Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | July 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

JULY 15, 2023

Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

Custom apparel + accessories still trending high

Retailers are reporting that the demand for personalization and customization soared post 2020.


The punniest new plush gifts!

Punchkins are a fun new brand of premium collectible plush stuffed with personality!
– Adorably designed. Highly relatable.
– Unique embroidered expressions: Sweet, salty, naughty or nice
– Over 50 punchy styles
– FREE SHIPPING on your opening order!

From cute and cuddly to smart and sassy, Punchkins make the perfect gift. Healthcare professionals, patients, and their families will love Punchkins! 2023 All New Styles

Punchkins WholesalePunchkins.comSpring 2023 Catalog • 443-212-8670

Q. Our payroll deduction was discontinued. Now what?

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

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

Has your payroll deduction ever been discontinued and how do we rebound?
Enter your comment belowx

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

Comment here or click the gray comment circle, left of screen, to enter it below.

Thank you!

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

Changing seasons. How to move from one time of the year to another.

by Amy Meadows, Smart Retailer / Jul 2023

That old saying about how Christmas is more than just one day a year rings especially true in retail. Placing orders, planning floor moves, and managing merchandising strate­gies all begin months in advance.

Ideally, your holiday display plans should begin now, as you lay the groundwork for fall. With a few shrewd choices here and there, you can install a holiday “base” as you decorate for fall. Before you can say “pumpkin spice,” you will have made headway into the fourth quarter.

If you have that figured out, congrats! But perhaps you are exhausted once peak season is over. Is there a way to make a smooth transition to spring without excessive effort?

Fall becomes holiday
Let’s look at foundational fall décor. With a tweak here and some additional details there, it can easily convert to Christmas without recreating the entire install.

For a current take on trends in holiday décor, I turned to one of my go-to resources, Melrose International. In addition to consis­tently updating their assortment and trend forecasts, Ken Fetgatter leads the design team responsible for setting up all the showrooms (no small undertaking).

He shared how protea, twigs, and cinnamon-hued glass orna­ments can be elegant, unique additions to the traditional holiday mix. I recommend getting a head start with fall trim that features branches (manzanita is a personal favorite) and protea (dried, preserved, or silk). Once added to evergreen trees, wreaths, and sprays, this sub­dued palette of pale pinks, cream, and gold looks gorgeous. Bring in the greenery and incorporate the décor combination already in place. Save time and energy, one wreath at a time!

Another trend concept for this transitional approach is pine cones! Pine cones are the perfect staple for both fall and holiday, blending well with other dried foliage or winter greenery.

Perhaps you want to consider a nontraditional direction. At the STYLEMAX spring show, I enjoyed simple but effective muslin swag, embellished with spring blooms along the top edge. It had the slightly BoHo vibe reflected in the clothing line and was the ideal size and weight for easy shipping and installation. Bonus: it is easy to “Christmas-ize.”

Eliminating rust and browns from a fall garland provides a more emphatic combination of dark greens and gold. I highly recommend following @pastesfcollage for creative and innovative products.

In the case of moss pan­els and boxwood squares, the simple addition of gold, silver, or red will move the season forward with minimum effort and expense.

Maybe you would prefer to avoid red and green — or variations of them — and keep a completely neutral palette with colors such as white, cream, tan, and honey. Again, branches, dried foliage, and the fail-proof birch log work for fall, the holiday season, and occasionally spring.

Moving into spring
In the opposite direction, the arrival of spring means a fresh start, brave blooms, and sunnier skies. Whereas holiday displays are typically the opposite of “less is more,” spring is usually some­what scaled down. So, how can you create an impressive, full-scale wintery scheme and still get a head start on the first quarter?

Keep it light and bright. This is where birch logs earn their badge of excellence. With its pale, silvery hue, birch moves effort­lessly from winter to spring. Use bright pops of green, lavender, and rose — no glitter, no gold. If you used cream or white as your Christmas season back­drop, you are in good shape.

Here is the bottom line. As retailers, you have incredibly busy schedules and lengthy to-do lists. Plan and look for ways to lighten the load. Assessing the “recipe” or elements used in your seasonal décor can help identify strategies and shortcuts. The board Christmas with a Twist on Pinterest @windowsmatter is a resource for innovative ideas, nontraditional combina­tions, and materials.

Amy is a well-known designer and visual-merchandise consultant. She was the head of Window Display for Marshall Field’s and Macy’s in Chicago for 25 years. She is the go-to guru for department stores and top-of-the-line organizations. Meadows is the founder of Windows Matter.

SOURCE: Smart Retailer July 2023.
Published with permission.

2023 Retailer Excellence Awards

Gifts & Decorative Accessories / Jun 2023

Gifts & Decorative Accessories announced the winners of its 72nd annual Retailer Excellence Awards. Let’s look at a few of them for some great ideas, tips and best practices.

But first, congratulations to Stanford Health Care Gift Shop for being a finalist in the Store Design/Redesign category! They were last year’s winners in the Specialty Store category. The shop was moved to the front of the hospital for greater visibility and completely redesigned to include 270-degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows and other warmer and welcoming design elements.

Winner, Social Media & Online Initiatives: White Arrows Home, Minocqua, Wisconsin

Recognized for effective use of TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest channels, as well as its podcast, The Cabin Cast, to extend its welcoming in-store experience to its online audience. The shop uses terrific product photography shot by the team.

White Arrows Home uses Facebook Shop to add another sales channel.

Winner, Visual Merchandising: Elements at Funky Junk Boutique, Seville, Ohio

This shop has such pretty displays that the owner is often asked to stage model homes and other retail stores. Their engaging displays include a “man’s land” vignette with candles, men’s personal care and leather rock glasses displayed on a rustic bookshelf with a wooden backdrop. Another area of the store features a wall of greenery behind baby gifts.

Winner, Store Events: Caroline and Company, Lafayette, Louisiana

In a time when drawing customers into a physical store can prove difficult, Caroline and Company is exceeding expectations. The Lafayette, LA, store frequently hosts a variety of events to draw in new and returning customers. Owner Charlotte Cryer books everything from food and drink tastings to vendor trunk shows to holiday photos and more. There is even the chance for customers to get their products personalized with a hot stamp on the sales floor during Jon Hart events.

Caroline and Company events page on Facebook. Click to visit.

SOURCE: Gifts & Dec


…fill with fun off-season sales!
Aug 3 – Ntn’l Watermelon Day 🍉
Aug 8 – Intn’l Cat Day 🐈‍⬛
Aug 9 – Book Lovers Day
Aug 15 – Ntn’l Relaxation Day 🛀🏽
Aug 21 – Senior Citizens Day
Back-to-School Season 🏫
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 🎃

Eight toy trends for 2023 🧸

The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) spoke with members at their Marketplace & Academy event to discover the top trends in the industry.

  • Sloths: Although known for their slow-moving nature, sloths are quickly growing in popularity and showing up in everything from backpacks to games to soft plush.
  • Low-tech toys: Flying toys, lots of lights, and glowing toys are seeing a push in the market.
  • Table games: Small versions of foosball and table-top volleyball, along with variations of ping pong, prove that you don’t need a lot of dedicated play space to have fun.
  • Toy adjacent products: New fidget toys and new textures are coming on the scene, with an increased emphasis on anxiety and stress relief across all ages.
  • Fashion kits for tweens: Spa kits, hair accessories, manicures, color-changing purses, and other fashion-related items are drawing plenty of attention from the pre-teen demographic.
  • Art and creativity: New craft kits and blank canvas toys are encouraging kids to embrace their creative sides.
  • Inclusion and diversity: There is a noticeable trend towards inclusion and diversity in multiple play patterns, including neutral colors, added ethnicities in dolls, and products that directly address inclusion.
  • Social-emotional learning: Toys such as blocks, dolls, and games are evolving to help kids better recognize and express their emotions, facilitating their overall social-emotional development.

You can also check out the 2023 ASTRA Play Awards!

Easily view them all in the 2023 Play Awards Lookbook

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.


Product Pick: Plush Organ & Anatomy Gifts by 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 will 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.

💮 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. Is your shop large enough to hit sales targets?

Last month, Wendi Vela, Shop Manager at UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA asked:

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).

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.

THANK YOU! We want to thank everyone who responded. Your input helps this community grow and succed.

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

Q. 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

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

What vendor do you recommend for vinyl die cut stickers?
Enter your comment belowx

ISO sticker vendor! 🔎

Comment here or enter it at the bottom of the newsletter.

Sharing is caring!

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. 

Free cash wrap/checkout counter resources

Is your shop contemplating an update to your cash wrap and checkout counters? Here is a list of resources for best practices and ideas.

Gift shop cited for “combustible” candles 😮

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!

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

  • You Need Heart! ♥️ ♥️
  • Q. Is your shop large enough to generate desired sales?
  • Silver Cross Gift Shop on NBC News
  • The top retail trends in 2023
  • Product Pick: Plush Organ & Anatomy Gifts
  • Volunteer auxiliaries dissolve, shops close
  • A. Do you charge for shopping bags?
  • Gift shop cited for “combustible” candles
  • Auxiliary donates $1.5 million
  • Gift shop grand reopening
  • Gift Market Calendar


Cue Cards for My Happier Mind

Cue Cards for My Happier Mind is a gorgeous deck of 71 tips for better mental health.

A perfect gift for anyone needing a mood boost, Cue Cards are full of “substance, sass, and humor.”

User friendly, low-key…they feel like reassuring hugs, filled with love.

50% discount! Free shipping! • 415-317-0609 •


LumiPets Nightlights

The most LOVED nightlight on the market!
LumiPets® are the most technologically innovative kid’s companion, and educational night light offered on the market today.

– All day play
– Color changing modes
– Learn colors
– Promote healthy sleep routines

Keep the monsters away with LumiPets, the color changing nighttime companion.



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

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.


In 2020 we moved the newsletter online and incorporated a comment/discussion feature. The goal was to create a ‘community’ where readers could “ask questions, bounce ideas and just overall support from other managers”. We made it so readers could post pics, reply to specific comments, include links, get notified when someone replies to your comment, and so on.

At this time, we also started building a dedicated message board, similar to Quora or Reddit. Even going as far as buying a domain (see below). Ultimately, we felt it would not get enough use or ads to cover the costs ($1200/year). A paid membership model did not seem feasible either.

We considered a Facebook Group but there were limitations. It would exclude retailers who don’t use Facebook, the search function is terrible, can’t navigate or search embedded images and threads, no archive options. We also wanted a platform that did not require a login and was incredibly simple. Nonetheless, we’d love to revisit this if readers indicate enough interest. Please let us know here or comment below.

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.

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