Seaside Retailer - March/April 2024

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THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE FOR BEACH, COASTAL AND NAUTICAL RETAILERS | MARCH-APRIL 2024 seaside retai ler BEACH | COASTAL | NAUTICAL + Inside: 12 Boost sales by identifying key items 30 Create window displays that wow 46 Build an all-star retail team PLANET-SAVING PRODUCTS! Checkoutthesetrendingproductsthat embracesustainability,p.38 ADAPTING with the TIMES As a longstanding family business in the Outer Banks, The Cotton Gin has shifted its retail focus over the years as the area’s customer demographics changed.
CONTENTS 4 SEASIDE RETAILER MARCH-APRIL 2024 Presentation Focus: Windows that wow ............................. 30 Memorable displays lead foot traffic to your front door. Style Trend: Feel good finds................................................. 38 Eco-friendly products build a strong case for brand loyalty. Business: Building an all-star team .................................... 46 Hiring, onboarding and training are the ultimate trifecta. Starfish Award: Giving in style ............................................. 74 Jaffi’s fashion-oriented fundraisers give back to local causes. EDITOR’S NOTE New additions bring excitement and opportunities. RETAIL NEWS Town Pride opens flagship store. TAKING STOCK Key items make a store more profitable. CUSTOMERS COUNT Visit other stores to figure out what works. SEAWORTHY IDEAS Surfboards, lobsters and outdoor product ideas. EVENTS CALENDAR Make plans to attend these future industry events. EVENTS COVERAGE Coverage from past and upcoming industry shows. RETAILER REFLECTIONS Examine your financial landscape. PRODUCT SHOWCASE Fresh merchandise ideas for your seaside store. AD INDEX Easily locate an advertiser’s ad and website. In Every Issue 6 8 12 14 16 62 64 68 70 72 MARCH/APRIL 2024 | VOLUME 5 | ISSUE 2 COASTAL CONNECTIONS TOPIC: AQUARIUM RETAIL North Carolina Aquariums: Roanoke Island, NC .......... 50 Audubon Aquarium: New Orleans, LA 54 Seymour Marine Science Center: Santa Cruz, CA......... 58 38 46 74 PLUS: 2024 kicks off on a positive note at Atlanta Market, Surf Expo, Philadelphia Gift Show and more. p. 64 Features
STORY: Adapting with the times
Cotton Gin pivots with the changing needs of customers. p. 24

I hope your store experiences growth and new possibilities in 2024.

New additions

Spring signals new beginnings, and here at Seaside Retailer, we’ve definitely been embracing that. For starters, Associate Editor Megan Smalley and I both welcomed new babies into our families in January, and despite a few sleepless nights, everyone is healthy and doing well!

Our family at Breakwall Publishing has also been growing with the addition of Lee White and Debby Nichols as sales managers.

And the newness doesn’t stop there! You may have noticed that we introduced some additional product sections to the magazine as well. Seaworthy Ideas now appears in the front pages of each issue to help inspire retailers with various products in popular beach, coastal and nautical categories. Surfboard- and lobster-themed products as well as outdoor and patio ideas are featured in this issue’s Seaworthy Ideas section beginning on page 16.

I’m sure we aren’t the only ones with something new happening this spring. For many seaside retailers, spring marks the beginning of the busy season. You are likely hard at work prepping your store and putting out all the new product offerings that you found during the fall and winter buying events in the hopes they will resonate with customers.

Many of you are also beginning to hire new team members to help during this busy time of year. Be sure to check out the article “Building an All-Star Team” on page 46 for some expert hiring advice from experienced retailers.

Spring is also a time for renewal, and that isn’t just reserved for hydrangeas. We need your help renewing your subscription to Seaside Retailer once a year to meet U.S. Post Office requirements, and there are several easy ways to do it.

You can tear off and return the postcard that appears on the front of your issue, or if you have received an email from us asking you to confirm your subscription, you can confirm by simply clicking the confirmation link and making any updates. You can also go online to We sure appreciate having you as a reader and thank you for taking these steps to continue your subscription.

I am looking forward to seeing how our new additions grow and blossom this year, and I hope your store experiences growth and new possibilities in 2024.


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MD-Brands adds Shelly Cove to its management

Baltimore-based Maryland Brand Management Inc. (MD-Brand), has announced it has added the apparel brand Shelly Cove under its management.

Over the past nine years, Shelly Cove has donated over $200,000 to sea turtle conservation and several other charitable causes.

MD-Brands sales manager Ali Pfeifer says the brand seemed a natural fit. MD-Brand currently manages seven established brands, including Puppie Love and Kittie Kittie, which also contribute to charitable causes for animals.

Spring breakers flocking to Florida and cruise ships

If there’s one place that defines Spring Break, it’s Florida. AAA Travel booking data shows the Sunshine State tops the list of Spring Break destinations this year. Atlantic and Gulf Coast beaches, family-friendly attractions and cruise ports make it a logical choice for travelers.

Cruising is off to a splashy start in 2024 with sold-out ships and inaugural sailings, and that strong demand is evident in Spring Break bookings. AAA Travel data shows a 28% increase in cruise bookings for March and April compared to last year, and a 60% percent increase for cruises departing from South Florida.

International trips are also on the rise compared to last year, particularly European destinations.

Pauline’s Gifts celebrates 25th anniversary

Pauline Bresnahan has enjoyed crafting and painting for most of her adult life. The owner of Pauline’s Gifts in Gloucester, Massachusetts, exhibited at craft fairs around New England before realizing her dream of opening up a gift shop in 1999.

“25 years later, I am still enjoying the experience,” she says. “It’s been a wonderful journey. I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since we renovated the building now known as Pauline’s Gifts. I’m so thankful for the support of my family and the community. It’s a tremendous feeling of satisfaction to see so many loyal customers return year after year and to have generations of customers share their experiences with me.”

Being part of her community has always been important to Bresnahan, a sixth-generation Gloucester native. She says she is proud to have had the opportunity to serve and help with the promotion of her hometown. Designing the logo for the City of Gloucester Veterans Services office is one of her proudest contributions.

More recently, she worked with Beacon Design and developed The Gloucester, Massachusetts, Lobster Trap tree ornament. The actual lobster trap tree in Gloucester was constructed entirely by volunteers. Pauline was able to sell over 400 ornaments and donate $1,000 for the trap tree lights and materials the volunteers needed to complete the trap tree.

“I have worked to inspire women to follow their dream, create what they enjoy and hopefully share some positive ideas. I think after 25 years I still have some great advice and creative ideas,” says Bresnahan.

Ocean Sole teammates collect 180 pounds of trash

A team of 18 teammates from Ocean Sole pitched in to collect more than 180 pounds of trash during the final beach cleaning event of 2023 held at Vidazini Beach in Kilifi, Kenya, according to Melissa Anderson, chief operating officer.

Anderson explains the majority of the volunteers came from the “Mamas Group,” a name given to a team of local women Ocean Sole employs at the coast.

The nonprofit is known for cleaning polluted beaches and providing careers to artisans in communities affected by such conditions, according to Anderson.

The weekly beach cleaning events along the coast of Kenya clear over 1 million pounds of ocean trash each year, saving marine life and supplying jobs in the process, Anderson adds.

Efforts typically target areas of high turtle hatchling populations and some of the dirtiest beaches to have the biggest impact.


Town Pride opens flagship store in Yarmouth, Maine

Town Pride opened its flagship store in Yarmouth, Maine, on Nov. 18, 2023, with a grand opening celebration featuring a fundraiser for the Yarmouth Food Pantry.

As a wholesale company since May 2021, Owner Tamara Moran decided it was time to create a retail division in the business’s hometown while still providing quality service to wholesale clients locally and across the country.

Custom merchandise from Town Pride USA can be found in specialty stores in every state as well as in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The flagship store will serve as the hub for testing new products as well as supporting wholesale clients with product reviews and orders while offering retail customers quality apparel, decor and gifts in the theme of local love.

Xplorer Maps opens retail store

Xplorer Maps, a company that features hand-drawn maps on a variety of products, has opened a brick-and-mortar store in Missoula, Montana.

“When word got out this past year that the adjacent space to our existing warehouse became available, we jumped at the chance to fulfill my vision of truly connecting people and place by emphasizing our local community in Missoula, Montana,” says Greg Robitaille, co-founder and CEO.

The store features 60-plus story maps and accompanying gifts like jigsaw puzzles, drinkware, blankets, coasters, kitchen towels, stationery, tote bags and wood puzzles.

The Nov. 17, 2023, grand opening was filled with prizes, music, food trucks, a wildlife presentation and the launch of Xplorer Maps new storytelling series.

Key items can be any price — they do not always need to be lower price-point items.

Make key items even more profitable

You may ask, “What defines an item as a key item?” A key item is one that sells “a lot” and is key to making your store’s sales goal. It is an item that you sell, restock and order often and people seem to find that they’ve “gotta’ have it!”

One of my clients had a $3.99 foam souvenir headband that produced $1 million in sales per year. Another client had a $6.99 coaster that accounted for more than 10% of their entire stores’ sales volume per year. These, as defined as key items, are such an important part of a store’s success.


Analyze sales reports. Pull up last years’ item sales (either 12 month or just peak season for a seasonal location). Use Excel to compare the volume (dollar value of item sales) to the quantity (number of units sold) in descending order.

You can have one, two, five or even 10 key items that stand out, mean-

ing they produce significantly more revenue than any other items. These are your key items. Key items can and often will change, as your assortment changes with new products added and as trends change.


Place key items in mutliple spots to further enhance it as a “winner.” That previously mentioned $1 million headband had six separate floor stand fixtures throughout the store for maxiumum exposure.

Key items can be any price — they do not always need to be lower pricepoint items. As a reference point, the same client that had the $6.99 coaster as a key item, also had a $185 hand-embroidered pillow that produced similar dollar volume in sales each year. They sold fewer units of the pillows, but it validated its prime space on the sales floor, as it still produced exceedingly high-volume dollars toward the store’s overall sales.

To boil it down, key items are the key to your store’s success.


Have each employee visit another retail shop. Ask them to take mental notes on what they experience.

Create a person-focused experience

When was the last time you and your employees shopped at another small retail gift shop? This activity can be one of the best improvement strategies to implement this year.

STEP #1. Schedule a meeting with your team and ask what they would expect to see, hear and experience in another retail shop. Let the group share their comments. Assign someone to jot down on a whiteboard all the positive and negative things they expect based on past visits. Have the note taker use a red marker to mark the negative impressions and a green marker to mark the positive ones.

the floor and the quality of the merchandise as well as any signage, aromas and music. How were they treated if they did or did not purchase an item?

STEP #3. After all team members complete their visits, schedule a meeting to discuss what they observed. Assign someone to record responses on flip chart paper. Record the negative impressions on one page and the positive impressions on another page. Use as many pages as necessary.

Tom Borg is a retail consultant, speaker and author of “True Small Business Brilliance.” Contact him at: 734-404-5909

STEP #2. Have each employee visit another retail shop. Ask them to take mental notes on everything from the way the store looks from the outside, including the parking lot, sidewalk, landscaping, window displays and signage.

Once inside, observe the friendliness of the staff, the displays, the cleanliness of

Next, go through each negative impression list and discuss which ones your shop might be guilty of and what you can do to change. Then, go through the positive impression list, and this time, prioritize which ones are the most important and that you can continue to use or implement in your shop.

The real magic of this exercise is that you are getting everyone to experience and own the best practices needed in your gift shop. Contact me for more ideas on how to make this work in your gift shop.


Get on board

Surfboards are a popular reminder of the laid-back beach lifestyle.

1. Daydream HQ: Laser-cut wooden postcard,; 2. Sincere Surroundings: Gone surfing name-drop sign,; 3. Beachy Business: Tikiman surfboard large tote bag,; 4. Born to Rock Jewelry: Surfboard pendant,; 5. SJT Enterprises: Name-drop surfboard plaque,; 6. Puppie Love: Surf’s up, pup adult short sleeve tee,; 7. ScandiCal: Personalized wood surfboard,; 8. Surf Shack Puzzles: Duke’s Lane by Kristine Pontecha,; 9. Beaver Dam Woodworks: Surf table set,
2 3 1 5 6 9 7 8 4

Pinch me

These iconic red creatures of the sea add a pop of color and plenty of nostalgia.

1. Shard: Coffee mug with tail folding into mug interior,; 2. Simply Chickie: Local catch baby hat,; 3. Amanda Klein Co.: Note card set,; 4. Cape Shore: Resin Santa riding a lobster ornament,; 5. Patsy Kane: Sterling silver pendant,; 6. Ocean World Imports: Lobster figurine,; 7. Rustic Marlin: Watercolor wooden serving tray,; 8. C&F Home: Lobster Seagrass kitchen towel,
2 3 1 5 6 7 8 4

Coastal reminders

Outdoor spaces can be seaside oases with coastal-themed decor and entertainment.

1. Wind River: Corinthian Bells wind chime,; 2. Design Toscano: Blue octopus of the coral reef wall sculpture,; 3. Tableau: Holy Mackerel serving bowl and salad servers,; 4. Zaer Ltd. International: Set of iron paradise cranes,; 5. Tiki Toss: Hook and ring game,; 6. Bamboo Source Tropical Decor: Nautilus chimes with bamboo tubes,; 7. Rightside Design: Seagull flash mob lumbar indoor/outdoor pillow,; 8. Baxter & Me: Blue crab garden flag, 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 4
As a longstanding family business in the Outer Banks, The Cotton Gin has shifted its retail focus over the years as the area’s customer demographics changed.


Every year, millions of people travel to the Outer Banks for vacation and relaxation. The group of barrier islands in North Carolina that stretch from the Virginia border 120 miles south to Ocracoke Island, is known for its beaches and lighthouses. It also has quite the aviation history. The Wright Brothers achieved their first successful airplane flight there in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

And among the tranquil ocean, sandy beaches, beach houses, lighthouses, restaurants and retail shops that people are drawn to, is a long-time retail operation with a strong presence in the area called The Cotton Gin.

John Wright (no relation to the Wright brothers) co-owns the stores along with his parents, Tom and Candace Wright, with three locations in Outer Banks currently: Corolla, Duck and Nags Head, North Carolina. The family also operates Sanctuary Vineyard as a sister business in Jarvisburg, North Carolina. The Cotton Gin’s flagship location was also located in Jarvisburg, but was lost to a fire in 2019 and is in the process of being rebuilt.

According to Wright, tourism is “busier than ever” in the Outer Banks these days. He notes that The Cotton Gin’s

three locations are always busy when tourism peaks in the summertime, but says the tourism boom in the Outer Banks is a relatively recent phenomenon.

When the Wright brothers first flew a plane here 120 years ago, nobody was there other than people working for light-saving stations and the Coast Guard,” he says. “In a sense, the Outer Banks didn’t exist in a full commercial sense before the ’80s. Prior to that, it was a really small fishing destination.”

Wright’s grandfather, John Wright, opened The Cotton Gin as a retail business in the 1960s focused on selling produce from his farm and handmade crafts at its original location in Jarvisburg. Tom and Candace stepped in to lead the business in the late 1970s. At that time, the shop had a southern country store vibe and focused on selling collectible gifts and home decor primarily for local customers.

Wright says he grew up in and around The Cotton Gin, helping his parents with the shop in the ’70s and ’80s. The business transitioned again in the 1980s and early 1990s as tourism ramped up in the area from country store to a coastal-themed retailer focused on selling resortwear, souvenirs and mementos.

“As more tourism developed, we were seeing there were


Stocking souvenirs that reflect the feeling of being on vacation is what John Wright believes visitors crave.


fewer local customers in proportion to seasonal tourists,” Wright explains. “We saw more people coming just for a week or a few weeks out of the year. They weren’t necessarily going to be shopping for collectibles. They’re very much shopping for something reflecting the feeling of being on vacation.”


Although The Cotton Gin might sound like an odd choice in name for a seaside retailer, Wright says there’s history behind why the store stuck with that name. He explains that his family had worked as farmers and fishermen in the Outer Banks for many generations and operated a farm in Jarvisburg. In the 1960s, he says his grandfather John Wright purchased a cotton gin near his farm to turn into a produce shop.

“They’re very much shopping for something reflecting the feeling of being on vacation.”
— John Wright

Although the retailer doesn’t offer much in the way of produce or farming anymore, it’s kept The Cotton Gin name as a reminder of the shop’s roots.

And as tourism grew in more recent decades, Wright says his parents decided to open additional storefronts around the area, with the Corolla store opening in the mid-1990s and the Nags Head location opening in 2002. The Duck storefront is the newest Cotton Gin location, having opened about 10 years ago.

All of the storefronts offer a mix of coastal-themed apparel, decor and gifts that appeal to both tourists and locals.

Tom and Candace still serve as the primary buyers for The Cotton Gin. Wright says they keep a pulse on trending coastal products by visiting major market events

The Cotton Gin strives to offer coastal gifts with a mix of higher-end and less expensive merchandise that appeals to all demographics. Beachy home decor such as throw pillows never go out of style at the three Outer Banks stores.

throughout the year, including Atlanta Market, Surf Expo, Las Vegas Market and Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show.

The seaside retailer makes sure to stock products from some noteworthy brands, including jewelry and sunglasses from Brighton, bedding and towels from C&F Home, OBX charms from Pandora and apparel and accessories from Vera Bradley and Spartina.

Wright says the shops usually display more popular brands near the front of the store to draw people in. He adds that he also makes sure the stores display a mix of expensive and more affordable merchandise to appeal to just about any customer who walks through the door.

The retailer also aims to offer coastal gifts for customers of varying ages. For kids, The Cotton Gin has plush, vintage candy and antique games that hearken back to simpler times. For teens and young adults, the retailer stocks trending beach apparel and drinkware. Wright adds that the stores offer books featuring local folklore, which is popular among older customers. He says those customers also tend to like smaller, Outer Banksthemed keepsakes.

“As we get into senior citizens, they’re just looking for meaningful

gifts but they’re on a fixed income. You want to be mindful of that,” Wright notes.

While each of the three locations has similar branding and products, there are some differences in the layout and merchandise focus at the different shops.

The Corolla storefront is part of a larger shopping village that is popular among tourists. Wright says that location “leans pretty heavily on apparel” and jewelry for tourists. “A lot of the visitors in Corolla are getting a big house where they’re staying all week where their range of movement is not far outside of Corolla or Duck,” he explains. “They are going to want to know more about the wild horses of Corolla and the Currituck Lighthouse.”

The Nags Head location is a standalone shop with its own parking lot. Wright says that location tends to get more local customers who want to shop for coastalthemed home decor, such as lamps, accents and candles. He adds that Nags Head is also known for its southern lighthouses, so that’s a big theme featured on products in that store.

The Duck storefront is in a very walkable part of town, and Wright says that location gets a good mix of both tourist and local shoppers. With that in mind, he says the Duck store stocks a mix of products that appeal to tourists and locals alike.

The Cotton Gin features an eclectic mix of decor with a common coastal theme. Beach-themed jewelry and customization with latitude and longitude strike a chord with visitors to the Corolla location.


The Wright family owned and operated The Cotton Gin’s original storefront in Jarvisburg for over 50 years. The building itself had been around many years prior to that since it originally served as a cotton gin in the early 1900s.

But the original storefront unexpectedly shut down in 2019 after it caught fire.

According to a 2019 report from OBX Today, a radio station in the area, the blaze likely started in the attic during working hours. A passerby alerted people in the store to the flames and everyone got out safely.

Although no one was hurt, much of the building was destroyed.

“Probably two-thirds of the square footage was burned completely,” says Wright. “There was a portion left from newer construction that had a firewall and it was partially saved. But it had to have smoke remediation done on smoke damage and repair.”

Wright and Candace note that the fire came as a shock for the business. But, Candace adds, she maintained a

lot of hope for the future of business.

“When the store went down in 2019, it was sad. But we could continue on because of our other locations in Nags Head, Corolla and Duck,” she says.

Wright and Candace also credit The Cotton Gin’s success to the retailer’s loyal team of employees. Wright says the retailer usually has about 15 employees during the winter off-season and up to 30 employees for the busy summer season.

“We have staff that has experience and has been part of our store family for a long time,” says Wright, noting that the company’s employees like that the retailer generally offers them flexible scheduling.

Wright adds that offering strong customer service is also key to success for seaside retailers.

Fashion accessories, like these purses from Spartina. are popular with shoppers.

“Tourism is challenging and really rewarding,” he notes. “Unlike a business in a year-round community, we just have so many first chances that they can also be your last chance. You have to be really on point with customers. And I think that’s a challenge that I like. I don’t see it as a problem.”

Candace says The Cotton Gin also sets itself apart from other retailers by offering plenty of events and experiences for shoppers. With Sanctuary Vineyard as a sister business, each Cotton Gin location features a small wine bar that’s open during select hours in the busier seasons and some outdoor seating to enjoy the wine. Occasionally, The Cotton Gin invites musicians to perform calm, acoustic music on the porches and outside seating areas so customers can listen and shop.

“That helps get peoples’ attention and remind them we’re more than just a place to shop. You can linger for a while,” Wright says.

The Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards also partner with Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head to host fun hang gliding tours at the Wright’s property in Jarvisburg.

The Cotton Gin is also in the process of rebuilding its flagship store. Wright says the retailer is working on making sure the building can pass regulations in the area, with a goal of reopening within the next year.

“We’re bringing it back to life,” says Candace. “It won’t be what it was, but it could be even better with new decking and with all the wine and activities on the farm. It will be a pretty cool spot.”

Nautical themes make a statement and serve as a reminder of the beach.

Design memorable window displays as a way to entice prospective customers into your shop.

When it comes to retail storefronts, first impressions happen in seconds. Shoppers often use window displays to decide whether they walk into your shop or a competitor’s shop not far down the road.

Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, has managed The Retail Doctor consultancy for more than 30 years. Throughout his experience in retail, he has seen what works and what doesn’t work with regard to enticing foot traffic through window displays.

According to Phibbs, prospective customers generally walk past a store if the window display is too boring or almost identical to what’s displayed in other stores nearby. Seaside retailers risk losing out on potential sales when they fail to make their window displays pop.

“We judge people by their clothes; we judge stores by their windows,” Phibbs says.

For Kate Simpson, who owns Cerulean in Cape Cod, larger windows serve as a great advertising tool. When she had the opportunity to relocate her store from Warren, Rhode Island, to a new storefront in Sandwich, Massachusetts, this past fall, a larger window was a big selling point that encouraged her to make the move.

“I love having big windows, especially something with a ledge on it so I can build onto it,” she says. “Windows have always been a big thing for me. It’s what I


look for when I lease a space. Window displays offer a picture of what is in the shop. It’s usually a way to get people inside.”

Phibbs adds that designing effective, engaging window displays is “an underappreciated art” that retailers sometimes treat as an afterthought. He notes that he’s seen too many retail windows stuffed with chaotic merchandising or thoughtless placement that fail to connect with passersby.

“Without a clear purpose of why you put what you do in a window, nothing stands out to the shopper to want to know more,” he says. “Even worse, the passersby say to themselves, ‘This isn’t for me.’”


Window displays aren’t meant to remain stagnant; even the best window designs need to change every so often to appeal to repeat customers.

Both Elly’s Gifts and its sister store, Elly’s Kids in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, change displays just about every week to keep things fresh. Elly’s Gifts features coastal-themed crafts, gifts and souvenirs, while Elly’s Kids offers coastal and beachy apparel, accessories and toys for kids.

Vivienne Mayer, a supervisor at Elly’s Kids, generally oversees window displays for Elly’s Kids and says she likes to adjust colors and products in the window display every week or so and then

The windows at Cerulean in Cape Cod serve as a fantastic advertising tool.

make bigger adjustments to the theme with changing holidays and seasons.

Michelle Frakes, owner of Julianne’s Coastal Cottage in Mount Dora, Florida, has a similar approach, making big changes to the window displays every two months but making small adjustments every week in between. The seaside retailer carries a wide variety of beachy and coastal gifts as well as Florida-based foods and candies.

He says he was surprised when he was staying in the Honolulu area and passed a beautiful bathing suit store.

“But in those 10 days, the same suit stayed in the window. I thought, ‘Are you nuts?’ The store had 10 opportunities to show people 10 more items. The more you can make it different and fresh, the better,” he says.


Several elements help a display to captivate customers, including color coordination, scaling and detail orientation. When picking a window display’s color scheme, Phibbs advises sticking to just two or three consistent colors to tie everything together.

“In high season, I would try to change the window display every week.” — Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor

For Cerulean, changing the window display monthly works well. Simpson says she might change the display more frequently if needed for a certain holiday or occasion, though.

Phibbs says the frequency with which a store should change its window display varies depending on the location and time of year. Regularly changing window displays during the busy season is important for catching the attention of people vacationing in town for more than a week, too.

“In high season, I would try to change the window display every week,” explains Phibbs. “That’s when you deal with people coming in for 10 days at a time.”

At Elly’s Kids, Mayer says she likes her window displays to focus on one main color and use one or two other colors as accents to help the display to pop. For instance, she might design a window primarily full of pink apparel, but she’ll accent with white or red accessories or toys. If the window features mostly neutral-colored apparel, she likes to accent those tones with something brighter like a bright red balloon or toy.

On at least one occasion, a singlecolored window display helped Elly’s Kids to draw in foot traffic, though.

“My favorite display was a white window,” Mayer shares. “My thought process on that is we’re here at the beach. It’s so hot in the middle of summer, but everybody who comes here for outfits for family pictures. I have people coming all the time panicked about wanting white dresses, white shirts for family photo so I did a white window.”

Mayer says that display featured white balloons, white apparel along

Focusing on one or two main colors draws the eye at Elly's Kids in Emerald Isle.

with tan pants and shorts on the children’s busts. Although it was fairly monochromatic, the display prompted people to come into the shop.

Phibbs also advises against just stuffing window displays with as many products as possible. Instead, he says, windows look best when the items in the display are thoughtfully sized and scaled to showcase a story.

“The best displays respect the shopper’s time, experience and view by drawing them in and clearly showcasing products and brand,” he says.

window at Julianne’s Coastal Cottage.

“When I first bought this store a year ago, I assumed that you dress the window according to the season. But I learned that’s not always necessary,” she says. “When you get cool merchandise in, you put that in the window.”


Phibbs says the best window displays don’t build themselves overnight, they often take days or even weeks of planning in advance.

“Think about if you were making the pie for your family’s Thanksgiving — will you try to make it an hour before dinner, or do you want to give care to it?” he says. “I don’t think you can complain that you’re not attracting enough people to your store if you’re not willing to put the work in.”

Mayer adds that seaside retailers also shouldn’t be afraid to be flexible and open-minded about what they feature in their window displays.

As long as you have a plan and an outline, that will help everything fall into place so much easier.” — Vivienne Mayer, a supervisor at Elly’s Kids,

Mayer says she’s mindful about featuring different sizes and options in her window displays at Elly’s Kids. Instead of using the window to highlight three different boy outfits, she typically tries to have one boy outfit, one girl outfit and one baby or toddler outfit.

“I stagger the outfit sizes so it breaks it up,” she says. “Part of the reason why I do a size 8 boys, a size 6 girls and a size 6-12-month baby article is so you can see that there’s movement in the window and outfits.”

Seaside retailers also want to be picky about what specific products they choose to showcase in the window. Frakes focuses on sharing popular brands and styles in the display

“Put something together outside of your comfort zone,” she says. “Sometimes it’s better to work out of your comfort zone. I’m not going to pick browns, oranges and yellows, but those colors look great together for a neat fall table. So don’t just stick with what you think is pretty because not everybody thinks that’s pretty.”

Making those types of calls takes a lot of consideration and planning, so Mayer says retailers should always try to draw a plan for their displays before putting them together.

She concludes, “As long as you have a plan and an outline, that will help everything fall into place so much easier.”

Julianne's Coastal Cottage relies on small changes every week to make windows pop.
Give customers another reason to smile with products that are good for the environment.


t’s not always enough anymore to offer products that only provide fashion and function. A growing number of consumers are also interested in the impact their purchases have on the environment.

According to recent research published by the National Retail Federation, between half to two-thirds of consumers will pay more for sustainable products. That percentage rises to 80% for consumers between ages 18 to 34.

And for seaside retailers whose core customers are beach lovers and ocean enthusiasts, that number is arguably greater.

“We’re currently at an interesting tipping point where if you aren’t incorporating eco-friendly or socially driven brands into your store or product line, you’re at a bit of a

disadvantage,” says Deirdre Horan Bird, CEO and founder of Dri, a company that makes eco-friendly umbrellas. “This industry is massive, and only going to become more prevalent.”

She adds that retailers are in the unique position to be able to amplify the causes they care about, purely by carrying products in their stores that support those causes.

“What retailers offer on their shelves is a direct reflection of who they are, not only as a business owner, but a fellow citizen of our planet. Carrying products like Dri gives retailers the opportunity to display their values, and patrons who share those morals will undoubtedly become loyal customers.”

Dri’s line of durable, chic and eco-friendly rain umbrellas are built from 100% recycled 38 SEASIDE RETAILER MARCH-APRIL 2024 STYLE TREND: ECO-FRIENDLY
Betty Belts aims to provide style as well as sustainability in its upcycled and sea glass jewelry.
These products go the extra mile with eco-friendly features that help planet Earth.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10 8
1 | Dri: Shelly the Sea Turtle umbrella with recycled plastic canopy and bamboo handle; www.; 2 | Madd Capp: I Am Lil’ Axolotl 100-piece puzzle with eco-friendly packaging, inks and recycled materials,; 3 | Pampeana: Sand dollar night light from recycled glass,; 4 | Zatara Bartoni/Net & Hand: Shell charm bracelet made with reclaimed fishing net, 5 | Alaskan Suncatchers: Starfish suncatcher from recycled glass,; 6 | The RGU Group: Graffiti Teddy made with recycled plastic,; 7 | Betty Belts: Upcycled Surfite earrings,; 8 | Smart Glass Jewelry: Mosaic cube ring from glass bottles,; 9 | Marley’s Monsters: Air B ‘n’ Beach UNpaper Towels,; 10 | JungleVine: Somboun JungleVine Purse from handspun, 100% sustainable Laotian vine fiber,

ocean-bound plastic. Each canopy equates to eight plastic bottles diverted from entering our seas, notes Horan Bird. The shaft of the umbrellas is made from stainless steel and the handles are made from sustainable bamboo.

“Bamboo is the most regenerative land plant in the world, so our handles offer another element of sustainability into the product,” Horan Bird says.

The umbrellas are available in three unisex ocean-themed colors: marine green, arctic gray, and pacific blue. There’s also a sea turtle pattern, Shelly the Sea Turtle, which is the company’s best seller.

And umbrellas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to eco-friendly products seaside retailers can consider offering.


Sea glass has often been a part of a seaside retailer’s collection of jewelry, and now there’s another type of glass jewelry gaining traction.

Kathleen Plate has been transforming empty glass bottles into beautiful jewelry pieces for almost 30 years using techniques she’s developed and even patented.

Her Smart Glass Jewelry is an entire line of fashion jewelry made from salvaged post-consumer beverage bottles.

“We gather empty bottles from bars and restaurants and friends and dumpsters and transform the glass into beautiful seaglass style jewelry,” Plate explains. “We are seaglass without the ocean.”

According to Plate, seasides and sustainability go hand in hand. “The

“Nothing compares to the joy of doing something good for the planet, and designing with reclaimed net gives us the opportunity to prevent ‘ghost net’ and help protect marine life and preserve crucial habitats.” — Monica Willard, Zatara Bartoni

Jewelry, toys, apparel, accessories, souvenir and decor are among the popular categories that have eco-friendly options. Seaside Retailer has identified just some of the many sustainable products that seaside retailers can consider carrying in their stores to help elevate their eco-friendly offerings to eco-conscious customers.

ocean is one of the places people love, and it’s an easy entry point for them to practice recycling and being mindful of their impact on the earth. Also because our jewelry is made from the same glass as seaglass, it is a natural fit both in look and origin story.”

Zatara Bartoni’s Net & Hand jewelry is a pioneering, patented concept of using reclaimed commercial fishing net to create structures that become a blank canvas to create sustainable, eco friendly jewelry.

preserve crucial habitats,” says Monica Willard who designs the pieces with her mother Korleen Cochran.

“Zatara Bartoni’s heart is in designing for boutiques, with a range from fun to one-of-a-kind statement pieces, however, our soul is in Net & Hand, our fast growing and popular collection of primarily bracelets in the $20-$30 dollar range,” says Willard. “We like to say this is ‘When Turtles Fly’ not only because the bracelets fly off the shelves, but they help prevent turtles from becoming entangled in cast off net.”

Williard says she and her mother have truly been blown away by the emotional and passionate response customers have to the Net & Hand bracelets.

“Nothing compares to the joy of doing something good for the planet, and designing with reclaimed net gives us the opportunity to prevent ‘ghost net’ and help protect marine life and

“People like to take pride in wearing unique, environmentally friendly products that are also conversation starters about issues they care about,” she says.

According to Willard, making sure people are educated about proper handling and disposal of fishing gear is a big deal in Florida.

“So many needless entanglements, especially of pelicans and other birds, could be prevented if people were more careful with their gear. That’s one reason we wanted the Net & Hand bracelets to

Smart Glass Jewelry uses salvaged post-consumer beverage bottles to create sea-glass-like jewelry pieces. Dri’s line of umbrellas use plastic bottles to create the canopy and sustainable bamboo for a solid handle.

be made of actual net — so they would be a visual reminder for people to make great choices for the environment.”


Betty Belts creates upcycled surfboard resin jewelry and sea glass jewelry. According to Donna von Hoesslin Pu’u, founder and designer, “Sustainability is about more than just the materials and production, design is important, too. We make a point of creating styles that last for many years but also stay relevant among a sea of products that either fall apart or go out of style too quickly.”

Von Hoesslin Pu’u notes that the company is both a Green America Certified Business and a member of 1% for the Planet.

All of Pampeana’s products are eco-friendly, according to Account Manager David Kainoa. “All of our products are made from recycled glass, wood or tagua which is a nut from a palm tree in the Amazon rainforest that becomes petrified when dried.”

The company’s range of offerings include: souvenir, bed and bath, ornaments, kids home decor and fashion.

“Eco-friendly products are definitely on the rise,” Kainoa notes. “Consumers are showing increased interest in products that are produced sustainably.”

Marley’s Monsters provides sustainable solutions for every area of your

“Eco-friendly gear in any regards is extremely important not only for recycling efforts but for telling the story and connecting people to brands trying to make a difference.”
— Nikki Strout, Rugged Seas

life and home without compromising style or durability, according to Sarah Dooley, founder and president. She says the company’s sole purpose is to empower sustainable living, one simple swap at a time.

“From your kitchen, to your bathroom, and beyond the walls of your home, we provide sustainable reusables that replace everyday, single-use products. Start your morning with reusable coffee filters, wipe up spills with UNpaper towels and clean with a washable duster.”

The products are available in a large variety of prints and colors to encourage sustainable living that promotes someone’s unique personality and style, notes Dooley.

“Our UNpaper Towels work just like a paper towel, only better. Washable and reusable, they naturally cling to themselves and can be rolled and dispensed like a paper towel,” explains Dooley.


Every product in Rugged Seas’ bag line, which ranges from clutch to tote to backpack, features recycled material from fishermen’s bibs.

According to Nikki and Taylor Strout, owners and co-founders, the bibs have gone to sea for one job and now are repurposed for another.

Gear is collected from across the country and in some instances, from around the world through collection sites or direct shipping.

From there, the gear is cleaned and worked into the upcycled bags which come in vibrant colors with the bright orange bib material making up the handles, bottom or accents.

“Eco-friendly gear in any regards is extremely important not only for recycling efforts but for telling the story and connecting people to brands trying to make a difference,” says Taylor Strout. “I think when people can see a product is clearly eco-friendly by the materials used, it helps motivate them to do more.”

Nikki Strout adds, “The visual of seeing all the different color fishing bibs triggers the mind to wonder where or who wore them before being turned into a product.”


Even toys and games can be safe for the environment.

Marley’s Monsters’ UNpaper Towels are a great washable and reusable alternative. Reclaimed fishermen’s bibs are used to create Rugged Seas’ clutches, totes and backpacks.

“As beach-goers and seaside lovers expect clean beaches in coastal areas, a seaside retailer is at the forefront of setting an example to reduce plastics, for the greater good and the success of their store,” says Edouard AndreHessig, CEO, ArtVenture.

ArtVenture carries over 200 products from small fidgets to larger models, historical and mystical vehicles, famous monuments, Da Vinci models, games and toys.

“All our models are made of eco-friendly plywood. In addition, our range ARTOYA is fully recyclable and biodegradable and made of wood from well-managed forests: both product and packaging are recyclable and no plastic is included.

The company is also a 1% for the Planet member and gives back a min-

imum of 1% to several nonprofits to support sustainable initiatives locally and globally.

Madd Capp’s jigsaw puzzles, cribbage sets and playing cards are also environmentally friendly, from the products to the packaging.

Products are made with recycled materials and vegetable-based inks and product packaging is sourced from FSC-certified forests.

Madd Capp’s jigsaw puzzles are packed in biodegradable and compostable bags made of cornstarch, a renewable plant material.

“As a company and as consumers ourselves, we wanted to reduce our environmental impact,” says John Moran, co-founder and principal, Madd Capp Games & Puzzles. “Changing from polybags to biodegradable and

compostable bags to package our puzzle pieces just made sense. No surprise — it made sense to our buyers too. Consumers really do care about environmentally sustainable products. When presented with eco-friendly options, they’ll pick them.”

Every plush in Wild Republic’s catalog has recyclable filling. The Independence, Ohio-based company also offers 100% recycled and biodegradable options for the ultimate eco-friendly friend.

“We are using recyclable fill from plastic water bottles along with limiting all harmful material and single-use plastics from our factories,” says Trevor Faber, marketing coordinator. “From plastic beads to glass beads, and plastic eyes to stitched eyes, we are keeping our promise to the planet.”


Faber says lately, he is seeing sustainability become a priority over price point. “Many people would rather spend an extra dollar knowing they are helping the environment.”

The RGU Group is in the process of rolling out an eco-friendly product line for the first time in several years, according to Connor Atkins, marketing representative for RGU.

“Back in the late 2000s/early 2010s, we released our first line of ecofriendly teddies, which were sustainably made from bamboo instead of synthetic materials. With today’s plastic problem that has become impossible to ignore, we decided it was time to act again and introduce a line of 100% recycled souvenir teddies.”

Designed at a new, larger 10-inch sitting height, these graffiti-inspired recycled teddies will be arriving in May in their first nine locations.

“We’re committed to becoming a more earth-friendly supplier of plush toys — one recycled teddy at a time,” says Atkins.

Each Graffiti Teddy is produced

from 20 half-liter water bottles — the equivalent of nearly 9 tons of plastic recycled with just the company’s first two production runs, Atkins notes.

So, as you welcome visitors to your seaside store in 2024, give them ways to help preserve the place they love.

“Tourists visit seaside destinations to connect with the environment — the beach! Sand, sun, waves, carefree vibes. One of the biggest buzzkills to a seaside vacation is trash, whether it’s just unsightly or actually poses a hazard to oneself, one’s family, or wildlife,” says Atkins. “By carrying eco-friendly products, a seaside retailer can indirectly care for the very environment that drives their livelihood.”

Looking for sustainable apparel options? Don’t miss the “Clothing with Conscience” feature in the May/June issue!

Puzzles from Madd Capp use recycled materials and vegetable-based inks.


Seaside retailers should look closely at their hiring, onboarding and training if they want to cultivate a stellar team.

Customers might be drawn to a store because of its alluring merchandise, but the connections they make with a store’s employees, when done well, help to create a loyal customer base.

During the 2023 Coastal Connections Conference, four retailers offered their best tips for hiring and retaining retail workers in an educational session titled, “Building an All-Star Team.”

Speakers included William Hill of Margaritaville Resort Orlando Gift Shop; Scott Hamblen of Sunshine Ace Hardware in Naples, Florida; Kim Springsteen-Abbott of Lady Gryphon’s Coastal Collection Shop in Tarpon Springs, Florida; and Kathy Cruz, a shop owner and business coach for Savvy Shopkeeper in Lakewood, Ohio.

Although cultivating a team of loyal employees takes hard work, it’s certainly doable for any seaside retailer. It involves hiring the right people, adequately onboarding them and consistently training them.


Seaside retailers should be creative in their approaches to hiring the right candidates to staff their stores. At Margaritaville Resort Orlando, Hill said he has used social media, in-store advertising, employee referrals and customer interactions to find the right people. He noted recruiting is also an option.

Hill also advised that seaside retailers take a twostep approach in the hiring process by having an initial phone call with prospective hires and then an in-person interview if the initial call goes well. Some key topics to discuss in that initial call include the po-

“It all starts with the phone call. You want to make sure the candidate fits what you’re looking for to determine whether an in-person interview would be worth the time for both you and the applicant.”
— William Hill, Margaritaville Resort Orlando

“If you don’t want to feel like you’re drowning in your business, it’s really important to let go of ownership. The happier you are in your business, the happier they are going to be working for you.”

“I can teach anybody how to fold a shirt; I can’t teach somebody how to be a human being and how to talk to somebody. Personality is more important than experience.” — William Hill, Margaritaville Resort Orlando

"You can’t send your employees out to be advocates for your business if they don’t believe in it, they don’t love it and if they’re not passionate about your mission." — Scott Hamblen, Sunshine Ace Hardware

“As owners, we want to tell everyone everything about our company at the initial interview, but you should be doing hardly any of the talking.” —

Springsteen-Abbott, Lady Gryphon’s Coastal Collection Shop

sition requirements as well as the prospective hire’s previous work experiences, availability and pay expectations.

An in-person interview should be used to get to know the potential new hire better and check that his or her values align with the store’s values. Hill noted that this interview shouldn’t be very regimented; it needs to be a conversation.

The job candidate should do most of the talking in these interviews, too. Springsteen-Abbott said she focuses on listening when hiring employees for Lady Gryphon’s Coastal Collection Shop.

“As owners, we want to tell everyone everything about our company at the initial interview, but you should be doing hardly any of the talking,” she noted.

Springsteen-Abbott suggested asking prospective candidates what they know about the store to see whether they have done their homework and are interested.

If that conversation goes well, Hill recommended hiring anyone who seems to be a strong candidate rather than waiting on interviews with other candidates.

Conversely, he said retail managers shouldn’t hire out of desperation, either. If a candidate seems eager for the job but has some red flags — such as limited availability or a bad record of job hopping — it might be wise to wait for a better candidate.

Hill concluded that personality is the most important trait hiring managers should look for in prospective candidates.

“I can teach anybody how to fold a shirt; I can’t teach somebody how to be a human being and how to talk to somebody,” he points out. “Personality is more important than experience.”


Once seaside retailers hire strong candidates, training and onboarding those employees is critical to retaining them.

Although onboarding might sound like a formal term, Springsteen-Abbott noted that it’s essential for setting expectations for employees. She suggested highlighting the company’s story, its vision, its mission and goals for the employee’s particular job in an onboarding meeting.

Cruz said clarity is important when training employees to set them up for success. She said seaside retailers should give each position a clear job description, measurements for success in that role and clarity on deadlines.

She added that retailers also should not be afraid to delegate tasks and train individuals to be experts in certain areas of the business. According to Cruz, business owners sometimes fail to delegate responsibility to others. But delegating can help alleviate the owner and develop a loyal employee. 48 SEASIDE RETAILER MARCH-APRIL 2024 BUSINESS: HIRING

“If you don’t want to feel like you’re drowning in your business, it’s really important to let go of ownership,” she concluded. “The happier you are in your business, the happier they are going to be working for you.”


Seaside retailers also want to do more than just hire and onboard their team members. Hamblen said they should be regularly training and engaging with employees to ensure retention. He stressed that overlooking employee engagement can have adverse effects.

Hamblen listed three levels of engagement that retailers might notice among their employees: engaged employees, not-engaged employees and actively disengaged employees.

He noted that some of the things

employees want most include recognition for their contributions, approachable managers, the ability to learn new things, respect, a fair chance at a promotion and career guidance. He added, “You know what’s amazing about this list? It costs nothing.”

He concluded that customer experience suffers if employee experience is poor.

“If you want to grow your customer experience, you have to grow employee engagement,” Hamblen said. “You can’t send your employees out to be advocates for your business if they don’t believe in it, they don’t love it and if they’re not passionate about your mission. Define your culture and standards. Hire for culture first, readily connecting to people, and then keep a pulse on your team’s engagement.”

Red flags in the hiring process

Seaside retailers shouldn’t hire out of desperation. Here are a few red flags they should look for when hiring employees:

• Job hopping

• Employment gaps

• Late to interview

• Did not like previous management

• Already working multiple jobs

• Keeps rescheduling the interview



Renovating the retail space can breathe new life into sales.

NorthCarolina Aquariums RoanokeIsland,NC


menacing, three-tiered shark might not sound all that inviting, but when it’s wrapped in layers of pink, blue and gray plush sharks, its charm is irresistible. Upon entering the gift shop at North Carolina Aquariums’ Roanoke Island location, pops of blue and bursts of purple welcome visitors to a sprawling shop full of the squishier versions of the creatures they just observed in their habitats.

It’s a far cry from the way the store looked before it received a facelift that began in January 2016. Although the transformation started when Amanda Cross was still just an assistant before she took the helm as manager in May 2018, she can still remember how the space begged for life.

“It looked like a hospital. It was sterile,” she recalls of the 2,600-square-foot space. “I was always begging, ‘Can I just paint the wall?’”

So, when CambridgeSeven Associates began the process of dismantling the store, Cross knew they were in good hands. “I just think it’s very unique,” Cross says of the new design. “All of the fixtures and that kind of stuff. It’s like a showcase.”

Additionally, she is convinced the transformation has been responsible not only for breathing new life into the shop, but also bringing in the sales — literally.

“They added a new entrance where we have our shark habitat; it used to be a wall and now that’s where people can come in,” Cross notes. “And then we have our other exit that they can go out. They did all of that. It was a complete facelift.”

In addition to replacing all of the slatwall and the register area, a silver slatwall ceiling reflects all of the merchandise as a perfect mirror image throughout the store. “We were the Guinea pigs,” Cross says, noting they were the first of four

PHOTOS: Drinkware featuring the North Carolina Aquariums logo is displayed neatly on shelves at Roanoke Island.

gift shops to be renovated. Additional locations in the North Carolina Aquarium’s network include Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Jennette’s Pier. “They came up with a concept that was totally different than what I started with. I’m always showing people pictures of ‘this is what I came into and this is what we have now.’”

Guests are greeted by a two-toned wood floor design that leads them around the store to different pockets that are accentuated by blue, yellow, purple and green walls, depending on which “room” you’re in. Enchanting fixtures like the shark, a turtle with his flippers spread wide — ready to take on his next adventure — and a cheerful sailboat confirm to guests that they are welcome to stay and browse as long as they like.

And it’s a good thing, because like the Roanoke Island aquarium, there’s so much to explore.


Pastel beach bags with rope handles, nautical wind chimes, mermaid statues, aquatic wildlife books, glassware, pottery, apparel, toys, plush and other

marine keepsakes all wind their way around the store to the awaiting cash register in the middle.

During the busy season, which Cross says is between June and August and peaks in July, as many as 19 employees will walk the floor in staggered shifts, helping mainly vacationers secure the perfect mementos. MARCH-APRIL 2024 SEASIDE RETAILER 51
A cheerful sailboat is among the updated fixtures waiting to invite guests to stay and shop.

“We have families that have been coming for years,” Cross explains. “And every year, they come through to the gift shop, so we’re more arranged for them. They came with their parents and now they’re coming with their kids.”

During the school year, hundreds of children will peer through the glass at the sharks and alligators before petting the sting rays or marveling at the sea turtle rescue zone where quiet is requested for the ward’s recuperating patients.

Back in the gift shop, the aquarium’s residents are depicted on T-shirts, glasses and mugs, bags, socks, jewelry, pins, stickers, books and plush, the bestselling souvenir, according to Cross.

Fiesta, The Petting Zoo and K&M International all have a hand in delighting the smallest visitors with plush replicas of the sharks, otters, white gators and others on exhibit, she notes.

Another notable item is The Spicy

Shark hot sauces which range in heat by fin number, with six fins being the hottest, Cross explains.

“But they sell pretty good,” she says.

Other edibles, such as candy and fudge, are always crowd pleasers as well, she says.

But there’s still much to discover throughout, including puzzles, mermaids, home decor, magnets, keychains, hats, hoodies, shirts, waterproof bags and toys. All are grouped according to theme while fish cut-outs adorn the ceiling and a larger-than-life, playful otter peaks out from tall green grass on the wall behind the register.

Meanwhile, towers of jewelry beckon those with a more refined eye for ocean treasures while cases at the cash wrap hold some of the more expensive pieces.

World End Imports, Phillips, Quality Gold, RS Covenant’s Products, White Light, V&L Craft, Shark Crafts and Fahlo all have a place in the inventory at the Roanoke Island gift shop.

Fahlo’s tracker bracelets known for tracking sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, penguins and other wildlife are another top seller, Cross notes.


The tracking bracelets aren’t the only way to directly connect with animals and marine life at the shop, however.

The North Carolina Aquarium Society, the nonprofit support organization formed to assist the four state aquariums in fulfilling their mission, offers an Adopt-an-Animal program that is advertised through the gift shop.

According to the society’s website, visitors can choose between a shark, sea turtle, otter, seahorse, alligator or bald eagle with a tax-deductible donation that will feed, care for and display the animal for one year. In return, the donor selects from one of three adoption levels that provides them with an adoption certificate, name on the website, window decals and other optional perks, such as a stuffed animal or a percentage off of their annual aquarium membership for an added fee.

With so much floor space to cover in the shop, Cross admits the challenge lies in a small stock room with limited space. For this reason, the society is working with buyers to schedule deliveries by appointment.

“Instead of getting three trucks in

Visitors can’t miss the large selection of plush at North Carolina Aquariums’ Roanoke Island location placed on colorful animal-like fixtures.

one day, we can spread it out so that we can process the freight,” Cross explains. “Also in processing, we used to have to tag a lot and our buyer has worked with our vendors so that a lot of them are pricing for us now. So that gives us a little more time to process it and get it out, which has helped us out a lot.”

Cross adds Pods storage containers on-site for overflow inventory is helping to alleviate storage issues and expand space.


When it comes down to why Cross loves her position, she simply answers “everything.” From being creative to being able to control what’s on the sales floor, Cross enjoys the entire retail process.

“I’m a little bit of a control freak,”

she admits with a laugh. “But it’s also the kids when they see the shop and their faces light up and they’re like, ‘Oh boy,’ especially when they see the turtles and the fixtures.”

But it’s not just Cross who is enthusiastic about her adventures in the gift shop that make the store sing.

“It’s our team, not just the team in the store but our team in Raleigh,” Cross says of her superiors in the office’s headquarters. “It takes all of us and a lot of communication.”

From Barbara Bayer, director of retail operations, to buyer Mandy Dudley and assistant buyer Jessica Dwight to Cross and the countless oth-

ers who have a hand in the Roanoke Island gift shop, there’s a collaborative spirit that shines as bright as the little faces hugging stuffed animals as they exit the gift shop.

“We are more than a souvenir shop. We help in creating memories of the aquarium.” — AMANDA CROSS

Cross adds the team extends beyond even those who operate the gift shops, as they work hand-in-hand with the aquarium staff members who are helping to guide visitors through the aquatic playground. Although she is on the drier side of the equation, Cross knows her role is just as important in delivering a complete experience.

“We are more than a souvenir shop,” she asserts. “We help in creating memories of the aquarium.” COASTAL CONNECTION MARCH-APRIL 2024 SEASIDE RETAILER 53


Offering quality gifts and souvenirs helps differentiate a store from the competition.

AudubonAquarium NewOrleans,LA


t’s more than a cosmetic procedure with some revamped exhibits thrown in. A $41 million project reshaped the entire experience at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans — including the gift shop. Today, it’s no longer an afterthought; it’s along for the ride.

“I’ve worked in a lot of different places, and it doesn’t matter what we put on that gift shop floor, as long as people can see it, they buy it. It’s unbelievable,” Randy Dickson, store general manager marvels. “It’s a wild location.”

“Now we’re more of an exhibit,” describes Olga Urbina, retail manager for the Audubon Aquarium Shop. “Now, we’re the final stop so the kids are allowed to breathe a little bit more and take it in.”

In a renovation that nearly doubled the footprint of the gift shop, Urbina says making it an exit shop where guests pass through on their way out the door as opposed to being optional was a game changer.

“People say that we’re like Disney now,” she remarks. “Because a lot of parks do the same thing that you exit through the gift shop.”

Instead of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, however, children are greeted by plush sharks, sting rays, penguins, clown fish, jellyfish and other sea friends. And instead of amusement rides and thrills, an underwater adventure awaits in the aquarium while the importance of insects is stressed in the Insectarium, which now shares the building in the space the former IMAX theater once occupied.

It was an undertaking that changed the flow of the entire building, Urbina notes.

“A big thing now is everything is I would say backwards. If you’ve been here before, now you come from the second floor to the first floor where before you did everything on the

PHOTOS: Drinkware featuring sea life is a popular souvenir, reminding visitors of their encounters with the animals.

first floor and you went up,” explains Urbina, an employee of nearly eight years. “We’re getting comments on it. People like it, but it takes a little getting used to.”

And in the gift shop, the breathing room and airiness is apparent, Urbina adds. “It’s a cleaner, fresher look,” she says. “And you can feel the difference when we get really crowded. It’s a better flow.”


The Audubon Aquarium Shop, which is operated by SSA Group, has been working feverishly since the aquarium reopened in June 2023 to add depth and better connect with the exhibits the aquarium is known for, such as the Gulf of Mexico tank, the renovated Amazon area and the

Maya reef exhibit. An added bonus was freshening up some of the faces that greet customers, such as Dickson, who joined SSA Group and the New Orleans aquarium in April 2023.

As the former regional director of operations for Circle K overseeing 78 stores in five states, Dickson settled into his position of managing the restaurants, snack bars and two gift shops on the premises at the aquarium at the request of his new bride, who asked for a job that kept him closer to home.

Dickson says the position is proving to be a good fit as he finds his footing.

“It’s a happy place to work,” he admits. “You get to see all these cool animals that you don’t get to see in your mundane, everyday life. It’s really hard to have a bad day at an aquarium.”

With the help of Urbina, Retail

Director Kathy Schwandt, 10 other full-time employees and a handful of part-time employees, the team at the aquarium gift shop helps to guide visitors mostly children to their most favorite keepsakes.

Of the most popular items, plush and toys reign supreme, say Urbina and Dickson. For this reason, Wild Republic, Fiesta and K&M fill the shelves with sharks, octopus, penguins and any other sea life children find irresistible.


Although Dickson notes the busiest time of year is summer, when the kids are out of school, there is another dynamic that plays into their locale: tourism.

“We get such a wide variety of people, and that’s the thing about New

Orleans. It changes week by week, he explains. “It just depends on what convention is going on in town to really gauge who’s coming into the aquarium.”

Whether travel is work-related or personal, the going’s on of a bustling town like New Orleans is sure to bring in a crowd. For instance, the first week of January, Dickson says, the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome brought in throngs of people to cheer the Washington Huskies to victory over the Texas Longhorns.

“So, we had a bunch of people from Washington state and Texas in the area,” he explains. “And they just came in by the hordes and bought up shirts and cups and anything they could find.”

Being a tourist destination has its perks, Dickson notes, especially when it comes to selling souvenirs and name-drop merchandise. Whether a T-shirt, hat, shot glass, magnet or keychain, anything with “New Orleans” or “Audubon Aquarium” tends to sell particularly well.

He notes that about 80% of the visitors are tourists while the remainder are locals.

To set the aquarium apart from the multitude of souvenir shops that line the French Quarter, Dickson says it comes down to quality merchandise.

“The quality of our plush and our T-shirts is a lot better from everything else in the French Quarter,” he asserts. “I firmly believe that our items are such high quality because our buyers do their due diligence to make sure people get a really good product.”

Beyond the plush that greets visitors

“It’s a happy place to work. You get to see all these cool animals that you don’t get to see in your mundane, everyday life. It’s really hard to have a bad day at an aquarium.”

are jewelry spinners, apparel displays, magnets, coffee cups, stickers, pajama sets, puzzles and toys tucked into a color scheme throughout the store that is reminiscent of a southwestern mesa, Dickson says.



He adds that while some gift shops don’t immediately accompany an attraction, the Audubon’s gift shop has been a staple since the aquarium opened in 1990 and had formerly been named the Treasure Chest.

“It’s always been kind of a focal point and a good revenue source for Audubon,” he notes. “But I don’t think it really had a big footprint in the aquarium until now.”

Known as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S., according to Travel + Leisure magazine and the Travel Channel, the location is not without challenges. In fact, Dickson says, one of the biggest obstacles is not in staffing — like most establishments these days — but in staff parking.

Toys and children’s apparel encourage playful interaction with the Audubon Aquarium’s residents, which include sea turtles. The quality of the plush sets it apart from other nearby shops in the French Quarter.

“It costs $50 to park a day in the surrounding area,” he explains. “So, it’s hard finding staff that don’t want to drive and can take public transportation. Because a parking spot for everybody that works here is extraordinarily expensive.”

Regardless of the logistics, Dickson casually notes parking is merely a “hiccup” in what he considers to be an otherwise sterling operation. He credits his team and a positive attitude for making all the difference.

“I have an amazing team that really does a great job, and I’m nothing without them, I assure you,” he admits. “They’re really good at what they do.”

Personally, Dickson says, he has some bedrock principals that helps others achieve similar success.

“You have to immerse yourself with

good people and you’ve got to lead by example,” he stresses. “And you really have to go above and beyond with good customer service.”

Whether it’s in the aquarium, the Insectarium or the gift shop, Dickson says, all play a role in making sure visitors have a good time from the front door all the way to the exit shop.

“We all just have an overall drive and compassion of wanting to serve people and making sure people walk away with a positive outlook,” he notes. “It’s probably the No. 1 thing that we strive to do.”

And if someone happens to whistle “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” on the way out, it’s a bonus.

Kids have no shortage of items to choose from to commemorate their visit. MARCH-APRIL 2024 SEASIDE RETAILER 57


Make the retail experience feel like another fun, whimsical exhibit inside the aquarium.

ScienceSeymourMarineDiscoveryCenter SantaCruz,CA



he gift shop at the Seymour Marine Science Discovery Center on the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus is no larger than the average family’s living room. In fact, the seaside learning center didn’t even have a building until 2000.

“Prior to that, we actually had volunteers who would gather groups of people and take them on tours of our research facilities,” explains Emily Casaretto, visitor experience and gift shop manager. “It was kind of threadbare. They were operating out of tubs of educational materials and a portable classroom for 15 to 20 years.”

Then in 2000, funds were raised to build a 20,000-square-foot visitor center, according to the university’s website.

Suddenly, an indoor facility filled with “touch tanks” housing hermit crabs, starfish, sting rays and swell sharks brought the wonder of the ocean even closer to curious visitors.

“The focus on ocean science is probably one of the main differences,” Casaretto notes of the facility compared to a public aquarium. “As part of the university, our job is to showcase the amazing research that our faculty and our students do here.”

While researchers and students thoughtfully work to understand life underwater, they invite guests to pull up a chair and take in the beauty of the Monterrey Bay — home “year-round to harbor seals, southern sea otters, bottlenose dolphins, and two porpoise species” according to the center’s website.

Casaretto believes guests take comfort in the smaller, more intimate setting provided by the only working research laboratory in California open daily to the public. Along with a passion for the ocean comes a desire to take a piece home.

“The guiding principle of having a gift shop in our center

Souvenir stickers in the shape of sea life are an easy and affordable impulse buy for the aquarium.

is how do we help people take a piece of their love for the ocean home with them,” Casaretto explains. “And how do we provide items that they can purchase that build on this education and this enthusiasm for the ocean?”

The small shop brims with coastalthemed drinkware, postcards, magnets, apparel, toys, books, plush, jewelry and home decor meant to remind guests of their glimpse of the ocean floor and the treasures just beneath the surface.

“I think the most common thing I hear is ‘there are so many fun things in here,’” Casaretto says with a smile. “That makes me feel good because that’s the point is to have it feel like this sort of wonderland.”

Since taking over the operation in 2019 when the original shop manager retired, Casaretto says she’s retained

some inventory while putting her own stamp on what she feels is important.

“I had heard from some people in the past that sometimes it felt like it was cluttered,” she admits. “So, I’m trying to make it feel full, but not feel like the walls are closing in. I want to have a large variety of interesting things for people to buy, but it’s also important to have accessibility so someone in a wheelchair or someone pushing a stroller is able to move around. Trying to find that balance is a pretty important.”


For Casaretto, balance comes in many forms. With a master’s degree in coastal policy and a background in retail, taking on her current role nearly two years ago became a way of satisfying

both interests.

“I’ve been in retail and hospitality since I was 15, but I also have a passion for building people’s relationships to the ocean,” she notes. “So, it’s the best of both worlds with the interests and skill sets that I have.”

With seven part-time undergraduate students running the cash register, Casaretto is responsible for all other aspects of the shop, including ordering, COASTAL CONNECTION MARCH-APRIL 2024 SEASIDE RETAILER 59
Seagull quilling notecards are among the beautiful keepsakes that honor sea life.

receiving, inventorying and budgeting for merchandise.

As a one-woman-show, she says some of her top priorities revolve around pricing, which can be challenging at times.

“The biggest dedication I have is to keeping things affordable for people. The cost of everything from the supply side has gone up,” she notes. “And I

looks to local artists to harvest their creative talent.

“We’re very lucky to live in a community of people that have a lot of artistic talent who choose to use the ocean or animals that live in the ocean as their inspiration,” she explains. “So, it’s not a challenge for me to find people that are making really incredible artwork with an ocean

“I think the most common thing I hear is ‘there are so many fun things in here.’ That makes me feel good because that’s the point is to have it feel like this sort of wonderland.”

want to keep a variety of things at different price points in the shop because I really do believe that there should be something for everybody here.”

As a small nonprofit, however, Casaretto acknowledges sometimes the budget gets the final say.

“Since we are a nonprofit, there are limits to how we stay afloat as an organization and how we make sure we’re mindful of our expenses,” she points out. “So that’s challenging at times.”

To maintain the pendulum between affordability and variety, Casaretto

theme. And I like to support them as much as I can.”

For this reason, a nearby husbandand-wife team called Big Sur Handworks is Casaretto’s go-to for most apparel, with one manning the design while the other is in charge of screen printing for the operation.

Meanwhile, another local — a professor’s daughter — makes earrings out of abalone shells. Casaretto stresses that she normally wouldn’t carry items in the gift shop made from things collected off the beach; howev-

er, in this case, the material is harvested from an abalone farm that are remnants of other pieces that would be otherwise thrown away.

“She makes these really beautiful, delicate earrings out of these tiny little abalone shells,” Casaretto says. “That’s been a big part of why I think our gift shop has been successful is that people seek out unique things that they can’t find in other shops.”

Outside of ordering plush from Wild Republic and books from Ingram Publishing, Casaretto also works to carry items that promote an educational experience outside of the building, such as field identification guides and educational activity books for children.

One of her most surprising bestsellers, she notes, is her custom, name-drop merchandise. Whether apparel, magnets, ornaments, stickers or patches, Casaretto says the vessel doesn’t matter as much as the message.

“When you take the time to put your name on a product, people really love it, because it’s something that they can’t find at other places. Pretty much everything that I’ve decided to do a custom version of is a success,”

Everything from education to plush to novelties encourages visitors to explore what lies beneath the ocean’s surface.


she points out. “Because we’re such a small organization, I’m like who’s going to want something with our name on it, but people really do love it.” And more importantly, they’re compelled to buy it.


As for what Casaretto loves, she has a difficult time choosing just one part of her job to highlight. After thoughtful consideration, she comes full circle to her two passions — retail and the ocean.

“For me, there’s, a level of excitement that comes with being part of the retail side of our organization,” she says. “And I love creating an opportunity for our visitors to take something home with them.”

More importantly, she notes, is seeing the ripple effect of the work at the research facility in the community where she lives.

“I ride my bike to work, and it makes me happy when I ride the bike path and see a family with a child carrying a stuffed animal that I know they bought from us,” she notes. “We’re part of the campus, so there’s not another gift shop next door, so if there’s a kid carrying a shark stuffed animal around, I know where they got it.”

As a child who was enthralled by the ocean, Casaretto says nothing makes her happier than making a connection for another who may someday stare out at the Monterrey Bay as a student or faculty member.

“If you had told me as a child that when I would have an office full of snacks and stuffed animals, I would be like, ‘Oh, that sounds like my dream,’” she quips.

Casaretto admits the fact that the child within her is allowed to come out as part of her grown-up job is just one of the many perks.

“There’s an amount of satisfaction I get from just knowing there’s a lot of play in my everyday life because of my job, and that makes me really happy.”

Wood earrings from Green Tree Jewelry capture the attention of shoppers seeking sustainable and ocean-themed souvenirs.


APRIL 9-12

Atlanta Apparel


March 12-16

Natural Products Expo West Anaheim, California

March 13-14

Shore Show New England Providence, Rhode Island

March 15-17

Greensboro Gift & Jewelry Show Greensboro, North Carolina

March 16-17

Atlanta Jewelry Show Atlanta

March 16-18

New England Made Giftware & Specialty Food Shows Portland, Maine

March 17-18

Travelers Show Western Pennsylvania Pittsburgh

March 17-19

Northstar Fashion Exhibitors St. Paul, Minnesota

March 17-20

Shoptalk Las Vegas

March 19-22

Dallas Apparel & Accessories / Kidsworld Market / Total Home & Gift Market


March 21-23

Impressions Expo Atlantic City, New Jersey

March 25-26

Super Show Wilmington, Delaware

March 28-29

Shore Show Virginia Beach Virginia Beach, Virginia


April 3-5

New England Coastal Creative – Bloom Newport, Rhode Island

April 7-9

Miami International Mart Show

Miami Gardens, Florida

April 8-10

Gaylord Gift Show Gaylord, Michigan

April 9-12

Atlanta Apparel Atlanta

April 10-11

Mid-Atlantic Merchandise Mart Philadelphia

April 12-14

New Orleans Spring Gem, Jewelry & Bead Show Kenner, Louisiana

April 13-17

High Point Market High Point, North Carolina

April 28-30

Minneapolis Mart Home & Gift Show


April 28-30


Palm Beach, Florida


May 6-7

TMC – The Merchandise Center Chicago & Schiller Park, Illinois

May 6-8

Atlanta Spring Cash & Carry Atlanta

May 15-17

ABC Kids Expo Las Vegas

May 15-19

MSA Forward Baltimore, Maryland www.museumstore

May 15-17

GTS Greensboro Expo Greensboro, North Carolina

May 15-17


Orlando, Florida

May 15-17

Las Vegas Market - Spring Sample Sale Las Vegas

SAVETHEDATE Minneapolis Mart Home & Gift Show APRIL 28-30


Surf Expo January shows growth over September

Surf Expo, a watersports and coastal lifestyle trade show, kicked off 2024 with a robust gathering filled with top exhibitors, important retail buyers, and exciting industry events.

“It was amazing to be in Orlando with the Board Sports and Coastal Life communities in early January at Surf Expo,” said Roy Turner, Surf Expo senior vice president and show director. “The tradeshow floor was buzzing with a positive vibe and optimism as brands presented new products to buyers for 2024. Surf Expo was able to connect buyers from the United States and abroad with a wide array of manufacturers across multiple categories all related to the beach lifestyle.”

The show, which featured hundreds of brands across the surf, bluewater, shoreline, boutique, coastal gift, footwear, paddle, resort, skate, souvenir, and swim categories, welcomed nearly 800 contracted exhibitors, according to Turner. He adds the show saw a substantial growth in boutique exhibitors as well as footwear.

In addition to the busy sales floor, Surf Expo hosted free professional learning labs, multiple fashion shows, and several happy hours and industry parties. The Florida Shape-Off, the annual surfboard shaping contest and exhibition that promotes the craft of hand-shaping surfboards, was won by Jordan Brazie of Valaric Surfboards. In addition, the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame inducted 11 new honorees during a gala ceremony at the show.

Surf Expo will return Sept. 5-7 to the Orange County Convention Center’s West Concourse. More information is available at

Philadelphia Gift Show sees record-breaking growth

The Philadelphia Gift Show 2024 concluded with resounding success, marking another milestone in the show’s history.

This year’s show saw year over year growth, boasting an increase in both exhibitors and attendees compared to previous years.

“We are delighted to witness the enthusiastic response from both exhibitors and buyers at this year’s Philadelphia Gift Show,” said April Holinek, show director, Philadelphia Gift Show. “The vibrant atmosphere, coupled with the addition of new exhibitors, contributed to the overall success of the event.”


“It was probably one of the best shows we had,” said exhibitor Bruno Catrambone, principal of manufacturers’ rep agency Bruno & Co.

Wood Chart, a company that creates 3D laser-cut wood charts was recognized as Best New Product, while WANTED1878 beard care was honored for Best Booth.

Atlanta Market kickstarts 2024 commerce

Atlanta Market was at the intersection of commerce and community for buyers and exhibitors with 6,000-plus brands providing expanded product discovery, Jan. 16-22, at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Innovation and sourcing across 2,400-plus permanent showrooms and temporary exhibitors gave sellers opportunities to connect and reconnect with key industry contacts. Many of the 1,200-plus temporary exhibitors cited significant gains this January, record-breaking sales and contacts with key buyers.

Beyond buying, retailers and designers were welcomed with programming that complemented cross-category sourcing. Nearly 20 curated events over five days attracted crowds to immersive demonstration kitchens, business-focused seminars and networking events.

Some 15 major buying groups and associations converged at Atlanta Market, bringing key accounts, member-based meetings and industry partner programming to the buying event.

The summer 2024 Atlanta Market is July 16-22, at AmericasMart Atlanta.

The Best New Product award was presented to Wood Chart of Ellsworth,

Las Vegas Market exceeds industry expectations

The Winter 2024 Las Vegas Market unfolded as a center for buyers to discover a wealth of sourcing opportunities and inspiring events.

The five-day buying event welcomed retailers and designers from all 50 states and nearly 60 countries at World Market Center Las Vegas, Jan. 28 – Feb. 1.

The event featured some 1,300 gift resources across seven floors of permanent showrooms, bringing a wealth of general and specialized gifts to buyers from every category. The market also welcomed seven new and expanded showrooms.

Among some of the standout categories reporting overwhelming success were high-end home furnishings and bedding and mattresses, the release noted.

Additionally, the Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas showcased more than 450 brands across six categories: design, gift, handmade, home, immediate delivery and luxe.

Beyond exhibits, Las Vegas Market offered nearly 50 events, educational programs and daily amenities over five days.

To learn more about the event, visit

Atlanta Apparel reports strong order writing

Atlanta Apparel’s February 2024 market kicked off the buying year on a high note, with reports of strong order writing, supplemented by well-attended market events, Feb. 6–9, at AmericasMart Atlanta, according to a press release.

Atlanta Apparel opened its February edition with 475plus showrooms and 340-plus temporary exhibits presenting a combined 3,280-plus lines.

The next Atlanta Apparel market runs April 9-12 at AmericasMart Atlanta. EVENTS COVERAGE 66 SEASIDE RETAILER MARCH-APRIL 2024
The bottom line is that expenses, including profit, should never exceed sales.

STEP #2: Increase margins for breathing room. The best way to give a budget more breathing room is to boost margins. Aim for an initial markup of at least 55%, with a challenge to reach closer to 60% as an average for the store. It’s a game-changer for financial stability.


When store owners join a RetailMavens program, the initial call to action is focused on finances. Why?

First, because we know how important it is that you’re able to pay yourself and your team. But also, because as the captain of your retail ship, knowing your financial landscape is a nonnegotiable.

If numbers aren’t your love language, fear not. You can and should hire an expert to decipher your financial story. That’s pre-

cisely what we do, and if you’re ready to work with us, don’t hesitate to reach out. But let’s get down to the basics of your store’s budget. Ignoring overspending is not an option. I’m sharing three essential steps to guide you.

STEP #1: Align expenses with sales. It’s an issue for almost every store owner. Inventory is usually your biggest expense. Aim to keep inventory costs between 48-50% of sales.

Next, our client gets a worksheet to figure out retail benchmarks for all other expenses like payroll, rent, utilities and more. Expenses, including profit, should never exceed sales.

STEP #3: Implement a cash flow management system like Profit First. Use this method to allocate a specific percentage of sales to profit, taxes, owner’s pay, inventory, operating expenses, and debt. This not only refines a budget but also reduces the stress of cash flow fluctuations.

Implementing Profit First is accessible for anyone, but for tailored insights, consider an assessment from a certified professional. Ideally someone like RetailMavens who can help you customize this process for your retail store.

Ready to take your numbers to the next level? Join my free class. I’ll guide you on calming cash flow chaos and using Profit First to create predictable profits.

Numbers might not be everyone’s love language, but they’re the language of a successful retail business. If you’re ready to navigate these waters with confidence, I’m here to guide you, while providing an exceptional experience to your customers.

CATHY DONOVAN WAGNER guides retailers to grow their sales so they can pay themselves and their staff. Watch how here:

On our radar

Looking for something new to offer? Here are some fresh ideas.

Butler Hill & Co.

Nothing says nautical like the Newport rope bracelet, made in the USA with durable climbing rope and featuring an easy on/off hook clasp.

Fancy That Gift & Decor

King Neptune, this Greek-inspired king of the water, made from polyresin, adds a whimsical statement to any ocean home decor.

Bamboo Source Tropical Decor

Nothing says coastal like this rustic handcarved, painted sea turtle and starfish peg wall hanger, ideal for a cottage or condo.

Bamboo Trading Co.

The vibrant Coral Club bag makes a great fashion accessory for ocean lovers and has a convenient pocket on the backside to carry a phone.

Cape Shore

Lighthouse Keepers

HS Seashells

Driftwood wall accent, featuring sea glass pieces in the colors of the ocean, will make a serene addition to one’s home or porch.

Jackie Gallagher Designs

Friends will get jelly of this hand-crafted recycled sterling silver jellyfish pendant with lab created opal and 18-inch chain.

Enjoy the taste of Cape Cod with this Cranberry Ketchup that creates elevated flavor for the most casual of dining experiences seaside or dockside.

Reflect on your favorite beach memories while sipping from this Seaside mug with hand-carved texture and watercolor glaze.

Bali Queen

This Beach Party shell clutch, handmade in India, says you’re here to mix and mingle and is the ultimate beach accessory for a tropical vacation.

Have a product you would like featured? Send a high-res image and description to:

AD INDEX 72 SEASIDE RETAILER MARCH-APRIL 2024 To sign up for your FREE subscription, visit: SUBSCRIBE TODAY FOR FREE! THE INDUSTRY LEADING RESOURCE FOR BEACH, COASTAL AND NAUTICAL RETAILERS. A.T. Storrs Ltd. – ................................. 71 American Gift Corp. – ..................... 13 Atlanta Market – ...................65 Bags by Bruno – ................. 73 Bali Queen – ................................... 47 Bamboo Source Tropical Decor – .................................45 Bamboo Trading Co. – 53 Beaver Dam Woodworks – 22-23 Blue Caribbean Soap Co. – 59 Butler Hill & Co – ............................. 32 C and F Home – ................................................................... 9 Cape Cod Chokers – 57 Cape Shore – 5 Clarion Events – ....63 Cotz Skincare – ......................... 35 Country Home Creations Destination Jewelry – ........................................ 3 Dri – 53 Dune Jewelry & Co. – ............... 29 Fancy That Gift & Decor – 32 First & Main – 31 Home Malone – 21 HS Seashells – .............................. 7 Impulse Souvenirs – ........................................ 75 Inis the Energy of the Sea – ................................................. 76 Jackie Gallagher Designs .............................. 10 JD Yeatts/Chesapeake Bay – .........69 Joseph K. & Co. LLC – .......................36 Kurt S. Adler – ................................. 17 Las Vegas Market – ............ 67 Latitude Designs LLC – 59 Lighthouse Keeper's Pantry .......................... 55 Mackenzie’s 15 Mei Wah Company – ......................... 51 Moonrise Jewelry – .......... 55 Ocean Jewelry – 11 Patsy Kane – 34 RGU Group – .............................. 39 Seaside Retailer magazine – ....................................... 66, 72 ShipShapeStyles – 66 Simply Chickie – ...................... 57 Slippery Elm – 37 SS Handcrafted Arts – 43 Stonington Designs – 19 The Beach and Back – 49 Town Pride – .................................... 2 True Ocean LLC – ......... 61 Xplorer Maps – ......................... 33


Winner: Jaffi’s

Location: Neptune Beach, Florida

Owners: Emilie Christenson

““I think it is important to support the people who support you, and our community provides us with so much support.”
— Emilie Christenson


Giving in style

Jaffi’s is a high-end boutique that has been part of the Neptune, Florida, beach scene for the past 23 years. And while the store’s beautiful clothing, accessories and gifts embrace the community’s laid-back beach lifestyle, the store also embraces ways to give back to the community.

“From day one, which was March of 2001, we’ve hosted fashion shows and community fundraisers for different nonprofits,” says Owner Emily Christenson.


One of the causes Jaffi’s supports, called Dreams Come True, is a local version of Make a Wish Foundation. Jaffi’s also holds fashion show fundraisers and an annual denim swap for The Pace Center For Girls.

“We ask our customers to donate gently used denim in exchange for a discount on new denim,” Christenson says. “We always carry trendy denim so our customers’ donations are like gold.”

Jaffi’s also supports The Donna Foundation, a local charity that helps support women living with breast cancer, with a raffle featuring highly sought after items donated by local merchants and a sip and shop.




Jaffi’s started donating to The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund because having two employees with Type 1 diabetes made Christenson aware of the seriousness of the condition. “We have a promotional item that we sell to give them money and we do have a sip and shop for them.”

Jaffi’s also carries promotional items for other nonprofits.

“Being a positive force in our community is very important to us. All of these organizations have a direct impact on our community and either help save lives or make them better. This is why we are happy to help with our time, talent and financial resources,” says Christenson.

Starfish Awards recognize retail stores in our industry that are making a difference through charitable donations and efforts. Is your store worthy of an award? We’d love to hear from you! Complete an entry form at

Jaffi’s giving back gift sets feature items from Tyler Candle for $25. They support a different cause each month. PHOTOS: DUNLOP PHOTOGRPAHY
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