Hospital gift shops

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Managers of 2 gift shops share what’s selling.

Top sellers at two Midwestern hospital gifts shops we surveyed for this issue include decorative giftware and African American angel figurines, reading glasses and plush items.

Scott DiPierro, gift shop buyer and manager at MERCY HEALTH St. Vincent Medical Center Gift Shop, and Renee Schumacher, Gift Shops Manager at the large (campus takes up three city blocks in downtown Minneapolis, MN) Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) shared their thoughts on what is happening at their stores, as well as their projections for the industry.

DiPierro has worked at MERCY HEALTH St. Vincent Medical Center for 18 ½ years, and has 31 years in retail buying and managing experience.

“I started my retail career in Toledo, Ohio working for the Lion Store (Mercantile Stores),” he explained. “I started as a stock boy, and when I graduated from the University of Toledo, the Lion Store asked me to get into their management training program.

“In 1998 Mercantile Stores was purchased by Dillard’s, at that time I explored other retail buying opportunities,” he added. “I was fortunate to join MERCY HEALTH in 1998 as Gift Shop Buyer/Manager, and this has been the most enjoyable job you could imagine.”

DiPierro said when he joined MERCY HEALTH he was the first male buyer, attending the buying shows and with all women it was very unusual.

“They accepted me very well, and appreciated having a male’s prospective view on merchandise selection,” he recalled. “Over the years more men have joined the hospital gift shops as buyers, and I am no longer the lone male in this industry.” The St. Vincent Gift Shop, at 1,450 square feet, has a good location on the main floor next to the main elevators for visitors and patients, and includes a full-service point of sale system.

DiPierro suggested hospital gift shops that have payroll deduction are very successful due to the fact our customers can scan their badge, and payments come out of their paychecks, no need to carry cash.

“Our business is comprised of approximately 80 percent from our employees working in the medical center, and the remaining 20 percent of business comes from patients and visitors, he explained, DiPierro said his store carries a wide range of seasonal gift an apparel, collegiate, inspirational, everyday decorative giftware, ladies clothing, and accessories, flowers, candy, snacks, and pop.

“We always have the top vendors in all of these classifications,” he said. “There is not much in the gift industry that you cannot find at St. Vincent Gift Shop. I consider our shop to be a mini department store that carries all of the major classifications. We always have the most current items available in the marketplace. We do a lot of internal marketing throughout the year for our customers,” he added. “We do two catalogs per year. One in the spring, and our holiday catalog. This is a great way to drive our business. We highlight great items, and have fantastic coupons for the customer to get the best price possible.”

DiPierro stays connected to what’s trending in the industry these days by the trade shows in Atlanta in January and July, he said, as well as networking with peers, his sales representatives and the trade journals. Schumacher has been at HCMC for over 20 years as the gift shop manager/buyer. She has oversight of the two shops located on the facility’s campus, with both stores totaling 1,700 square feet. Two unique revenue streams she has found success with over the years are selling used books that are donated by hospital staff and patients. “We bring in about $4,000 annually,” she revealed, as well as offering dry cleaning service pick up, and drop off,” she said.

When she is looking for products, she said, she tries to find unique items customers cannot find in major retail outlets.

“We are adding a new clinic building to our facility, which will change the traffic flow on campus,” she said. “We will actively promote the gift shops in the new building.

“We are also working with the clinics to carry products they recommend to the patients such as Aroma therapy & herbal supplements,” she added. Like DiPierro. Schumacher attends the shows in Atlanta, and reads the trade journals to stay connected to what artists and designers are releasing.