Hospital gift shops

Three veteran store managers discuss what’s selling.

Clothing is one of the hottest items selling in hospital gift shops, according to Deb Anderson, who manages the gift shops at Essentia Health, St. Joseph’s Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Clinic in Brainerd, MN, and is also the president of the Minnesota Hospital Gift Shop Association.

She and Sue Plath, who manages the Bright Corner Gift Shop at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN, shared their thoughts on the industry.

“When space allows, clothing is for sure the hot item.” Anderson said. “Even though we are a small shop, we purchased a manikin and she sells everything she puts on, which is a definite plus.”

“Small gift items are still strong,” Plath added, “but they aren’t growing like clothing is.”

Anderson has managed the hospital gift shop for over 25 years, doing the buying and supervising volunteers with displaying and ordering.  In her role as executive director of the state association, she also speaks at several conferences on a state and local level on gift shop management and point-of-sale displays.

Plath, who is in her fifth year managing the Bright Corner Gift Shop, has an Associate Degree in Fashion Merchandising. She did consolidating for County Seat as one of her first jobs, and was the selling supervisor for Casual Corner for five years. She also worked in a show room at the Minneapolis Gift Mart for five years, managed, and did the buying for the Medtronic corporates stores for 14 years.

In terms of keeping current on industry trends, Anderson attends the Minnesota Association of Healthcare Volunteers conference each year which has a strong gift shop track, as well as the AHVRP (American Hospital Volunteer Resource Professional) national conferences.

Plath, meanwhile, attends gift shows – both on the national and local levels, and reads trade journals to stay current.

When it comes to industry trends, Anderson said, small nick nacks, figurines, or other items that “have no purpose” are not selling in her store. “Jewelry is another hot item, and large items such as metal art, big pictures and clocks seem to be purchased.

“We have a lot of items that are mid-range in pricing, but the larger, more expensive items sell too,” she added, encouraging shop managers, “don’t be afraid to purchase some high-end items” for stores.

In her store, Plath said, she is seeing gifts that have a function, as opposed to decorative, as selling most frequently.