Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers | September 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

SEPTEMBER 15, 2023

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, Scotland, UK

Welcome to the Golden Quarter

What is the Golden Quarter?

The ‘Golden Quarter’ spans from October to December, a time when large increases in customers and revenue can occur due to known sales periods such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the Christmas period.

This is the time of year when retailers can expect to generate between 50-70% of their annual revenue. Making the Golden Quarter work for you requires careful planning that, in reality, should have begun back in January.

“I don’t have a plan…but I wish I did”

You attend a trade show, all the new inventory comes in and then you work like mad to unpack and display it beautifully. You might get caught up with everything required on a daily basis to run your shop; juggling inventory, staffing, buying, and more. Then, you start to frantically move merchandise and displays around the shop in an effort to get people in through the door and increase sales. Often, it is too little too late. The holiday has come and gone and you just weren’t prepared.

The well is dry and there just aren’t enough customers for all that merchandise.

There is only one way to make sure that you have a steady consistent stream of ‘raving fans’! That is to have a steady and consistent stream of marketing events and special sale events. Make all the pieces of your marketing plan work like a well-oiled machine. You need a marketing plan that doesn’t need your attention all the time. With a good marketing calendar, you never have to worry about what needs doing next because it’s clearly spelled out on your daily calendar.

Get a jump on the Golden Quarter and other monthly action items with the Twelve-Month Action Plan for Gift Shop Managers & Buyers


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Life-sized pop-up bouquets and arrangements

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September action items


  • Begin displaying Halloween merchandise. 🎃
  • Change window or in-store displays every 3-4 weeks.
  • Handbag Day is October 10th. Create a great window display and discount sign to draw in the ladies! 👜
  • Grandparent’s Day is the first Sunday after Labor Day. Make a special display of appropriate gift items.
  • Integrate cross-merchandising into displays.
  • Display next year’s calendars and datebooks. 📆
  • Continue displaying higher higher-priced holiday merchandise and Christmas collectibles.


  • Order next year’s calendars and datebooks. 📆
  • Order bag and wrap supplies for the holidays. Assign someone to restock the register area from now to December 25.


  • Here we go! Start planning your holiday events and promotions now.

Selling Christmas: Tips to drive Q4 sales

Gift Shop Plus / Summer 2023

We thought the following tips were spot on for hospital gift shops:

“We started mapping out our promotional schedule in September with an angle and a strategy behind all the marketing to be more customer- and experience-focused rather than just a sales and product pitch.”

Grab Bag Sale. “We offered three different sized bags at $20, $25 and $30. Customers could fill them with anything in the designated area. Customers loved the great deals and anticipation: we loved moving older products physically out of our space and generating cash flow from products that have been around too long!”

Mark your calendars — permanently. Loyal customers love annual affairs. “Our two biggest events of the year are our Holiday Open House, the first Saturday in November, and Small Business Saturday (SBS), the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The open house kicks off the holiday season and creates excitement and buzz. Décor and holiday cards are (typically) top sellers. On SBS, our community really rallies around our local businesses and people begin purchasing all their giftables.”

“We did a Ghoul Gang Launch Party in our Little Rock store in time for the ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ movie. In the city stores, we made sure to be fully stocked with Halloween cards and decorations in a bigger way. We sold out to the piece.”

“We set up a typewriter and ‘mailbox’ for children to type and mail a letter to Santa inside the shop.”

“We love to host other small businesses to generate foot traffic. We invited famous hand-cut silhouette artist, Karl Johnson, to create beautiful children’s silhouettes right in the store. A local macaron-maker, Girl Loves Cake Desserts, also hosts Thanksgiving and Christmas popups.”

Read the full article here.

SOURCE: Gift Shop Plus

Q. Do you have a recognition wall or special installation for volunteers?

Q. Our volunteer corps board voted to install a ‘history wall’ in the hospital. It will reflect the history of the volunteer corps through different decades. Have any other axillary participated in project like this before? Where did the funds came from?Sviatlana Masenzhuk, Vail Health Gift Shop, Vail, CO. 56 beds. 8/24/23

Do you have a recognition wall or special installation for volunteers?
Enter your comment belowx

Where did funds come from for your recognition installation? Email a photo of it or use the comment box below to upload.

Thanks for commenting and sharing!

Thank you!

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

The Gift Shop: A patient with cancer’s vacation spot

I became a frequent shopper at the hospital gift shop throughout my cancer experience.

CURE Mag / Aug 23, 2023

After enduring some ungodly cancer surgery, such as a mastectomy or brain surgery or even just a lumpectomy, and you’ve lain in bed for a couple of days and grown tired of looking at four walls, your roommate, or the squawking television with the sound coming through the little handheld control device on your bed, you’ve just got to get up and go somewhere. But where? Tahiti? Mackinaw Island? Bermuda? No. All of these places are impossible to get to in your condition. Shoot! You just had a cancer operation, man. You’ve got tubes in you and are connected to devices that are displaying your vital signs.

There’s only one place to go to other than to the toilet or to walk the hall. The gift shop!

The hospital gift shop is a cancer patient’s paradise. Going there is like going on a brief vacation. Let’s examine some of the delights of this marvelous place:

Candy – If you’re allowed to eat it, this is the place to get it. Let’s face it, hospital food can be bland. There’s nothing better than biting into a Butterfinger candy bar while standing in your treaded slipper socks on the linoleum floor, clad in your hospital gown. Of course, before you left your room, you had a nurse make sure you were tied in back so that you wouldn’t embarrass yourself. Let yourself go! There’s also chewing gum and Coke and potato chips and Fritos. You might as well be in the islands somewhere; it’s such a happy place. The only thing that’s missing is a martini or a good beer.

Reading material – Best sellers, magazines, newspapers. Hurrah. It’s good to look at the headlines and see what’s going on in the world since you’ve been inside. But just a glance; you’ll get the idea of the misery on the outside before you know it. The hospital has much better vibes than reality, believe it or not. At least hospitals are concerned with maintaining life and ridding the world of illness.

Trinkets – Jewelry, little ceramic boxes, gifts of all kinds to give to a loved one, even yourself. If you examine the heart necklace closely enough, you’ll discover that you want to buy it as a souvenir of a tumor they just removed.

Flowers – Behind the counter, there are beautiful roses for visitors who didn’t have the time or the wherewithal to purchase the blooms on the outside. Maybe you’ll buy yourself a bouquet. Why not?

Clothing – Just as in vacation resort gift shops, there’s clothing – bed jackets, robes, packages of underpants – for those in need. But this doesn’t apply to you. You packed two suitcases for a short stay at the hospital.

Toiletries – Need something that the hospital doesn’t supply such as designer perfume? It’s here. Spray several kinds on your wrists and arms. You now smell interesting rather than dirty.

Nonpatients – Perhaps, one of the best things about the gift shop is that it’s populated by citizens of the healthy world. They’re wearing street clothes and their minds are a million miles away from sickness and stitches and drainage and pain! They’re smiling, and they put you in a grand mood. You, the cancer patient, standing in slipper socks and a hospital gown.

Oh, it’s great to go shopping with the healthy folks who have come to the gift shop not for a brief vacation like you, but for a pack of gum or a greeting card for their loved one.

Yes, while in the hospital, the gift shop is my favorite destination to escape. And I don’t even have to take a plane to get there.

Remember your impact you have and the value you bring.



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 🎃
Nov 11 – Veterans Day
Nov 13 – World Kindness Day
Nov 23 – Thanksgiving 🦃
Nov 24 – Black Friday
Nov 27 – Cyber Monday 💻
Dec 7 – Hanukkah Begins
Dec 21 – Winter Solstice
Dec 25 – Christmas 🎄
Dec 31 – New Year’s Eve

A. Who has a good vendor for large art prints?

Q. Where do you purchase large art prints to sell in your shop? Looking for a good vendor for bigger art prints, not necessarily the word/phrases. Like the big sunflowers, fields of wheat, abstract art, etc. to sell to our customers. We are in a smaller town, and we don’t have places to look for such items. I have purchased several from Gift Craft, but I am looking for new ideas and vendors. Thanks – Jaci Gottschalk, HaysMed Hospital, Hays, KS. 6/21/23

P Graham Dunn has beautiful artwork. – Renee Langue. 8/30/23

Creative Co-op usually has reasonably priced art. – Lee Patterson. 8/16/23

We have been successful with wall art from Raz Imports . – Wendy 8/17/23

Kalalou has some nice large prints that are reasonably priced. – Jennifer Bahlmann-Ballantine 8/17/23

Do you know a good vendor for large art prints? Reply here

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

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Dubai Hospital Gift Shop

Curious to know what a hospital gift shop looks like in Dubai, the land of luxury. This is Ohou Gifts in Mediclinic City Hospital, Dubai, UAE. It’s fancy and definitely different!

Q. How did you justify payroll deduction to admins?

A shop manager sent us a question regarding the discontinuation of employee payroll deduction. It stated, “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?” Several of you provided solutions or further validation for payroll deduction that you can read in the August issue

Here is a great follow-up question: 

Q. We know we are losing money not having payroll deduction and I see a lot of percentages stated in articles. Is there data or studies that justifies payroll deduction that we can use or cite to approach admin?– Barb Moyer 8/30/23


Hi Barb, my professional observations, made from over 35 years of consulting with over 100 hospital gift shops and decades of feedback in this newsletter, regarding payroll deduction are:

Figure 1. Cindy Jones Assoc. Sep 15, 2021

First, the majority of shops have employee payroll deduction in place. Secondly, employee payroll deduction has, on average, accounted for 40-50% of shop sales. It’s easy for us shop managers to understand why, but the need for supporting data and resources is understandable. 

Over the years, I have witnessed many shops struggle to get employee payroll deduction approved, yet they usually prevailed.

Majority have payroll deduction

The results of our 2021 payroll deduction survey showed that 76% of shops reported having payroll deduction (Figure 1.). We actually ran this survey to demonstrate how prevalent it is, ergo its value. A formal survey conducted in 2011 included the same question in which 75.3% reported having payroll deduction.

Successful shops are constantly thinking of ways to removing barriers to sale.  A simple badge swipe is easier for employees, especially those on break who need a quick transaction. Customer’s appreciate convenience and the demand for this convenience soared after COVID. 

Percentage of shop sales

Here are some references regarding the impact of payroll deduction on shop sales:

“Payroll is our highest form of payment.” – Davis, J. Comment in Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers. (2023, Jul 15).

“We know that 65% of sales are payroll deducted, so it was critical. – Brunette M. Comment in Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers. (2023, Jul 15).

“Payroll deduction is shown to increase sales by 20% on average…” – Gift Shop Services. (2023, Jan 23).

“[Payroll deduction] is seen as a benefit for employees and results in an estimated 20% higher sales in locations where it’s available.” – Better Days Ahead. Gift Shop Magazine. (2022, Nov 17).

“Sixty percent of our sales come from payroll deduction…” – The 21st Century Hospital Gift Shop. Gifts and Decorative Accessories. (2015, Jun 10).

We do a payroll deduction – the sales account to over 70% of our sales from using the badge. – Rochman T. Comment in Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers. (2022, Apr 15).

“Obtaining payroll deduction was not difficult. Our hospital uses payroll deduction for when an employee is a patient and to pay fees at our sports medicine center. This has increased our business almost 20%.” – Swinson J. Comment in Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers. (2016, Apr).

“Does your hospital do payroll deductions for charity donations (United Way), uniforms, prescriptions, or any other employee benefit? Utilize the software or system used for these. Payroll deduction is a way of life in a majority of hospitals I know about. – Lantz C. Comment in Cindy’s Newsletter for Gift Shop Managers. (2013, Dec 2).

SURVEY: Percent of shop sales from payroll deductions?

There is no better source than this community of hospital gift shop managers. This data will be invaluable to current and future gift shop manager fighting for payroll deduction. High participation is crucial for data validation! PLEASE RESPOND BELOW.

On average, what percentage of your total revenue is derived from payroll deductions for both online and in-store purchases combined?If exact data is not available, please provide your best estimate based on available records or knowledge. Do not include COVID era. Revenue sources include all physical store locations, online, in-store, special events, kiosks, etc.

How did you justify payroll deduction to your admins? Resources, articles or supporting data?
Enter your comment belowx

How did you justify payroll deduction to your admins? Supporting articles, data or resources?

“Losing payroll deduction is a serious blow.” – Mary Ann, St. Francis Hospital Gift Shop, GA

Thank you!

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡

💮 Gift Market Calendar 💮

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.

Beautiful holiday displays

If there’s one person who outdoes Santa Claus in their holiday planning, it’s Sara Villari. Villari founded Occasionette in 2013 in South Philadelphia when she noticed the up-and-coming, walkable neighborhood lacked a gift and stationery store. Since its founding a decade ago, Occasionette has expanded to two additional locations: one in Collingswood, New Jersey — its flagship location — and another situated in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood.

Occasionette carries a wide variety of gifts, including a tea towel line started by Villari herself, cookbooks, candles, puzzles, tableware and more. It offers hundreds of greeting cards, carrying lines such as E. Frances Paper, Rifle Paper Co. and Carolyn Suzuki Goods.

But the extensive product offering is not all Occasionette is known for. Each year, Villari goes all out in the holiday displays across each location.

Read more…

SOURCE: Gift Shop Plus

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

  • Credit Card Competition Act could lower swipe fees
  • A. Our payroll deduction was discontinued. Now what?
  • Four Instagram engagement stickers that actually work
  • Cargo volumes steadily growing
  • Q. Who has a good vendor for large art prints?
  • Gift shops still reopening three years post-pandemic
  • A. Do you have a good vendor for vinyl die cut stickers?
  • Survey: Gift shop manager Facebook Group
  • Gift Market Calendar


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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’ve tried a few sticker vendors, including Stickers Northwest, and right now I love Big Moods via Faire. I can buy as few as one per style and they are only $1.50. Stickers Northwest minimums per sticker (24) was way too high for us and I still have stickers I’m trying to unload from them. I’ve found that periodically adding a few new ones keeps sales fresh because people know to check back and see what’s new. – Lynn MacKenzie, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing, MI. 200 beds. 8/19/23

I also suggest Stickers Northwest. Not only for the assortment, but for custom. They were very easy to work with getting our logo on a sticker. – Karla Glanzman, Seattle Children’s Hospital Gift Shop, Seattle, WA. 340 beds. 8/16/23

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

Stickers Northwest Inc. Fast easy low cost and personalized if you want for 0!! – Tricia Rochman, Carbondale Memorial Hospital, Carbondale, IL. 154 beds. 6/26/23

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

We just picked up Nice Enough Stickers. The display is great and the cost is low. They’re represented by Anne McGilvray. – Erin. 6/25/23

We use Stickers Northwest. We get them through our rep at – Vesta R Smith, Adventist Health Columbia Gorge, The Dalles, OR. 6/22/23

The best sticker vendor around is Stickers Northwest. They are highly durable, ship quick, have oodles of designs and best of all you can customize designs for only a 25 piece minimum! – Angela, RoadRunners LLC, Wholesale, Atlanta, GA. 6/16/23

ISO sticker vendor! 🔎 Didn’t get a chance to comment!? Enter your response here or at the end of the newsletter.

Connect. Share. Grow. ♡


Q. 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). – Wendi Vela, Shop Manager at UC Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, CA


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.

Thanks to everyone who responded. Your input helps this community grow and succeed.

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


Q. 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!


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

I would love to join a facebook group for gift shop managers!  We are a small hospital gift shop in Hays, Kansas.  I love seeing the ideas of other managers. – Nikki M. Director, Volunteer & Associate Services, HaysMed. 7/26/23

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.

Want to advertise? Click here.

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