Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | February 15, 2024 💮

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

FEBRUARY 15, 2024

Baptist Hospital, Beaumont, TX

Strong January sales signal solid 2024

January retail sales nearly matched December’s busy holiday spending, according to the National Retail Federation.

Year-over-year growth was also solid, showing consumers are optimistic and utilizing their spending power, fueled by increasing employment rates and wages.

Core retail sales were down just slightly 0.04% month-over-month and up 3.24% year-over-year for January 2024. That compared with increases of 0.19% month-over-month and 2.4 year-over-year in December, according to the NRF’s Retail Monitor.

Retail Monitor is NRF’s new monthly metric for gauging retail sales. Unlike survey-based data, it uses actual purchase data from over 140 million credit and debit cards over nearly nine billion transactions.

January sales were up from last year in six retail categories (online sales, health/personal care stores, clothing/accessory stores) and up monthly in five categories, according to NRF.

Key retail categories up from 2023

  • Online stores ↑ 25.47%
  • Health/personal care stores ↑ 9.7%
  • Clothing/accessories stores ↑ 5.9%
  • Sporting/hobby/music/book stores ↑ 1.79%
  • General merchandise stores ↑ 1.14%
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores ↓ 6.35%
  • Electronic/appliance stores ↑ 4.21%
  • Grocery and beverage stores ↑ 4.06%

SOURCE: National Retail Federation

Our readers, hospital gift shop managers agree! Last month we asked our readers, “How were your sales this 2023 holiday season compared to 2022?” GiftBeat had reported that, despite media reports on how well retailers fared this holiday season, their data shows sales decreased 50%. 

We’re happy to report that readers and members reported that sales were actually very good! Only a few reported low or breakeven sales. 👏🏼 Decreased sales? Not from this group of HGS retail masters! Source: Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group

We had a great December – Jennifer A.
We had about a 4% decrease. The first time in months that we didn’t improve over a month from the prior year. However, we had two snow days in which we were closed. January was back in line with normal monthly increases (15%) – T. N.
Great sales. Staff are our best customers, and it seemed they were buying anything that wasn’t nailed down. 😉 – VRS
We had a fabulous month! – Lori M.
Our sales were up! Very good month! – Nancy horn birthday 16767905 Vector Art at Vecteezy
We posted around a 6% increase – but purchased 20% more Christmas merchandise than last year – Lee P.
Sales were strong, our profits were a bit higher than 2022, but we believe our expenses were also, actually we know! We feel we stayed even, give or take. Better than outside businesses but not as good as we hoped for – Diana B.
Sales were up! – Angela L.
Went up for us – Pa Y.
Our gift shop sales were up 15% compared to 2022 – Crystal L.
It was very good for us as well – Marla D.
Our sales were good – just over what we did the previous year – Shauna M.
It was good for us – Darlene C.
Good month for us, too.😊 – Julie V.
Not at all…was a really good month for us! – Debby P.
Our sales were down 4.5% compared to December 22; however, overall our sales were up in 2023 compared to 2022 – D. F.
We had a fantastic December!!! – Andie H.


Punchkins bag charms: Your favorite new accessory!

Punchkins premium, collectible plushies are stuffed with attitude.

Our playful bag charms add a pop of fun to any backpack, bag, or purse. All our sassy accessories are designed to show off your individual style. Their sweet faces & punny punchlines make them a fan favorite!

Punchkins WholesalePunchkins.com2024 Catalog • 443-212-8670

The easiest way to open an online shop!

– Open for business 24/7 with an online and mobile shop
– 20+ years of trust from hundreds of leading hospitals
– We manage your online shop and orders for you
– Zero fees, simple set up
– Expand your product selection & increase revenue effortlessly!

Join our trusted network and revolutionize your shop’s reach!

More information email: 
More information link:    HospitalGiftShop

A sure way to generate impulse buys

Is your register increasing shops revenue? Add a few small pre-wrapped gifts to increase impulse buys.

It is the nature of consumers’ to shop impulsively. Under $20 impulse near your cashwrap is a great way to move overstock or upsell.

This may not work for every shop or product, but if any, it’s great for the holiday season.

How to make them really sell — leave one out for display and wrap the rest individually. Easy, grab-and-go buys! Customers will absolutely love a convenient pre-wrapped.

  • Candles, journals, candy, lip gloss or jewelry are ideal for both impulse buys and last-minute purchases.
  • Use low-cost wrapping like tissue paper and a simple ribbon. Keep it simple with neutral colors.
  • Leave one unwrapped and priced for display. Arrange the rest in an eye-catching countertop display.
  • Place near the cashwrap area where customers are already in purchasing mode.
  • There’s a fine line between an effective impulse area and a cluttered mess. Find that balance and don’t make your products compete for attention.

What makes a good impulse product? One that attracts the customer’s attention. If the customer is curious enough to pick it up, it’s almost as good as sold! Think about texture, color and purpose when choosing what items to feature in your impulse area.

Adequate stock is important, especially since impulse items are frequently small and you need to display them in a group.

🎯 For items that come in a display, remove a few to give the impression several have already sold.

Keep your stock in mind before deciding to pre-wrap gifts, too. It’s probably not worth the effort if you only have 3 or 4.

ncr pos point of sale system


i3 Verticals – NCR Point of Sale Solution

A “Volunteer Friendly” NCR Point of Sale solution
for hospital gift shops. Easy to learn! Easy to use!
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.


A. Gift market stipend and travel expenses?

What is the best way to justify the expense of attending a Gift Market? Is it possible to receive a stipend from a current vendor towards the cost of your trip? – Janis Farrington. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital Gift Shop/Trinity Health Systems. Melrose Park, IL

I ask permission of the Auxiliary, the monies saved by going to shows are well worth the price placed on the travel. – Tricia Rochman, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Carbondale, IL. 154 beds. 1/24/24

We budget for it each year. We are not allowed to accept travel, money or gifts from vendors. – Lynn Harrison, 1/23/24

We enter it into our budget every year. Even when we put a hold on travel at our hospital our COO still approved the gift shop for travel. – Linda Armstrong. 1/23/24

We are auxiliary run so they finance the expenses. – M. Metry. 1/18/24

We budget for Atlanta Mart. – Nancy Williams. 1/17/24

We go to market in Dallas once a year, and order for the whole year. The expense is shared between our Auxiliary and our Hospital. We try to bring back some great cash and carry items and staff are always excited to see what is new, which causes sales to be high the week or two following market. I am looking for ideas on how we can see some cost absorption from some of our vendors, even though we may be too small of a shop to bargain for this. – Kristi King, Ozark Health. 1/17/24

We also use the discounts and specials at market to justify expenses of the trip. Orders that are placed there are for the next 6-9 months. – Rosemary, Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 1/17/24

We use the discounts and specials we receive when writing at the show to justify the expense. The savings usually more than pays for it. We were told we were not allowed to have vendors help pay for travel due to it being a conflict of interest. Sometime the Gift Shows themselves offer assistance. – Karla Glanzman, Seattle Childrens Hospital. 360 beds. 1/17/24


♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

DIY shelving, fixture makeover: Before & After

You may have noticed, we are suckers for clever, creative displays. Here’s to Aimee Skaggs with Wooster Community Hospital Gift Shop for the win! 👏🏼

She transformed her shop’s dark wooded shelves by adding removable wallpaper on the back walls, Velcro Command strips, plus velcro on under lighting to brighten the space. She also used tension rods to hang baby clothes. Creativity and problem solving at its best! See more pictures in Aimee’s post.


♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

Product Pick: I Heart Guts

We love these award-winning plush organs and anatomy gifts by I Heart Guts! A selection of 47 different organ plushies make great post-op gifts, turning that struggle into a snuggle. Each adorable organ comes with a silly pun and a bit of info about the human body. Hospital staff love the cute colorful organ pins for some badge-reel bling. Best sellers include the uterus pin, heart pin and brain pin! Check out their hilarious organ socks, organ stickers, organ magnets, posterskidney slippers and more. We love this line for hospital gift shops. Sure to get patients, staff, and families laughing. Because life takes guts. Visit their wholesale page or on Faire.

Advice, inspiration, and all the feel-goods!

Easter Sunday
Admin Professionals Day
Nurses Day
Mother’s Day
Memorial Day
Father’s Day
Graduation Season

Spring holidays are just around the corner. Start planning now to get a jump on sales!

Eastern Long Island Hospital Auxiliary donates $572,000

The Eastern Long Island Hospital Auxiliary, a 100-member volunteer group that fundraises for Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, raised a record-breaking $572,000 in 2023. The donation is part of the Auxiliary’s total contribution of more than $2,457,000 in gifts over the last five years.

“I am grateful and proud that the ELIH Auxiliary continues to support Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital,” said Paul J. Connor, Chief Administrative Officer of SBELIH. “All the good they do is all for the hospital and our community.”

The ELIH Auxiliary raises funds to support SBELIH throughout the year with events such as the Dream Green Extravaganza, a Car/Cash Giveaway, Ladies Day on the Links, Italian Night Dinner, and more. The Auxiliary also operates the ELIH Auxiliary Opportunity Shop, a thrift shop located at 321 Main Street in Greenport Village, and the hospital’s gift shop. The Auxiliary has raised over $20 million since its inception in 1905.

Past donations have benefited the hospital through vital new equipment such as a new ventilator, med/surg bed upgrades, and replacement of furniture in staff and doctors’ lounges. Donations also support operational costs directly impacting the programs and services SBELIH offers patients.

“The ELIH Auxiliary is thrilled to continue to support Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital,” said Auxiliary President Helene V. Fall. “Our volunteers love giving back to the hospital, which is such an important part of the North Fork community.”

SOURCE: James Lane Post  

ncr pos point of sale system


i3 Verticals – NCR Point of Sale Solution

A “Volunteer Friendly” NCR Point of Sale solution
for hospital gift shops. Easy to learn! Easy to use!
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.


Take your displays to new heights, literally!

Ceiling-mounted vertical displays like swings are a terrific way to create interest in your shop. Not just for window displays, either.

Fill a low-traffic, dead zone or maximize space over a center-aisle table.

Swings create a playful, fun display for kids and baby items.

Suspend trays over a display table. Fill with plush, clothing, or pillows.

Quickcharge POS announces acquisition by Transact Campus

Transact Campus, Inc. announced the acquisition of Quickcharge POS from M.M. Hayes Company in their October 3, 2023 press release. Operating as a division of MM Hayes, Quickcharge offers cashless payments and transactions via kiosk, POS and mobile ordering to more than 1,100 client locations across healthcare, business and industry, education, and government.

Transact Campus, Inc. provides payment, campus ID and commerce solutions in higher education, with more than 1,850 client institutions.


Mar 1 – World Candle Day 🕯
Mar 1 – Employee Appr Day
Mar 10 – Daylight Saving (Start)
Mar 17 – St. Patrick’s Day ☘️
Mar 10 – First Day of Ramadan
Mar 30 – Doctor’s Day 🩺
Mar 31 – Easter Sunday 🐰
Apr 1 – April Fools’ Day 🥸
Apr 7 – World Health Day
Apr 15 – Tax Day
Apr 22 – Earth Day 🌎
Apr 22 – Passover Starts
Apr 24 – Admin Prof Day
May 5 – Cinco de Mayo
May 6 – Nurses Day 🩺
May 4 – Kentucky Derby 🐎
May 12 – Mother’s Day
May 27 – Memorial Day 🇺🇸
Graduation Season Begins 🎓

When inventory actually decreases margins

We’re always talking about the importance of moving inventory. Your stockroom door should go only one way, out. Excess stock is now cited as a ‘major concern’ for up to 47% of retailers, following the supply chain shortage.

What’s the big deal?

Studies show the annual cost of holding excess inventory is around 30%.

Top 5 sectors hit hardest
by post-holiday excess stock
1. Baby & toddler (100%)
2. Homewares (62%)
3. Luxury goods (55%)
4. Fashion & footwear (52%)
5. Sports, leisure, hobbies (50%)
Inventory Planner, 2023

It’s hard for retailers to survive right now, let alone be profitable. A previous track record of growth or high profits do not make merchants immune from the risks of failure and holding excess inventory.

British furniture brand MADE went public in 2021 with a valuation of £775 million. They were out of business in less than a year. The reason? Getting caught with massive inventory at just the wrong time.

Purchasing based on ‘instinct’ or inaccurate data will invariably lead to poor decision making, expensive overheads and poor cash flow.

Old inventory utilizes working capital to store that unnecessary stock.

  • The costs to acquire, travel, freight, unpack, price, display are not being recouped. They are sitting in the stockeroom.
  • Old inventory occupies shelf space needed for new inventory that actually sells.
  • Merchandise goes out of style, no longer trends, or demand stops (e.g., facemasks). If you’re overrun and tied up with unpopular inventory, you’re less able to respond to market shifts.
  • Tying up your budget in inventory means there’s less available for other line items like bills, salaries, or new products.

Successfully balancing inventory comes up a lot in our newsletter. It’s one of the most essential practices in retail. Yes, it’s that critical. 

What can you do?

Take a deep dive into your data. Look at trends over the last twelve months and identify which products will be a struggle to shift. Then look at ways to move specific stock as quickly as possible.


Combine fast-moving items with slow-moving ones in discounted bundles. Use the excess items as free gifts for medical staff customers or when customers spend a certain amount. Offer BOGO or even 3-for-1 bundles.

FLASH SALES …at prices that are too good to be true.

Flash sales are a tried-and-tested way to shift excess stock fast – and still bring in some (albeit limited) revenue. The first step is to identify all slow-moving items. Then decide on your discounting strategy. It can work well to take a staggered approach over a number of weeks (for instance, offering 25% in week one, 50% in week two, 75% in week three).

It should be clear how integral inventory is to cash flow. High inventory usually equates to lower gross margin.


Implementing a Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory system can be another effective way to avoid inventory overstocks. A JIT inventory system is a lean approach in which you order inventory as it is needed. It requires careful planning, close monitoring, skilled buyers, a clear understanding of your shop’s needs and customer demand and, finally, a strong relationships with suppliers for a reliable delivery schedule. You’ll need to also adjust orders as needed. But, they can also increase the risk of stockouts. To mitigate this risk, establish clear communication channels with suppliers and monitor inventory levels closely.


Work with reliable fulfillment partners and brands to time your inventory correctly, avoiding both delays or surplus. Follow time-based planning with built-in buffers for supply chain issues.


For you online ecommerce stores, revamp your product descriptions or add in some extra personalized content. Especially in categories like fashion and homeware where purchases are more emotive.


Regular inventory audits help identify discrepancies between physical inventory levels and recorded inventory. This can identify potential issues, such as overstocks, understocks, or inventory shrinkage due to theft or other factors. Get the guide How to Conduct a Physical Inventory

Gain additional insight from other shop managers in How to move out and reduce old inventory?


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. 


National, regional, and local shows.

Includes direct links to every show.

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

  • Why and how to a hire store designer
  • Q. Gift market stipend and travel expenses?
  • Free instructional videos on display design
  • Create an online store in 2024!
  • Atlanta Market Snapshot finalists
  • A few creative ideas to increase sales
  • Winter 2024 Dallas Market: Editor’s Pick
  • Retail sales grew in 2023 holiday season
  • Gift Market Calendar


Happening now in the Hospital Gift Shops Facebook group

♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡


Does anyone have a recommendation for good quality badge pulls, that they don’t receive a lot of returns from defects? – Julie V. 12/11/23

Outside The Box. We only buy the ones that are not interchangeable. Great selection, Glitterific collection are best sellers for us. – Anne S

We use the same brands, but offer interchangeables. – Lori H

Outside the Box!!! Selection, interchangeable, pricing. Glitter badges are best sellers and staff loves all styles. – Terri D

I second this! They have a great heavy-duty interchangeable reels. I started with a small swappable selection and have now tripled the offerings. They have been so popular! Easy to reorder on their wholesale site which I always appreciate. – Holly V

Outside The Box, interchangeable and a small selection of fixed badges. – Andrea M

Outside The Box, we sell the interchangeable and carry the heavy duty reels. – Greg H

Wholeheartedly agree. We sell every sort from Outside the Box. Donna Bowden is the owner and she is awesome to work with. We have even had her design several badge buttons for us if she didn’t carry a particular design that we have had requests for in the past. – Angela Q

Outside the Box. We can’t keep the Sparkle and Shine displayer filled! – Katy S

Outside the Box. We sell the acrylic interchangeable badges. Our customers love to change out and buy seasonal badges. We buy the heavy duty reels. Also, sell the jelly fixed badges. – Lynne H

I also use Bonitas. A little pricier than Outside The Box, but good quality. – Brenda S

SOURCE: Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group

♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

Q. Where is everyone getting their candles these days? We have been carrying Village Candles for several years. They sell okay but I am wondering what other companies you may sell. Freight is just so high on candles and I am considering changing but wanted input from others. We are a 199 bed community hospital in rural North Carolina. There are few shopping options in our town other than Walmart. – Angela Q. 10/16/23

  • We sell Tyler Candles and the Tyler wash. It was a big investment but has been sooo with it!! – Jenni D
  • Here are a handful of candle brands that we either currently carry or have in the past. Some of these are on the higher price range of the category, but are well known and sell themselves. Capri Blue, Voluspa, Broken Top Co, Illume, Candelfy, Mixture, Archipelago, Paddywax, LAFCO. Hope this helps! – Jordan A
  • Swan Creek has always been our favorite! – Lori H
  • The Women’s Shoppe at Kennestone Hospital in Matietta sells the Bridgewater brand of candles and the fragrance Sweet Grace has been a big seller for us for the past several years. We also sell Votivo brand and the fragrances Red Current and Icy Blue Pine are big sellers in the Fall and Winter as well. Hope this helps. – Lynne H
  • Swan Creek Candle Co.Jenny T
  • We just got these in and everyone loves them! Susan We did the prepack of 36! Six of each scent! Retail around $30! Crossroads Family of Companies Heather P
  • Thompson Candle CompanyBrian Ali M
  • Swan Creek has done great for us! – Lanie R
  • Crossroads CandlesJaci G
  • Swan Creek & Candleberry (offers several free freight events throughout the year.) – Jen M
  • Swan Creek and Candleberry are our best sellers! – Dawn S
  • Swan Creek out of Ohio. Great quality vintage looking glass containers and the prices are fantastic for the quality. – Anne S
  • We just brought Woodwick back this fall. They used to be huge sellers for us years ago, before Yankee Candle bought them and nearly destroyed the brand. They were selling to discounters, etc., but my rep is telling me they are pulling back from that and now focusing on the gift shop market again. Enesco is representing them. So, I took a chance. Hope I don’t regret it! We also do well with Swan Creek, Candle Cottage Duo candles. We have very price-conscious customers who will buy online in a heartbeat, so we have to keep our selection fresh and new to keep their interest. – Melinda S

SOURCE: Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group

Want to advertise? Click here.

© Cindy Jones Associates, 2022. 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.

Follow all comments
Notify me of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedback
View all comments