Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | January 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

JANUARY 15, 2024

Painted Tree Boutiques, Snellville, GA

Why and how to a hire store designer

You’ve finally convinced your admins that the shop is ready for a redesign. Or maybe your shop’s location is moving. Where do you begin and what do you need to know. You have to consider innumerable things like your window display, store layout, signage, and visual merchandising. If given the budget, suggest bringing in a professional to create a design that is guaranteed to optimize sales.

What is a store designer? 

A retail store designer creates and improves the image of a store. Some store designers may work on the structural design of a retail store or building, but interior store design is what we’re focusing on in this article. This involves designing the store layout, color scheme, window displays, visual merchandising, and more. 

Why hire a store designer? 

Save Money | Think of all the costly mistakes you might make if the design doesn’t drive sales. You can’t take that wall down or just move the cash counter. An experienced store designer can help avoid expensive errors in judgment.

Budgeting and Planning | A store designer can help create a budget, research products and prices, comply with regulatory matters, and create timelines.

Vendor Network | Store designers have solid relationships with select vendors and can obtain discounts and access resources that might not otherwise be available.

Coherence | Store designers have a trained eye and are excellent visual storytellers. They’ll pay close attention to how all the minor details come together. They create the complete customer experience.

How to find a (good) store designer

Ask acquaintances in the industry, ask other retailers who designed their store and the cost, network online (e.g., the Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group), search online for “retail store designers”, checkout interior design communities like American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Houzz, or network at market and gift shows.

What does a store designer do?
A retail store designer is responsible for creating and designing store layouts, displays, and other visual elements within a retail space. They ensure that the store is visually appealing, organized, and functional for customers. Store designers also create branding elements and signage, and may even be involved in creating store promotions.

What are the key elements in the design of stores?
A retail store design should inspire customers to purchase products, provide an enjoyable shopping experience, and encourage customers to return. Consider these elements in your store design:

  • Store layout and traffic flow
  • Product displays
  • Visual merchandising
  • Lighting design
  • Color and texture
  • Branding and style
  • Checkout placement

How do you design a store interior?

Designing for an optimized, revenue-driven retail experience creates a customer-focused shopping experience through the strategic use of physical space, visual merchandising, product display, and other elements. This includes creating an inviting atmosphere, optimizing the store layout, creating engaging visuals, and providing a seamless customer journey.

SOURCE: Shopify

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.

Q. Gift market stipend and travel expenses?

Q. 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

Do you justify gift market travel expenses? Vendor stipends?
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♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

Free instructional videos on display design

Michelle Sherrier is a seasoned merchandiser and buyer in the gift and apparel space. Sharrier is sharing her expertise through free online instructional videos. She films in real stores with real merchandise, walking viewers through her process in real-time as she builds displays.

Michelle has spent 43 years in retail, from Fred Segal to Anthropologie after starting her own brand, MC Design Collaboration. Check out her interview on GiftShopMag here where she answers questions like what are the biggest mistakes retailers make in displays, merchandising tips and hints.

MC Design Academy

Advice, inspiration, and all the feel-goods!

Create an online store in 2024!

Have you been thinking of starting an online e-commerce store for your shop?  The holiday’s are over and you survived. In fact, you thrived!

Now is the time to tackle your next goal: launching an online store. Why? Online spending continues to increase at a faster pace than in-store.

Here’s a collection of resources from the Newsletter Archive and other publications.

Four-Part Series: How to Create an Online Store

Creating an Online Store | Part 1: Value, considerations, consumer demand. 2021

Creating an Online Store | Part 2: Costs, getting started, software selection and integrations. 2021

Creating an Online Store | Part 3: Design, content, images, policies. 2021

Creating an Online Store | Part 4: Getting help, outsourcing, resources. 2021

Review of the online store at Victoria’s Gift Shop. 2023

Payroll deduction for online stores. 2022

Q. Does your online store have payroll deduction? 2022

ARBA POS releases fully integrated online store 2022

Guelph General Hospital gift shop launches online store 2021

Overcome common problems launching a hospital gift store website 2019

How to create, setup, and launch a profitable online store, BigCommerce 

How to build a Shopify store from scratch (Video)

Shopify setup checklist

How to start an online store with Shopify: Step-by-Step Guide by Shopify

🎯 Biggest challenges expressed during interviews with shop managers: 1) payroll deduction and 2) coordinating inventory across online and in-store purchases.

Post your questions about starting and managing e-commerce stores in the Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group. 

🪴 🌼 🪴

Atlanta Market Snapshot finalists

Atlanta Market names the Winter 2024 ‘Market Snapshot’ finalists. Go online to vote and also learn what’s trending. Winners to be announced on the opening day of Atlanta Market.

Here are a few of our favorites! 

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 few creative ideas to increase sales

We grabbed a few of the better ideas found in a recent article on increasing sales from Smart Retailer. Click below to read the full article. Here are the Cliff Notes:


Expanded social media presence by going live regularly with a What’s New Wednesday that features new arrivals in store.

Friday Reads segment focuses on great books to check out over the summer for traveling, etc.

When writing posts, be your authentic selves and just create community and find people.

Share the stories behind the products, giving personal stories or testimonials about the products, messaging or sentiments on the selection that is meaningful,

Engage and build the relationships with customers through social media so they trust and like shopping with you.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see immediate results on growing an audience, but just keep showing up. Consistency is key.


Keep an eye on current television shows for what’s being shown to help guide buying decisions

Check out sites on Facebook, such as Better Homes & Gardens, to get an idea of what colors, patterns, and decorating styles designers are choosing.

Consider purchasing certain items from Amazon as the prices might be comparable to wholesale costs. This approach is advantageous if space and capital constraints prevent buying in quantities that would lower per-item costs enough to compete with Amazon.

SOURCE: Smart Retailer


Feb 11 – Super Bowl Sunday
Feb 13 – Mardi Gras/Paczki Day
Feb 14 – Valentine’s Day 💘
Feb 14 – Ash Wednesday
Mar 1 – World Candle Day
Mar 1 – Employee Appreciation 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 Fool’s Day
Apr 7 – World Health Day
Apr 15 – Tax Day
Apr 22 – Earth Day 🌎
Apr 22 – Passover Starts
Apr 24 – Admin Prof Day

Winter 2024 Dallas Market: Editor’s Pick

See all the editor’s pick from the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market by the Editors of Gift Shop Plus. Early reports are that show attendance is up 17% compared with last year. See the full list of 26 picks.


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. 

Retail sales grew in 2023 holiday season

During this holiday season, U.S. retail sales, excluding automotive, saw a year-over-year increase of 3.1%, as per initial findings from Mastercard SpendingPulse. This data covers both in-store and online retail sales from November 1 2023 to December 24 2023, encompassing all payment methods and is not adjusted for inflation.

Online retail sales increased 6.3% in 2023 while in-store sales were up 2.2%. Spending online is increasing at a faster pace than in-store but shopping in-store remains a considerably larger portion of total retail spending.

Apparel was one of the top categories for shoppers this season, up 2.4% year over year.

Trade Show Calendar by Gift Shop Plus

Local, regional, international shows.

Direct links to each show.

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

  • Salary data | Gift Shop Manager
  • UPMC revitalize gift shops for the future
  • Job Openings
  • Facebook Group for Hospital Gift Shops
  • Help! I need to move merchandise fast!
  • Q. Vendor for good quality badge reels?
  • Top retail trends for 2024
  • Just because it’s the busiest time of year…
  • Gift Market Calendar


Great discussions are happening now! Join the new Facebook group Hospital Gift Shops. Cheers!

♡ 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

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