Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | May 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.

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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!

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MAY 15, 2024

Mercy Hospital, St. Louis. MO

Friend or foe: External gift shop management company

Let’s tackle a controversial topic: gift shop management companies. Several of these companies like Hydra Health, CloverKey, and Lori’s are actively running hospital gift shops across the country. We’ve heard readers respond to them saying, “They are not good and take our jobs.” We’ve also heard, “They were good and saved our gift shop from closing.” Sometimes, both situations can be true.

In March, we shared an article from Retail TouchPoints (Feb 2024) about Hydra Health and their ‘acquisition’ of the shops at Geisinger Henry Cancer Center in Wilkes-Barre and Penn Hospital in Philadelphia. If you missed it, here’s the article. The article has stirred up discussion around its content and the nature of said companies, rightly so.

Here’s one valuable perspective from a manager at an Albuquerque shop:

“I just finished reading the article about Hydra Health and have to say I found it rather offensive. The article made several derogatory and quite frankly incorrect remarks about Hospital Gift Shops. I felt compelled to respond. At my hospital, the Gift Shops employ five full-time employees as well as a manager and assistant manager. We are all hospital employees. Our department falls under the division of support services, acknowledging the significant contribution we make to the staff, patients and visitors’ satisfaction. Not ‘insignificant”. My hospital is expanding with an additional 900,000 sf building and we are planning a beautiful new 1200 sf Gift Shop located in the center of the 1st floor lobby. Hardly an “afterthought”. Not sure where the author has visited a hospital Gift Shop but I have never been in one that didn’t carry “what people are actually looking for”. – Judi Stallings, UNM Hospital Gift Shop, Albuquerque, NM. 650 beds. 3/29/24

We appreciate this valuable comment. It’s always important to avoid generalizations as they can be misleading. For example, this part is far from the truth, “In typical gift shops, you see a lot of things behind glass display cases, but what people are usually looking for is some deodorant or even a hairbrush…” Shop managers strive every day to create a shopping experience that brings value to both staff, patients, and loved ones. The gift shop is often referred to as the hospital’s ‘family room’ providing invaluable tangible and intangible contributions to the medical community and patrons.

To be fair though, some hospital shops are indeed struggling for various reasons. So, what can we learn here? The article offers several insights to learn from, one being Hydra Health’s retail model. It also highlights that companies like HydraHealth, CloverKey, and Lori’s are poised to step in and manage shop operations, which can have both positive and negative consequences. Every situation is different.

We would like to hear from you on this. Are there positive outcomes where a shop was otherwise ‘saved’? Keep in mind, there are many variables at play in every situation. You can also comment privately on the Hospital Gift Shops Facebook Group

In case you’re wondering, why would we share this seemingly unsavory article? We always strive to present balanced content. Our goal is to bring you every aspect of HGS retailing, regardless of the angle. Knowledge is power, after all.

People like to buy from people they feel they know. You and your team are a huge part of your shop’s story, so leverage that asset. Put your best face forward out in your hospital or medical center. 

Cindy Jones, Editor

Inspiring props for Spring/Summer displays

Inflatable pool tubes and life preservers are lightweight and easy to suspend. It’s hard to make out in the image but this display has a series of banners hanging with affixed life preservers. They are decorated with rope and merchandise – hats, swimsuits, flowers, sunglasses, flipflops and small clutches. You can spray-paint them or use various colors of electrical and duct tape. Ropes add a nautical touch and provide a means to attach products and accessories to the props.

summer display.jpeg

Nothing says Spring more than umbrellas. Use a grouping like this display for a clever backdrop, or add a few to a table-top display. They can also be hung from the ceiling and filled with light-weight product to act as a shelf.

summer displays.jpg

By the way, we have no idea why this mannequin is naked! 😝

Pinch Me Therapy Dough

Hospitals can be stressful, so we’re always looking for products that ‘speak to’ our special customer base. GiftShopMag had a recent article on the maker of Pinch Me Therapy Dough, Nancy Rothner.

Pinch Me Dough is a scented, pliable compound designed to reduce stress. It’s a pliable, squishy dough compound that comes in a variety of scents and colors designed to evoke pleasant, calming emotions. Because people are drawn to different smells based on their life experiences and personal preferences, the company offers dozens of scents.

All ingredients have been tested and are safe and non-toxic, with the exception of a wheat component but the owner reports it doesn’t cause a reaction for gluten intolerant consumers. All products are made in-house at Pinch Me’s Delaware-based facility. 

They also sell Therapy Lockets, Therapy Bracelets and Pillow Sprays.

SOURCE: GiftShopMag

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 great event idea: Progressive Sale Day

Progressive Sale Days in are a promotional strategy where the percentage discount offered on products increases incrementally throughout the day, vice versa depending on your goals. This approach is designed to create a sense of urgency and excitement among shoppers, encouraging them to make purchases at various times during the sale period. Here are the key elements of Progressive Sale Days:

  1. Time-Based Discounts: The central feature of Progressive Sale Days is that discounts increase as the day progresses. For example, early in the day, a store might offer a 10% discount, which could rise to 20% in the afternoon and 30% or more in the evening. The exact increments and timing can vary based on the retailer’s strategy. Less increments are sometimes more manageable and help to run the event more smoothly.
  2. Customer Engagement: Varying discounts over the course of the day keeps customers engaged and interested. Shoppers may visit multiple times or monitor the sale closely to take advantage of the best deals, leading to increased traffic and potential sales.
  3. Inventory Management: Progressive Sale Days can help move slower-selling items, while higher discounts later in the day can clear out remaining stock.
  4. Marketing and Promotion: Effective communication is crucial for Progressive Sale Days. Use crystal clear language on your advertising channels such as social media, email newsletters, in-store signage, and their websites. This ensures customers are aware of the changing discounts and can plan their shopping accordingly.
  5. Psychological Impact: The structure of Progressive Sale Days leverage the concepts of scarcity and urgency. As discounts become more significant, the fear of missing out (FOMO) can drive customers to make purchases before the best deals are gone.
  6. Customer Experience: To maximize your Progressive Sale Days, provide clear information about discount timings, and maintaining smooth checkout processes. Make sure your staff are sufficiently informed, as well.

Night Shift Staff

Hold a Progressive Sale in reverse for staff on those long overnight shifts. They will appreciate the gesture and late hours.

Progressive Quantity Sale

Another type of progressive sale increases the discount according to total items sold or by count on one item. This is particularly effective to clear out seasonal merchandise or slow selling items. An example is 30% off the first items up to 50% off 3 or more items.

SOURCE: RetailDetails

Volunteer appreciation: Surprise celebration of recognition

When Phyllis Robeson and Mary Ann Luedtke arrived at OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center on Wednesday morning, both thought they were attending a ceremony aimed at recognizing the Urbana hospital’s volunteer manager.

Little did the two know, staff had gathered with a cake and plaque dedicating the hospital’s gift shop in their name to honor the combined 40,000 hours of volunteer service they had provided to the facility over the course of approximately 50 years.

“That in itself is a gift to this hospital, the patients we serve, our visitors and our partners,” said Cindy Magsamen, OSF’s major gifts officer, while addressing Robeson and Luedtke after the reveal. “Are you surprised?”

Luedtke estimated she started volunteering at the hospital in 1963, when it was still known as Mercy Hospital and before it merged with Burnham Hospital, because she always had a “soft place in her heart” for the place she gave birth to two of her children.

Similarly, Robeson estimated she started volunteering at Burnham hospital in 1970 as she had always been fascinated with the medical field but gained an affinity for the center after she spent three and a half months there following the birth of her son.

At that time, not everyone could enter her room, so Robeson appreciated the volunteers who visited her while in recovery. That experience led her to volunteer to visit patients in kind; Luedtke recalled that when she first started volunteering, she brought mothers the developed film-photos nurses had taken of their newborns.

Eventually, the two became the principal runners of the hospital’s gift shop. They organized displays, ran the register, traveled to Chicago to acquire inventory — ultimately fundraising for new ambulances and welcoming those who needed someone to talk to. “We served as a sounding board for people that had someone in the hospital they were visiting,” Robeson said. “They would come in and we would just be people they felt they could comfortably talk to and sort of help them, relieve them. So, it was more than just selling items.”


Linda Tauber-Olson, the hospital’s volunteer manager, estimated the hospital has more than 100 volunteers who improve the patient experience in different ways. But Tauber-Olson said you don’t often encounter volunteers like Robeson and Luedtke, who each gave more than 20,000 hours to the hospital. She added that the two have gone on to train actual hospital employees like herself.

“I didn’t know anything about retail, so it was from Mary Ann and Phyllis that I learned how to run that gift shop,” Tauber-Olson said. “They actually ran it, I did what they told me to do.”

When asked where the dedication comes from, Luedtke simply said she was “a perpetual volunteer,” starting out first as a Girl Scout leader before she became the president of her Parent Teachers Association. It was something she enjoyed.

“It’s just something ingrained in you, you want to help,” Luedtke said. “I never felt it was a chore.”

SOURCE: The News-Gazette

Advice, inspiration, and all the feel-goods!

Q. ISO software for creating SOP manuals?

Q. Wondering if anyone knows of a cloud-based software (preferably free or minimal cost) for creating a store SOP manual. Looking for one that allows for workflows, spreadsheets, links and other documents to be shared and edited without having to manage multiple versions, edits, etc. We have a Word SOP manual that we keep on our shared drive, but each time a change is made, several pages have to be edited and updated which because a challenge when trying to manage the different versions of each document. Any thoughts, suggestions are greatly appreciated.- Shellee Laubersheimer, Stanford Health Care, Palo Alto, CA. 4/16/24

Do you know of a software for creating SOP manuals?
Enter your comment belowx

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♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

How do you hold an Annual Chili Cook-Off in a hospital gift shop? This idea comes from Atrium Gift Shop at St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, TX. Their shop manager explains how they put on this great traffic-generating event:

“We have been doing a free Chili Cook-Off for five years. Staff members or individual departments can enter the competition. It’s set up in the gift shop, though hoping to move to the cafe or park as it continues growing.

Attendees pay $10 and receive a ballet, one small sample of each chili (around ten), a bag of chips and some cornbread (made from scratch by staff & volunteers).

Their vote gets them a 15% OFF coupon for one item. We award a trophy and gift card for them to shop. All entries receive a certificate with their chili’s name and ranking. Last year the hospital CEO was a judge. We also give an award for the best chili name.”

Thanks to Atrium Gift Shop for this great idea!


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 inventory method: A how-to guide

Counting and managing inventory can be a time-consuming task. In order to quickly assess your inventory, you either need a retail inventory management system to track stock in real time, or a shortcut for manually gauging your inventory’s value. Here’s where you can use the retail inventory method for a quick inventory snapshot.

What is the retail inventory method?
The retail inventory method is an accounting strategy for approximating the ending value of your store’s inventory, i.e., the value of the inventory remaining at the end of your accounting period. This method estimates value by comparing how much you, the retailer, paid for the products to how much you sell the products for.

The retail method serves as a shortcut to conducting a physical inventory count, but should not replace it. After all, this method isn’t always accurate because losing or damaging a fraction of your stock is unavoidable.

For best results, use the retail inventory method only when the products you’re appraising have the same markup. For example, this method won’t work if you’re calculating the value of product with 50% markup. Instead, compare apples to apples.

Retail Inventory Method is a versatile tool that provides valuable insights into the current state of your stock. Advantages of using it include:

  • Faster alternative to conducting physical inventory counts
  • Help you understand when to replenish your stock
  • Provides insights into inventory-related expenses
  • It’s simple and efficient with little training required
  • It reflects market conditions by using current retail price
  • It implicitly accounts for shrinkage
  • It can help you maintain optimal stock levels because it provides real-time insights into the value of your inventory.

How to calculate using the retail inventory method
The retail inventory method estimates ending inventory value. The formula for ending inventory value using the retail inventory method is:

Read the full article including a break-down of the formula and examples.

SOURCE: Lightspeed


Graduation Season Con’t 🎓
Jun 14 – Flag Day
Jun 16 – Father’s Day
Jun 19 – Juneteenth
Jun 20 – Summer Solstice
Jun 27 – Ntn’l Sunglasses Day 😎
Jul 4 – Independence Day 🇺🇸
Jul 7 – World Chocolate Day
Jul 10 – Ntnl Pina Colada Day 🍹
Jul 14 – Ntn’l Mac & Cheese Day
Jul 26 – Summer Olympics Start 🏊🏼‍♀️
…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


National, regional, and local shows.

Includes direct links to every show.

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

  • Five ways to be a better leader
  • Job Openings
  • Ideas for social media posts
  • 7 tips for captivating in-store signage
  • A. Has anyone else set up a “temporary” store?
  • Themed displays, cross merchandising & She Sheds!
  • Les Déglingos from France
  • Major trends that will shape retail in 2024
  • How to recruiting gift shop volunteers
  • Gift Market Calendar


Discussions are happening now in
the Hospital Gift Shops Facebook group!

Average 3 posts per day
Over 270 members
Private, vetted members
Hospital gift shop professionals ONLY!

↓ Click to join ↓

♡ Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

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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