market Week, Las Vegas
Mar 24-27, 2020
Dallas Total Home & Gift Market + Apparel & Accessories Market (Spring)
Mar 29–Apr 2 , 2020
LA Mart (Spring). Los Angeles
Apr 23–26, 2020
TransWorld’s Spring Jewelry, Fashion & Accessories Show (Spring). Chicago, IL
Aug 28-30, 2020
Rocky Mountain Gift Show. Denver, CO

Shop Design for 2020

Revenue Drivers

  • Merchandise mix
  • Customer perception
  • Maximum use of square footage
  • Skilled manager and savvy buyer/s
  • Effective shop design and floor plan

Lighting. Allocate more dollars towards LED lighting, as well as modular fixtures. Also, modular fixtures have become increasingly important since they can be easily reconfigured as new products launch. They need to be agile for quick and easy reconfigurations.

Stockroom Space. If your shop is 400 square feet, you can turn that into 800 square feet by going up, out and over. Look at every nook and cranny for places to display merchandise. Don’t use valuable shop selling space for your back stock. That’s why you have a stockroom. As I write this I know from visiting hundreds of hospital gift shops over the years, that hospitals are usually very stingy with their space and, sadly, the gift shop does not have top priority!

Location is Everything. There are many things that go into making a hospital gift shop a destination for hospital employees: its appearance, fair pricing, sales staff, environment, selection and inventory. And all of those are dependent on its location in the hospital! These factors combine to make your shop both a convenient shop for most customers (hospital employees) and a destination shop for others (visitors) to browse and enjoy.

Do you know what’s selling and what’s not? Giftbeat’s nationwide network of 300+ gift shops rank their top-selling items in 50 product categories every month. That’s powerful! Subscribe today to see all Giftbeat categories including highest markup, steady sellers, fashion, apparel, plush, children’s gifts, and more.

February Action Plan

  • By now you should have completed your financial reports for the 2019 (assuming January 1 is the end of your fiscal year). Next, what do you do with them? Evaluate your shop’s annual performance with an in-depth analysis of sales performance and a critical evaluation of space utilization. If you had a good year, pat yourself on the back! If there is room for improvement, it’s time to set specific goals and act on them. 
  • Review your Christmas report for 2019 and discuss it with buyers. Use the information from last year to make seasonal ordering decisions for 2020.
  • If you did not attend a major gift market in January, make plans now for one of the shows in March. Buy holiday merchandise now to get the best discounts and terms.  Before buying Christmas merchandise, refer back to your 2019 Christmas report. ✈️
  • February 15: Mark down all leftover Valentine merchandise and 2021 calendars. ✂️
  • Stir up excitement! Hold a raffle for a large Easter bunny on Sunday. April 12. 
  • Recognize and manage obsolete and damaged merchandise. See your inventory for what it is, cash in another form. Then decide to keep, cut, adjust, purge, recycle or just move it out.

….  Get the rest of February and the entire year in Cindy’s Twelve Month Action Plan



Q. Hi, I am a new Gift Shop Manager for a small county hospital. As spring is almost here, I need a wholesale distributor for Spring/Summer clothing? I am in Western Maryland. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!! Love this newsletter. :) – Sarah Folio. 2/1/20


Q. We are looking to update from an outdated cash register to a new web-based POS system this year. I’ve determined the features we would need and have started researching but am becoming a bit overwhelmed. I’m curious to know what POS systems other hospital gift shops use and recommend? (Especially in smaller hospitals) Any info would be very helpful. Thank goodness for this newsletter!– Deb McKenzie, Mgr., Moose Ledge Gift Shop, Littleton Regional Healthcare, Littleton, NH. 25 beds . 1/16/20

We are using NCR Counterpoint. We installed this system almost 6 years ago and have upgraded successfully (and easily) twice since that time. Once was a minor upgrade to install an Ingenico Card Machine and most recently was to allow us to be compatible with Windows 10 software as required by our hospital. We have been pleased with the software and especially with the ease of use for our volunteer population. – Angela Quinn. 1/16/20


Q. With no dressing room, how do others handle customers that want to try on clothing?  How can we sell apparel without?  – Singh. 1/3/2020

Regarding the question concerning no dressing room: we have a full length mirror on both sides of our back room area door. For sweaters, ponchos, etc. the one on the gift shop side works just fine. If someone needs to try on a top, we allow them to step into the back room to try it on and just wait outside. We have had no problems with this process. Occasionally someone will want to try on in a more private place (aka: bathroom). In these instances they will generally leave with us their car keys, or coat, etc. so we are comfortable with this. We can also see the bathroom entrance from our shop, so that helps us keep an eye out. For hospital staff, this is never a worry! – Nancy Johnsen. 1/16/20

We have a back room for receiving and office. We checked into a actual fitting room when we remodeled and it has to be ADA compliant. I did not feel it was a good trade off to give up the square footage in the shop for the fitting room, so had had a hospital curtain added to the back room. It works just fine when needed. There is a large mirror on one wall also. – Mary Robinson. 1/16/20

We offer my office to our customers ~ they close and lock the door, and are happy to make sure it fits first! We also offer our nearest rest room…..this of course takes a lot of trust in your customers~~but~~ we’ve never had an item walk out yet! And the customers are very happy that we do trust them enough to offer this to them. Sometimes this trust makes the sale!! – Anonymous. 1/20/20

We have our restrooms across the hall, I offer for them to go try it far no issues. I get worries but as I said not issues with that yet. Those who don’t we have an exchange policy that I let them know and ask that they keep tags and receipt. – Leslie Hollingsworth. 1/20/20


Q. We are looking for vendors for baby items and backpacks? I have gotten baby items from Kelli’s but they do not have zipper slippers.  I have also had a request for backpacks and have not been able to find a vender.  We are a small hospital of 18 beds. Cindy, you do an awesome job keeping us informed and helping solve issues. Thanks again for all you do!! – Lori Bullerman, Pipestone County Medical Center, Pipestone, MN. 25 beds. 12/31/19

We have carried Stephen Joseph backpacks and other items for a few years now. Good sellers, especially for summer and back to school.

Some of our baby lines include:
Mud Pie – apparel & gifts
Maison Chic – apprarel, burpies, blankets, plush
London Bridge – great line of tutus
Mary Meyer – Wubanub pacifers, plush & baby mats
Angel Dear – apparel
Stephan Baby – apparel
Bella Tunno – silicone bibs, bowl & spoon sets and teethers
Cherished Moments – great baby jewelry
And, we just found a new line at market called Collectibles America with some beautiful onesies and baby jewelry I hope this helps! – Vicki Holcombe. 1/16/20.


Q. We are preparing to do our first organized inventory this week. Do we count items sold on consignment as inventory?  In the past we didn’t include these items because we didn’t actually own the stock. Thank you. – Robin Truax, Gouverneur Hospital, Gouverneur, NY. 77 beds. 12/29/19

No, Robin, you should not include consignment items when doing physical inventory since the shop does not own them. 


Q. What is everyone is charging for a standard candy bar? I sure don’t want our hospital employees thinking we are scamming them. – Sandy Palmer, Harrison Valley. 311 beds. 12/28/19

$1.15. With tax, it is $1.25.  – Melodie Christal  1/16/20
We charge $1.29. – Lisa Burney 1/17/20
$1.25! Customers are seeing the same price at the grocery stores. – Karen 1/17/20
$1.25 includes tax. – Kathryn Main


We have purchased basic turbans for chemo patients for years from Betmar and a lesser expensive style from Kelli’s. We also recently started carrying a line of greeting cards called Kimo Kards. We have received a lot of positive feed back on these from our customers. – Sandy White, Shop Manager. 12/25/19

We carry a large selection of turbans and other headwear from Hats with Heart. They are great to work with. – Anonymous 1/15/20


Q. I would like to know if anyone was down in sales for November? Our sales were down about $6,000 year over year. In my area, a lot of the stores had their Christmas items on sale at 50% off the second week of November which I believe had a lot to do with it. That, the weather in my area, and a couple of internal changes were all culprits.  I was just curious if anyone else was down due to the shortened holiday season with Thanksgiving being a week later.  – Kim DeBord, Marketplace Manager, Riverside Medical Center, Kankakee, IL. 325 beds. 12/4/19

Our November sales were significantly down also, and I think Carol has a point about Thanksgiving being later affecting that. Luckily we had a better December which made up for it and helped our overall year’s total. – Vicki Holcombe 1/16/20.

My November sales are also down but we need to keep in mind that Thanksgiving was a week later this year and Thanksgiving really does kick off the Holiday Season. I am expecting to make up the difference in December and we are off to a stronger start than last year. I think it is too soon to tell how are this year’s Holiday Season will end up. Thanks for another great newsletter! I hope everyone has a very successful Holiday Season. – Carol A Colpitts, Gift Shop Manager/Buyer, Milford Regional Medical Center, Milford, MA. 116 beds. 12/8/19


Something that worked extremely well for us was a Tote Sale. I bought holiday totes from Burton & Burton for $1.66 each, priced them at $4.99 which is a 66.73% mark-up. The promotion is, buy a tote at $4.99 and anything you can get in the tote is 25% off.  And our pitch is “We can make anything fit in a tote.” We sold out of the totes in 2 days and I bought a lot of them.  I do a tote sale two times a year and my customers/employees can’t wait for it. Thank you so much and happy holidays. – Kim DeBord, Marketplace Manager, Riverside Medical Center, Kankakee, IL. 325 beds. 12/4/19

I tried this idea, and loved it. Our customers were loving it as well. Thanks for such a great idea. – Lisa Burney. 1/17/20

Just an FYI – if you’re buying something at a cost of $1.66 and selling it for $4.99, that is a 200% markup and a 67% gross margin….– Curt. 2/1/20.


The biggest sellers in our shop is purses, scarves, and jewelry. Thank you for this newsletter and your support all year long.  Lots of great information. – Nancy Collins, Volunteer Services Manager, London Hospital, New London, NH. 12/23/2019


Warmies, a heatable plush and home therapy product. They are always adding new items to their line. 844-927-6437
Simply Pairables from Snoozie Slippers. They have added a lot of new items. Simply Pairables are now available in women’s and men’s sizes. 252-650-7000
SwirlyDo Hair Ties by Lindo. I carry them in the large and small and I have reordered several times. This is a great product to keep at the checkout counter. 206-973-2363 – Sally Begue, Gift Shop Manager, Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron, OH. 263 beds.10/16/19

The Gathering of Friends cookbook series is good. The photos in this book are fantastic, the recipes just wonderful, and they include a shopping list and place for guests to sign at each gathering. With the holidays coming up I highly recommend it! Cost is $12.50; I sell them for $29.95. – Anonymous. 10/19/19


Q. What looks or themes has everyone been successful with this Christmas? Our biggest selling items continue to be in metallics, silver, copper, and gold mixed with white. I have been less successful with “cute” Christmas (i.e. Santa, Snowmen, and Gingerbread). Even when I google “Christmas trends for 2020” almost all of the pictures are showing metallics. Is anyone else seeing this trend in their market area?  – Eric Wininger, Gift Shop Manager, Reading, PA. 759 beds.  12/16/19


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My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

This award-winning beautifully illustrated book, My Garden of Flowers: Miracles in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, by Dr. Manjeet Kaur is perfect for the hospital gift shop!

This invaluable resource for worried families gives parents knowledge and reassurance
that their critically ill infants will typically grow to adulthood and lead normal, healthy lives.



Hallmark’s brand promises to make a genuine difference
in every life, every day! Hallmark is a perfect partnership
for hospital retail. Create a relaxing respite for staff,
visitors and patients. Flexible floor plan options and attractive
opening terms make this a great opportunity for your hospital gift shop!



for Magazines and Paperback Books

For Hospital Gift Shops! Crossword Puzzles!
Cell Phone Accessories! Largest Percent Discounts
Customize and change orders anytime!
Receive credit on all unsold magazines.

Huge Magazine Selections!


© Cindy Jones Associates, 2020. COPYRIGHT PROTECTED. Redistribution, copying, reselling, re-renting, or republishing is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. Cindy’s Newsletter may not to be forwarded, redistributed, reproduced, reprinted, or posted online without prior permission from Cindy Jones Associates. Subscribers may share one issue with a fellow manager. Thereafter, the manager may subscribe here to receive future issues.

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