Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties - July/August 2023

Page 30


These hot products are selling by the sea.


Get the most from your store’s personalized gift selections.


Zoo and aquarium retailers share tips for getting holiday ready.

LAKE-THEMEDGIFTS! Turntopage86forproductideas thatembracelakelife. Navy Pier sets the bar high for gifts and souvenirs, and Love From USA’s four stores in that location are exceeding expectations. CREATING




Readers can relate to the stories appearing in SGN.



Discover the stores featured in this issue.


Gift shops open at Orlando and Kansas attractions.



Make plans to attend these upcoming trade shows. 26


Coverage from past and upcoming trade shows. 36


A&F and Lantern offer sustainable printing option.

SOUVENIR FOCUS: Coastal Products

Discover the latest trends and ideas that can set your coastal store’s souvenir offerings apart from the competition. Leading wholesalers share what products are creating the most buzz at seaside locations.


Get fresh new product ideas for your store.


Industry experts share advice for souvenir retailers.


Easily locate an advertiser’s ad and website.

out how Love From USA’s four stores in that location
merchandising and customer
Navy Pier sets the bar high for gifts and souvenirs. Find
are exceeding
service strategies that wow customers.
40 60
out the Coastal Connections Conference Preview on page 30!

48 Q&A: Managing a lakefront treasure GM reveals secrets to successful retail at Navy Pier.

70 PRODUCT TREND: Children’s products Museum gift shops provide plenty of kid’s options.


PRODUCT TREND: Magnets/keychains Explore the many benefits these small gifts offer.

86 PRODUCT TREND: Lake-themed gifts These trending products capture the lake lifestyle.

94 PRODUCT TREND: Sports products Hit profit margins out of the park with these winners.

100 PRODUCT TREND: Casino souvenirs Indian casino souvenirs offer a unique combination.

106 PRODUCT TREND: Personalized gifts Adding a personal touch makes gifts more special.

112 MERCHANDISING: Zoos & aquariums Get holiday ready with these retailer tips.

118 MERCHANDISING: Kitchen products Retailers are cooking up memories with these gifts.





RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: The Islander Heart on Main Street gives hope to Fort Myers store.


RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: Beach House Lake Havasu store gives customers a reason to smile.


RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: Mast General North Carolina general store is celebrating 140 years.


RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: UPMC Harrisburg hospital gift shop lifts the spirits of many.



Easy to relate

Each issue of Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties (SGN) magazine features interviews with wonderful retail sources from a variety of stores across the country. We pride ourselves in our interactions with retailers like you to allow us to report on and stay on top of current trends in the souvenir and gift industry.

To help you connect with the retailers featured in each issue of the magazine, we’ve begun including the Retailer Roadmap (p. 12). It is a map of the U.S. with each store interviewed plotted on the map, so you can see who we talked to and where they are located. In this issue, you’ll find retailers as far north as Alaska and as far east as Massachusetts, with dozens of retailers in between.

We are thrilled to be able to bring you a cover story and Q&A featuring retail operations from one of the Midwest’s most iconic landmarks, The Navy Pier (p. 40). Through talking to dozens of retailers, we have also covered a wide range of product trends and merchandising topics so you can gain insights on different categories, including children’s products at museums (p. 70), magnets and keychains (p. 78), licensed sports products (p. 94), souvenirs at Indian casinos (p. 100), personalized souvenirs (p. 106), holiday preparations at zoos and aquariums (p. 112) and kitchen and housewares (p. 118). This issue also includes several retailer profiles starting on p. 124 as well as a preview of the Coastal Connections Conference (p. 30), a retail conference taking place Oct. 22-24 at Margaritaville Resort Orlando.

As a store owner, manager or buyer, you are constantly trying to get to know your customers and their purchasing habits so you can better serve them. Reading SGN magazine gives you an advantage by learning what works for other retailers like yourself so you can adopt new ideas and put them into practice.

I hope you enjoy this issue of SGN and get some important takeaways for your store. If there is a topic or store you would like to see covered in an upcoming issue, please reach out to me at SGN

Karen Carr Publisher & Creative Director 330-591-2575

Kristin Ely Executive Editor & Conference Director 858-684-7744

Katie Turner Business Development Manager 219-206-1140

Megan Smalley Associate Editor 330-576-9338

Larry White Sales Director 610-324-2100

Lee White Sales Manager 609-415-0200

Jamie Winebrenner Sales Manager 330-269-5875

Debby Clarke Ad Production Coordinator 856-816-6346

Gabby Pagura Accounts Receivable 330-368-2047

Jeanne Larsen Administrative Assistant

Christine Welman Website Development

Bob Thompson Business Advisor


Kristen Hampshire

Sarah Karnish

Caroline Risi

Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano

Nicole Wisniewski

Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties is published six times a year by:

Breakwall Publishing LLC 3593 Medina Rd. #117 Medina, OH 44256

Subscriptions and address changes: Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties magazine P.O. Box 3000 Denville, NJ 07834

Entire contents copyright 2023 Breakwall Publishing LLC. All rights reserved. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.


Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties interviews retailers in popular destinations all over the United States. These are the stores featured in the July-August 2023 issue.

Amelia Earhart Hangar


Atchison, KS

Jacque Pregont

Baltimore Sports & Novelty

Owings Mills, MD

Jeffrey Katzen

Beach House

Lake Havasu, AZ

Stephanie Finch

Beagle Bay Knot Works

Huron, OH

Christine Crawford

Bearizona Wildlife Park

Williams, AZ

Samantha Haley

Bethany Trading Co.

Bethany Beach, DE

Victoria Daza

Cape Cod Children’s Museum

Mashpee, MA

Heather Palmer

Children’s Museum Houston

Houston, TX

Conchetta Lewis

Cinnamon Bay Resort

St. John’s, VI

Cici Davis

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Columbus, OH

Emily May

Coushatta Casino Resort

Kinder, LA

Elizabeth K. Childs

Gator Beach and Sport

Daytona Beach, FL

Chris Stephens


Chicago, IL

Stephanie Ganal

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort

Cherokee, NC

Carolina Stebbins

HAVE A STORY YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE? We would love to hear from you! Email Kristin Ely at


Boca Raton, FL

Sam Chang

Lake Superior Zoo and Aquarium

Duluth, MN

Samantha Halligan

Mars Cheese Castle

Kenosha, WI

Natalie Broussard

Mast General Store

Valle Crucis, NC

Sheri Moretz

Navy Pier

Chicago, IL

Janet Roman

Patricia Chinander

Seth Kagy

New Jersey State Museum

Trenton, NJ

Karen Klink

Once in a Blue Moose

Anchorage, AK

Kendall Kates


St. Michaels, MD

Kim Hannon

Space Needle and Chihuly Garden + Glass

Seattle, WA

Jack Cavanaugh

The Great Alaskan Bowl Co.

Fairbanks, AK

Emily Berriochoa

The Islander Gift Shop

Fort Myers Beach, FL

Anita Cereceda

Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel

Williamsburg, MI

Brandy Downey

UPMC - Harrisburg

Harrisburg, PA

Barbara Ipjian

Nancy Leppo

Urban Milwaukee: The Store

Milwaukee, WI

Dave Reid


Tampa, FL

Elie Johnson


New Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum includes public gift shop

The Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation opened the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum April 14 in Atchison, Kansas.

The museum features Muriel – the world’s last remaining Lockhead Electra 10-E aircraft. Named after Earhart’s younger sister, Grace Muriel Earhart Morrissey, Muriel is identical to the plane Earhart flew on her final flight around the world.

“It’s an honor to bring Amelia’s courageous and preserving legacy to life in her Atchison, Kansas, hometown where the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is dedicated to inspiring all generations in the pursuit of flight — and like Amelia, encouraging others to boldly pursue their dreams,” says Karen Seaberg, founder and president of the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation.

The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum features a gift shop, which is open to the public, no ticket required. The gift shop features a lot of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) souvenirs as well as puzzles, games, keychains and apparel. The shop also makes sure to stock scarves since Earhart was known to have frequently wore scarves, according to Jacque Pregont, treasurer of the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation.

The new museum’s gift shop area is small — only 250 square feet — but it’s a hit with visitors.

“If I had to do it over again, we’d have more room, because we’re selling so much for the amount of square footage that we have that it’s hard to keep things stocked, which is a wonderful problem to have,” Pregont says.

Evil Stuff gift shop debuts in Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort has opened its Evil Stuff retail location. The new souvenir store is part of Minion Land on Illumination Ave. and is located at the exit of the Villain-Con Minion Blast attraction.

According to Universal Orlando Resort, guests can stock up on Villain-Con and Minion merchandise at the shop. The merchandise showcases characters from the Despicable Me and Minions films.

News 6 WKMG in Orlando reports the new shop features Minions dressed as some of the iconic Despicable Me villains. The shop stocks a variety of souvenirs for park guests, including T-shirts, yellow and purple minion plush, cups, bags and magnets. 16 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023

NRF forecasts 2023 retail sales to grow between 4% and 6% sales

The National Retail Federation (NRF) has issued its annual forecast, anticipating that retail sales will grow between 4% and 6% in 2023. In total, NRF projects that retail sales will reach between $5.13 trillion and $5.23 trillion this year.

“In just the last three years, the retail industry has experienced growth that would normally take almost a decade by prepandemic standards,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “While we expect growth to moderate in the year ahead, it will remain positive as retail sales stabilize to more historical levels. Retailers are prepared to serve consumers in the current economic environment by offering a range of products at affordable prices with great shopping experiences.”

The 2023 figure compares with 7% annual growth to $4.9 trillion in 2022. The 2023 forecast is above the prepandemic, average annual retail

growth rate of 3.6%.

Non-store and online sales, which are included in the total figure, are expected to grow between 10% and 12% year over year to a range of $1.41 trillion to $1.43 trillion. While many consumers continue to use the conveniences offered by online shopping, much of that growth is driven by multichannel sales, where the physical store still plays an important component in the fulfillment process. As the role of brick-and-mortar stores has evolved in recent years, they remain the primary point of purchase for consumers, accounting for approximately 70% of total retail sales.

NRF projects full-year GDP growth of around 1%, reflecting a slower economic pace and half of the 2.1% increase from 2022. Inflation is on the way down but will remain between 3% and 3.5% for all goods and services for the year.

The labor market is still resilient,

but the trade organization anticipates job growth to decelerate in the coming months in lockstep with slower economic activity and the prospect of restrictive credit conditions. The unemployment rate is likely to exceed 4% before next year.

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz noted that aggregate economic activity has held up well, despite restrictive monetary policy that is working purposefully to curb inflation. He also acknowledged that recent developments in the financial markets and banking sector as well as some unresolved public policy issues complicate the outlook.

“While it is still too early to know the full effects of the banking industry turmoil, consumer spending is looking quite good for the first quarter of 2023,” Kleinhenz said. “While we expect consumers to maintain spending, a softer and likely uneven pace is projected for the balance of the year.” NEWS BRIEFS 18 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023

SEPT. 7-9

Surf Expo Orlando



AUG. 6-9

Las Vegas Apparel

Las Vegas

AUG. 11-13

GTS Greensboro Expo

Greensboro, North Carolina

AUG. 13-15

Shoppe Object

New York City

AUG. 14-16

Rocky Mountain Apparel, Gift and Resort Show


SEPT. 12-13

New England Made Boxborough, Massachusetts

SEPT. 12-13

Mid-Atlantic Merchandise Mart


SEPT. 19-21

Dallas Total Home & Gift Market Dallas

SEPT. 19-21

Trendz West Palmetto, Florida

SEPT. 20-21

OCT. 4-7

Las Vegas Souvenir & Resort Gift Show

Las Vegas

AUG. 16-18

Super Zoo

Las Vegas

AUG. 20-23

ASD Market Week

Las Vegas

AUG. 22-25

Dallas Apparel & Accessories

Midwest Market Days Chicago River Grove, Illinois

SEPT. 22-24

GTS Florida Expo

Kissimmee, Florida


OCT. 10-14

October Atlanta Apparel


OCT. 29-31

Ocean City Resort Gift Expo Ocean City, Maryland


AUG. 27-29

Trendz West Palm Beach, Florida


SEPT. 8-10

Norton’s Gatlinburg Apparel, Jewelry & Gift Show

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

SEPT. 8-10

OCT. 22-24

Coastal Connections Conference

Orlando, Florida


Carolina Children’s Market

Fort Mill, South Carolina


OCT. 13-15

Crescent City Apparel & Jewelry Show

Slidell, Louisiana

OCT. 14-18

High Point Market High Point, North Carolina

OCT. 22-24

Coastal Connections Conference

Orlando, Florida

OCT. 29-31

Ocean City Resort Gift Expo

Ocean City, Maryland


IMC Unveils new vision and brand identity: ANDMORE

International Market Centers (IMC) has unified its physical marketplace business with the Juniper digital offerings and rebranding as ANDMORE, the premier omnichannel wholesale marketmaker.

This business transformation follows a yearlong initiative to redefine the company’s vision, align all channels under a single brand experience, and offer more ways to seamlessly connect wholesale buyers and sellers through physical and digital platforms.

“Today marks an important milestone as we embark on a new era for our company,” said Bob Maricich, ANDMORE CEO during the June 13 announcement. “ANDMORE captures our spirit of innovation and focus on doing more to support our customers by enhancing and extending the value of our physical markets for both buyers and sellers across the furniture, home decor, gift and apparel industries.”

In addition to the new name and branding, ANDMORE will introduce a host of innovative features and enhancements to its upcoming markets and digital offerings.

The first product introduction under the ANDMORE name is a new buyer mobile app, which launched in preparation for the summer markets in Atlanta and Las Vegas.

“ANDMORE is more than a name or a brand. It is both a promise and a challenge that gives us the space and flexibility to continue to find new ways to provide exceptional value to our partners and customers,” said Maricich.

Shoreline at Surf Expo to debut at September event

Surf Expo, the premier watersports and coastal lifestyle trade show, enhances the buying experience for both watersports and outfitter retailers with the debut of its new Shoreline offering during the Sept. 7-9 edition.

Shoreline at Surf Expo will feature products dedicated to technical apparel, equipment and gear any enthusiast needs to transition from a day on the water to stretching out on land, according to show organizer Emerald.

“From the trails to the lakes and beyond, Shoreline at Surf Expo supports the natural evolution of the waterman’s lifestyle with gear, apparel and accessories that will take consumers from coastal shoreline activities into camping, hiking, climbing and other recreational activities found along rivers and lakes,” says Roy Turner, Emerald senior vice president and Surf Expo Show director.

Shoreline is positioned to become the hub for industry-leading retailers and brands focusing on fishing, boating, wakeboarding, technical apparel, outerwear, camping, watersports hardgoods as well as essential gear and accessories. The newest floor category complements Surf Expo’s extensive product offerings — Surf, Skate, Paddle and Bluewater — by targeting the business associated with outdoor amenities and recreation found in lake towns across the country.

Eric Marvin, founder of Elakai Outdoor, is exhibiting outdoor games within the new Shoreline category. Games include cornhole, bocce ball, croquet and more. While this is Marvin’s first year participating at Surf Expo, he says the new category aligns with his business. “Our products can be used on the beach, by the lake or near the ocean. Exhibiting at Surf Expo is a natural fit for who we are as a business and what the Shoreline category is all about.”

Shoreline will also create a seamless connection with Surf Expo’s Bluewater category, which showcases notable inshore and offshore apparel and accessory products ranging from lifestyle and technical apparel to footwear, outerwear, sportswear, T-shirts, sunglasses and much more.

“Blending the inshore and offshore worlds under Surf Expo’s one roof exposes buyers and sellers to this growing crossover market within the coastal lifestyle industry,” adds Turner.

Shoreline and Bluewater exhibiting brands include: Ronix Wake/ Radar Skis, Columbia OCS, MANG, Hest, Bimini Bay Outfitters, Burnside Sierra Pacific Apparel, Elakai, Fahlo, HEST, Kracken Adventure Bikes, Intracoastal Waterway, Kanga Coolers, Lowtides Ocean Products, Line + Cleat, Pirani, Preston 1947 by Ebinger Brothers, Promo & More, Sunski, Sunburn Drink, The Grateful Diver, XTRATUF, Welly Bottle and ZEP-PRO.

GTS launches show in New Orleans

The Golden Triangle Show (GTS) has announced it is launching a new show in the vibrant suburb of New Orleans, at the Harbor Convention Center in Slidell, Louisiana.

The Crescent City Apparel & Jewelry show will be held Oct. 13-15.

GTS launched the show in response to another long-running show organizer in the area, Helen Brett Enterprises, closing, according to Bobby Siddiqui, show director.

“They did shows in New Orleans for 65 years,” says Siddiqui. “So many of my exhibitors urged me to look into keeping a strong wholesale show there, since they had many existing customers.”

The event offers a Cash & Carry option for many of its product categories. To register and for more information, visit


Las Vegas Apparel highlights resources

Las Vegas Apparel, which is owned and operated by ANDMORE, plans to present more than 100 lines showcasing its newest offerings in young, contemporary, immediates, accessories, resort and gift/lifestyle products at Las Vegas Fashion Week, Aug. 6-9 at The Expo at World Market Center in Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas Apparel is an integral part of Las Vegas Fashion Week, providing top lines in a perfect environment for face-to-face connections,” said Caron Stover, ANDMORE senior vice president of apparel. “ANDMORE once again will host its can’t-miss, WestCoast-based apparel sourcing event, with the hallmark hospitality, events and amenities buyers know and love.”

Las Vegas Apparel will welcome buyers and brands to market at its Signature Kickoff Party at 5 p.m. Aug. 6. During the event, buyers will have access to select World Market Center Las Vegas permanent showrooms. Attendees will also enjoy daily amenities on-site, including branded photo ops, a morning DJ and a gourmet coffee bar. Daily breakfast will be served for buyers, alongside a mimosa station daily at 9 a.m. Las Vegas Apparel also will provide daily lunch on the exhibit floor and a collection of food trucks outside from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to Las Vegas Apparel, new brands confirmed for this summer’s event include Boomba (undergarments and pasties); Glam (young contemporary); Jelly Jeans (denim); Just Got 2 Have It (gifts); Makeup Junkie Bags (accessories); and Modern Lulu (accessories). Las Vegas Apparel also will present leading young contemporary and accessories brands that have been with the show since its debut in 2021, including Adora, B.E. Stage, Ces Femme, Headbands of Hope, Lime & Chili, Spin USA, Summer Renee Jewelry and Timing/Lumiere.

Las Vegas Apparel exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 6-8, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9.

Registration is available at

Atlanta Apparel enhances at-market experience

Atlanta Apparel’s JuneFest kept the energy high June 6-9 at AmericasMart Atlanta, throughout four market days. JuneFest featured enhanced at-market, festival-themed amenities and events alongside sourcing from 750-plus showrooms and temporary exhibits.

“Atlanta Apparel continues to raise the bar through its unmatched at-market experiences, southern hospitality and notable line listings,” said Caron Stover, ANDMORE’s senior vice president, apparel. “There were many reports of strong order writing — especially across the game day category — and all market events were well-attended and extremely popular.”

This June, Atlanta Apparel showcased its 350-plus permanent showrooms and 400-plus temporary exhibits, with particular emphasis on popular southeastern categories, such as game day, as well as contemporary apparel, accessories and young contemporary.

Atlanta Apparel also continued to augment its at-market sourcing experience for buyers, with hallmark hospitality along with a full schedule of JuneFest events, education and amenities.

The next Atlanta Apparel market runs Tuesday, Aug. 1, through Saturday, Aug. 5.

Las Vegas Market expands decor at summer show

Home decor resources continued to expand this summer at Las Vegas Market with four updates bringing a range of fresh accents and accessories to the 150-plus resources throughout Buildings B and C at Las Vegas Market, July 30 - Aug. 3.

“On the heels of a very successful Spring High Point Market, leading brands are looking to Las Vegas Market to tap into a west coast clientele,” said Dorothy Belshaw, executive vice president and chief growth officer at ANDMORE. “Summer 2023 updates, which total more than 42,000 square feet of new and expanded permanent showrooms, reflect the depth and breadth of decor resources available to retailers and designers at Las Vegas Market this summer.”

Building C welcomed two new showrooms: Balta Rugs (area, outdoor and kids’ rugs) in 4,500-plus square feet; and FGA (preserved trees and floral arrangements) in a new 900-plus square-foot showroom.

Three expansions — CHANDRA (handcrafted rugs); D.V. KAP Home (decorative pillows and textiles); and Uttermost (decorative mirrors, art, lamps, accessories, botanicals, lighting, rugs and accent furniture) — allow for line extensions within existing showrooms in Buildings B and C.

Charter exhibitor Uttermost’s expansion comes 11 years after its brand debut in Las Vegas. TRADE SHOW NEWS

Experience the Coastal Connections Conference

Calling all coastal retailers! Registration for the Coastal Connections Conference is open and early bird rates are still available. Not only will you have the opportunity to meet with and learn about top beach, coastal and nautical brands in a laid-back setting ideal for making connections, what sets the Coastal Connections Conference apart are the educational and networking opportunities.

The event kicks off Sunday, Oct. 22, at 3 p.m. with a keynote presentation from Dane Cohen of Management One. Cohen’s session, “Mastering the Inventory Game” provides out-of-the-box ideas and proven tools that will make managing your store’s merchandise less work, more fun and even more profitable.

Following the keynote session, hiring and retention will be addressed. Attendees will hear what other coastal retailers are doing to create a loyal, hardworking team in their retail operation.

Immediately after the panel discussion, attendees will have an opportunity to unwind and make connections with other seaside retailers from across the country during the Welcome Party from 6-7 p.m. Live music, delicious food and beverages and great conversation will all be on tap.

On Monday, Oct. 23, sessions will cover a range of topics from “45 Rewarding Ideas in 45 Minutes,” to “Putting Experiential Retail into Action,” “Creating Coastal Connections” and “It’s Your Time to Shine Online.” See page 38 for a full list of speakers from prominent retail organizations

“The Coastal Connections Conference is a great opportunity to learn from industry experts and network with fellow retailers who share similar challenges.”
— Sam Chang IBCaribbean, Boca Raton, FL
Eight educational sessions will cover inventory management, employee retention, building relationships, social media, experiential retail, visual merchandising and more.
“I have been to other retail conferences over the years, but having one specific to the coastal retail industry made this one a must-attend event. I look forward to the next one!”
— Kim Hannon, Ophiuroidea, St. Michaels and Grasonville, MD
“We brought back so many practical tips and formed valuable relationships that have already yielded great results.”
— Christine Crawford, Beagle Bay Knot Works, Huron, Ohio

Education isn’t the only thing on the menu. Attendees will enjoy evening parties and a generous welcome bag filled with goodies. and consulting firms.

A special awards ceremony honoring Seaside Retailer’s Starfish Award winners from the past year will also be held Tuesday.

The Boardwalk Chat, a series of short sit-down interviews with vendors exhibiting at the next day’s The Boardwalk event will close out the day’s educational sessions.

Retailers will continue making meaningful connections with retailers as well as wholesalers exhibiting at The Boardwalk during The It’s Five O’clock Somewhere Party that evening.

During the final session at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, Michael Hale, founder of Retail Rehab will share, “Visual Merchandising Tips and Tricks.” Immediately following, attendees will gain exclusive entrance to The Boardwalk, featuring over 30 of the most sought after beach, coastal and nautical brands.

Attendees will also receive a welcome bag filled with products from leading beach, coastal and nautical brands to consider carrying in their store. Several product and service giveaways will also be held throughout the event.

The early bird rate of $495 is available until Aug. 31. Don’t delay, register today for the only retail conference for seaside retailers! SGN

Take a stroll on The Boardwalk

This Coastal Connections Conference buying event is designed to build relationships.

While education is an important aspect of the Coastal Connections Conference so are opportunities to connect with wholesalers and brands that can enhance coastal retailers’ store offerings. During the Boardwalk, Tuesday, Oct. 24 from 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., attendees will have the opportunity to explore exciting new products and get to know vendors in a fun, relaxing and casual environment.

With The Boardwalk Chat taking place in advance of The Boardwalk, attendees will get to know vendors even more closely before the doors to The Boarwalk open, giving them a chance to learn about the products being offered in-person from the comfort of their chairs. All vendors will have the opportunity to sit down with Conference Sales Director and Seaside Retailer Publisher Karen Carr Tuesday afternoon for a short chat to discuss trends, top-selling product offerings and other pertinent topics.

“It was a great way to learn about each brand and what they offered. It made meeting them at The Boardwalk event more efficient and personable,” said January attendee Cici Davis of Cinnamon Bay Resort, St. John, Virgin Islands.

Boardwalk participants also appreciated the opportunity. Returning exhibitor, Victor Armendariz of Wild Republic, had this to say about the entire experience after the January event: “What I found most advantageous was The Boardwalk Chat. Having an opportunity to address a room full of current and potential buyers is fantastic.”

The It’s Five O’clock Somewhere Party takes place directly after The Boardwalk Chat giving attendees and vendors plenty to talk about over cocktails, appetizers and live music.



For more information and speaker bios, visit


• Early bird rate: $495 (until Aug. 31)

• Nonprofit and ZAG early bird rate: $445 (until Aug. 31)

• Standard rate: $595 (until Sept. 29)


• For information about group discounts contact us at


• Special rate of only $179/night available for conference attendees

• Extend your stay before and after and still receive the same great rate

• For reservations, please visit hotel or call 855-995-9099 and mention Coastal Connections Conference

Kathy Cruz Savvy Shopkeeper Anita Cereceda The Islander Pauline Bresnahan Pauline’s Gifts KEYNOTE: DANE COHEN Management One Dave Foos Clarkston Consulting Cathy Nagle-Ervin Retail Training Tools Steve Schultz Flip Flop Shops Kim Springsteen-Abbott Lady Gryphon’s Coastal Collection Crystal Vilkaitis Crystal Media William Hill Margaritaville Resort Orlando Scott Hamblin Crowder’s Gifts & Gadgets/ Sunshine Ace Hardware Patrick Keiser Heart on Main Street Elie Johnson ZooTampa at Lowry Park Michael Hale Retail REHAB
Holly Daniels Christensen Dune Jewelry


Registration and Badge Pick-up


12:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Keynote: Mastering the Inventory Game 3:00 - 4:15 p.m. Don’t let your inventory get the best of you! You’ll leave this session with out-of-the-box ideas and proven tools that will make managing your store’s merchandise less work, more fun and even more profitable. Speaker: Dane Cohen, Management One

Afternoon Break

4:15 - 4:30 p.m.

Session II: Build an All-star Team 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. Hiring and retaining good employees doesn’t have to be difficult. Learn what steps to take to create a loyal and hard-working team in your retail operation so you can worry less and rely on your employees more. Panelists: Kathy Cruz, Savvy Shopkeeper; Scott Hamblin, Sunshine Ace Hardware; William Hill, Margaritaville Resort Orlando Gift Shop; Kim Springsteen-Abbott, Lady Gryphon’s Coastal Collection Shop

won’t want to miss. Come ready to participate! Panelists: Pauline Bresnahan, Pauline’s Gifts; Anita Cereceda, The Islander Gift Shop; Kathy Cruz, Savvy Shopkeeper; Elie Johnson, ZooTampa; Patrick Keiser, Heart on Main Street

Lunch 12:30 - 1:30 p.m.

Starfish Awards Presentation 1:30 - 2:00 p.m.

Seaside Retailer honors past recipients of the Starfish Award recognizing each winner for their contributions to charitable causes and conservation efforts in their communities and beyond.

Session VI - It’s Your Time to Shine Online 2:00- 3:15 p.m. Get ready to jumpstart your social media mindset and learn how to create meaningful and profitable results! Don’t miss this informative session that will cover easy-to-implement tips and strategies to see your social media soar to new heights. Speaker: Crystal Vilkaitis, Crystal Media

Afternoon Break 3:15 - 3:30 p.m.

Welcome Party

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Mingle with seaside retailers at the Coastal Connections Conference Welcome Party! Join in on the fun with cocktails and appetizers and get to know fellow attendees.



Session VII: The Boardwalk Chat 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. Get the inside track from top beach, coastal and nautical wholesalers about their latest product offerings, industry trends, buying advice and more during informal sit-down interviews with the vendors who are exhibiting at Coastal Connections Conference’s The Boardwalk event. Panelists: The Boardwalk Vendors

- 9:00 a.m.

9:00 - 10:00 a.m. in 45 Minutes

Session III: 45 Rewarding Ideas

Get your pen and paper ready, because you’re going to want to jot these tips down. From app recommendations that make your life easier to display tips that will turn profits, you’ll leave with 45 takeaways that you can put into practice immediately at your retail store! Speaker: Cathy NagleErvin, Retail Training Tools

Morning Break 10:00 - 10:15 a.m.

Session IV: Putting

Experiential Retail into Action

10:15 - 11:30 a.m.

Find out how you can elevate the shopping experience inside your brick-and-mortar store with fresh new ideas and perspectives that will help you build a loyal customer base and increase sales. Panelists: Steve Schultz, Flip Flop Shops; Holly Daniels Christensen, Dune Jewelry; Dave Foos, Clarkston Consulting

Session V: Creating Coastal 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Connections Continued

Back by popular demand! The Creating Coastal Connections session was an attendee favorite at January’s conference. Retail panelists and attendees will share ideas, best practices, challenges and opportunities in a lively discussion you

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere Party 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Unwind after a day of learning at the It’s Five O’clock Somewhere party. Take this opportunity to continue making meaningful connections with retailers and wholesalers while sharing ideas and experiences. Enjoy cocktails, appetizers and live entertainment!


Breakfast 8:00 - 9:00 a.m.

Session VIII: Visual 9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Merchandising Tips and Tricks

Learn how to create a store layout that captures the coastal vibe while creating opportunities for increased sales. This how-to session will give you new inspiration and actionable takeaways to super-charge your displays! Speaker: Michael Hale, Retail REHAB

Closing Remarks 10:00 - 10:15 a.m.

The Boardwalk 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Explore exciting new products and get to know some of the industry’s hottest brands in an exclusive buying experience with a fun and laid-back vibe. A perfect opportunity for building relationships with vendors and getting a head start on placing orders!


A&F Souvenir and Lantern Press offer environmentally friendly direct-to-garment printing

Tons of textiles are wasted by the fashion industry each year — 92 million tons to be exact. With the push for faster fashion and cheap materials, sustainability hasn’t exactly been a top priority.

Fortunately, some are taking steps to change the negative impact of fashion. Businesses such as A&F Souvenir and Lantern Press are leading the charge by switching from traditional screen printing to direct-to-garment (DTG) printing. This approach to clothing design is a game-changer for the environment while improving cost and quality, according to A&F Souvenir and Lantern Press.

DTG uses 95% less water, 60% less energy and generates substantially less chemical waste. It also uses eco-friendly and water-based ink options which aren’t always found in traditional screen printing. With textile production as the second-most polluting industry worldwide, according to these companies, every step made to reduce the impact on the environment matters.

“Direct-to-garment printing has been a game changer for us over the past year in reducing our carbon footprint, water waste and overall energy consumption,” says Kip Zsupnik Jr., chief executive officer of A&F Souvenir. “We aren’t sacrificing quality in order to be more sustainable either; DTG printing has literally changed the way we do business.”

According to the companies, the cost to print multiple colors or full-color designs is actually less than traditional screen printing, largely because this style of printing offers reduced setup and color separation costs. It also removes the minimum order barrier, making customized or one-off designs more affordable and allowing businesses to add limited edition prints to their product lines.

“Screen printing our detailed artwork required eight or more screens, leading to high minimums,” says Aaron Morris, chief executive officer of Lantern Press. “With DTG, we can offer our customers a minimum order of 36 pieces with perfectly accurate colors.”

DTG also provides a wide range of design options. “You have zero limitations on the number of colors or gradients and you can also print intricate designs and fine details with ease,” says Don Whaley, vice president of Kornit Digital.

With this level of detail, customers can print everything from photographs and small text to complex artwork without it blending or blurring together, he says.

A&F Souvenir and Lantern Press agree. “We are able to offer our customers an elevated level of quality for both apparel and souvenirs. This allows our talented art team to design without limitations,” Zsupnik says.

Morris adds, “We’ve been asked for years to make our artwork available on apparel, but our screen print partners struggled to achieve our colors, and the thick layer of ink resulted in a poor hand feel. Now our shirts are super soft, because with DTG you don’t have to pile on the ink. We’ve also found DTG to be highly durable.”

He adds, “Since inception, Lantern Press has been known for our artwork. Now our customers, who’ve been asking for apparel in their product collections can get exactly what they want.”

Sincere Surroundings unveils new catalog

Rock Rapids, Iowa-based gifts and decor wholesaler, Sincere Surroundings, has released its Regional Collections Catalog. With a range of specialty gifts inspired by coastal themes, desert motifs and everything in between, Sincere Surroundings continues to captivate customers with its diverse and personalized offerings.

“There is a need to ensure stores stand apart in the marketplace, and we have the ability to help our partners do just that with our personalization and complete customization options,” says Michelle Leuthold, founder of Sincere Surroundings. “We thrive in niche product offerings. From balloon festivals to zoos, aquariums, butterflies, botanicals and so much more, we are able to help stores stand out with our unique, custom offerings.”

In 2023, Sincere Surroundings has added more than 500 new designs to its personalized gift and decor options for souvenir stores and gift shops. The catalog has something for buyers at every price point, the company says.

Designs include art depicting desert themes as well as strawberry festivals and aquariums. Many of the product offerings can be personalized down to location coordinates, adding a thoughtful element to gift and souvenir purchases.

The new Regional Collections Catalog is available at

Direct-to-garment printing has been a “game changer” for A&F Souvenir. Aaron Morris, CEO of Lantern Press

CTM Group becomes part of VENU+

CTM Group Inc., a global provider of managed entertainment and souvenir solutions for tourist destinations and other high-traffic venues, and ScooterBug Best Lockers, a provider of mobility and locker solutions across leisure and entertainment sites and major tourist destinations, have announced the completion of their previously announced transaction.

The combined company will operate as VENU+, a global provider of guest mobility, storage and entertainment solutions for high-traffic retail, leisure and amusement venues.

The VENU+ brand reflects the combined company’s market-leading position and suite of services supporting operators and contributing to unparalleled guest experiences. The company is backed by affiliates of Z Capital Partners LLC, the private equity fund management arm of Z Capital Group LLC (ZCG), which originally acquired CTM Group in 2018.

VENU+ is led by President and CEO Andrew Kindfuller, along with a seasoned team of industry experts. The combined VENU+ company has operations in all 50 states and across 13 countries on four continents.

“This combination will deliver more value for new and existing customers in the entertainment industry, while capitalizing on a variety of exciting opportunities and providing significant benefits and services for a wide range of guests,” says James Zenni, founder, president and CEO of ZCG. “The VENU+ brand uniquely captures the value the company provides, and I look forward to working closely with Andrew and the entire team to execute on a shared vision for global growth.”

“We are pleased to complete this transformative transaction and introduce VENU+ to the market, reinforcing our commitment to providing exceptional guest experiences and a broader range of solutions for opera-

Steiff expands gift industry presence

Steiff, inventor of the teddy bear, has expanded its efforts to strengthen its position within the gift industry by engaging representation with Finelines Co., The Portico Collection and The Harper Group sales agencies.

Steiff says the move is designed to further support its current and future gift retailer relationships by emphasizing its reputation for timeless, premium gifts that bring the wow factor.

To maximize this new strategy, Steiff North America President Jim Pitocco brought on 25-plus year industry veteran Melissa Bullock to lead the charge as director of sales.

“Highlighting this important channel for Steiff offers us more opportunities to meet with existing and potential

tors,” Kindfuller says. “Our expanded suite of outsourced services creates a one-stop shop for partner venues, adding efficiency, revenue, convenience and engagement. For guests in the U.S. and around the world, we pride ourselves on helping to create treasured memories along their entire journey.”

More information about the combined company and VENU+ brand is available at

retailers face to face in the field and at the major gift industry shows,” Bullock says. “In addition to our continued efforts with apparel, toy and collectible retailers, who were monumental in making Steiff North America what it is today, we plan on positioning Steiff’s newest collections of Soft + Cuddly Friends as great gift ideas across a variety of price points in the gift channel. Jim and I have been thoughtful to select the very best of the regional sales agencies to represent our brand.”

Steiff’s top-quality gifts begin with its best-selling Soft Cuddly Friends collection, an exclusive line of adorable animals and Disney characters with plush options for babies and young children. Each features the brand’s signature “Button in Ear” (Knopf im Ohr), a symbol that’s stood for quality for more than 100 years. For those looking for more luxurious gifts, Steiff offers its ride-on and studio animals.

“Giving the gift of Steiff is a memory that recipients will treasure and value for decades,” Pitocco says.

Steiff’s 2023 lineup includes Soft Cuddly Friends, Steiff’s best-selling beautifully made plush animals. Bambi joins the list of licensed Disney characters like Mickey, Pooh and Simba just in time for the Disney 100 Celebration. There are also teddy bears, rabbits, dogs, elephants and lions.

Also available are My First Steiff teddy bear or rabbit, beautifully made, safe and machine washable Steiff baby animals.

More information on Steiff’s 2023 collection is available at

Steiff’s 2023 lineup includes My First Steiff teddy bears and rabbits. VENU+ will provide guest mobility, storage and entertainment solutions.


Navy Pier sets the bar high for gifts and souvenirs, and Love From USA’s four stores in that location are exceeding expectations.

For Janet Roman, the best thing about managing four souvenir and gift stores at the history-steeped Navy Pier in Chicago is meeting new people and hearing stories about their travels, their lives and their day at the pier. “We love them!” she says of the customers who visit the stores. With its breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline, Navy Pier is a top-attended nonprofit destination in the Midwest, spanning more than six city blocks and hosting over 9 million annual guests, giving retailers a plethora of customers to love. Originally opened in 1916 as a shipping and recreation facility, this 104-year-old Chicago landmark showcases more than 50 acres of parks, restaurants, attractions, retail shops, sightseeing and dining cruise boats, exposition facilities and more along Lake Michigan, says Navy Pier General Manager Seth Kagy.

Roman manages Dockside, Neighborhood Urban Gift Shop, This Socks! and Art-K-Texture stores at the pier.

The retail stores are owned by Patricia Chinander, who is the founder, CEO, president and designer of Shoreview, Minnesota-based Love From USA Group Inc.


Chinander graduated from The University of Delaware with a nursing degree before embarking on a long career in retail. While working as a nurse, she

started a small kiosk selling paperweights.

“I would spend my time at the kiosk when I wasn’t at the hospital. After some time, I decided to take a leap of faith and take on growing this business from the ground up. After 45-plus years, here we are! A small kiosk has turned into Love From USA with 26 stores, one e-commerce business and one wholesale division serving the nation,” she says.

The stores she owns on Navy Pier are an integral part of the operation. Roman, the Navy Pier stores’ manager, grew up in Chicago’s Pilsen area and has lived in the city all her life. After a 20-year career in customer service, she started working for Love From USA six years ago.

Her role with the company is training and development as well as customer concerns. The Neighborhood Urban Gift Shop, Art-K-Texture and This Socks! stores are located at the front of the pier, while Dockside is located midway down the pier near the food court area. The company recently combined Art-K-Texture with a 77 Flavors store to make Art-K-Texture much larger. “This allowed us to double our space and create an efficient layout for customers to shop in the store freely,” she says.


Chinander’s best advice for selling souvenirs at locations such as Navy Pier is to rotate products so the stores stay fresh and are “trend-forward” in all their product offerings.

Her four stores at the pier offer many opportunities to reflect the times. At the Neighborhood Urban Gift Shop, regionally inspired gifts take center stage, and the store offers a wide range of unique

“Our management, leadership and customer service teams also play into making sure we stay on top of visuals, promotions and employee engagement.”
Janet Roman, manager of four Navy Pier stores, began working for Love From USA six years ago and focuses on training development as well as customer concerns. Photos: Paul LeVan

items at all price points. Among the store’s offerings are framed artwork, carefully crafted jewelry, cleverly printed sweatshirts and simple keychains.

“The lovely collections come together to visually create a sense of neighborly love and a distinct vibe that celebrates the rich and diverse culture within the area,” she says.

By highlighting a city’s landmark buildings, major attractions, architecture and places of interest, Art-K-Texture was born. The brand thrives in a high-traffic venue that allows customers to peruse the store while exploring the city’s architecture. With products ranging from brain-teaser games to architectural books, this store showcases a city’s best feature — its architecture, she says.

“When you have a beautiful skyline, you can’t help but celebrate the pure skill, talent and hard


Established as a nonprofit in 2011, Navy Pier is a world-class public place that celebrates and showcases the vitality of Chicago. The pier is managed within a business framework that provides for its long-term financial stability and is being transformed into a contemporary, environmentally responsible urban space. It currently has a 33-member collaborative board of directors, 55 full-time and up to 400 part-time and seasonal employees as well as up to 200 union trade employees.

It is home to three nonprofits, nearly 80 businesses and offers more than 250 free programs, including public art installations, seasonal programs, year-round cultural programs and events. In 2011, Navy Pier appointed Marilynn Gardner to president and CEO. She quickly built Navy Pier’s culture to include “always put the guest experience first” as well as “be forward-thinking” and deliver as “a team,” Navy Pier General Manager Seth Kagy says.

Read more about how retail is an integral part of Navy Pier’s operations in a Q&A with Kagy on page 48.

work it took to develop and build that skyline,” Chinander says. “That’s why we wanted to create a brand that honored the great architects, builders and team it took to build up that city.”

Dockside celebrates life off the shore of Lake Michigan with Navy Pier’s beautiful backdrop of the Chicago skyline. Chinander says the store offers apparel, hard goods and loungewear.

And at This Socks! shoppers can find all types of socks in bright colors and soft knits and with humorous themes.


Roman says most of the products in all four stores reflect pride in Chicago, and that sweatshirts and T-shirts are top sellers. “Whether you’re from here shopping or visiting from out of town, you can walk into our stores and get a good sense of what Chicago is,” she says.

Every year is different, but top-selling souvenirs include Al Capone, Chicago Flag and Lake Michigan collections. Additionally, apparel and jewelry are best-selling items, she says. A wide range of products for all the company’s markets are designed by the business’ Minneapolis-based creative team, and most of the products are exclusive to the company and its brands.

“It takes a team, but we have a great buying team who tracks trends,” Roman says. “Our management, leadership and customer service teams also play into making sure we stay on top of visuals, promotions and employee engagement.”

This mindfulness for the store environment translates into attracting customers. “We attract repeat and new customers with our rotating products, store layouts and the quality of our merchandise,” she says.

Roman says customers are intrigued by the names of the stores, and that outside of selling souvenirs, “we sell memories” and make customers feel at home. “We enjoy our time at work, and it

Top-selling items at Neighborhood Urban Gift Shop include Chicago Flag and Lake Michigan collections.

shows. We love to laugh, sing and dance through the workday. It’s great energy,” she says.

It varies by season, but each store has between two and five employees. She says, “having a great team, the right type of product and prices that you can’t beat,” are key to success as a destination retailer.


Love From USA Group Inc. likewise has a long reach with 45-plus years of specialty retail experience that includes travel, news and convenience stores in multiple airports and high-traffic venues across the United States.

The company currently has 26 store locations in Minnesota, Chicago, Florida and Colorado. It is a

100% Airport Concession Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and woman-owned business with family members involved in all aspects, from design and operations to human resources and marketing.

In addition to the stores at Navy Pier, the company has retail operations in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul International Airport, O’Hare International Airport, Denver International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, Minnesota’s Mall of America and other high-profile shopping venues.

With a strong success record at O’Hare, Orlando, Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airports, the stores maintain average secret shopper customer satisfaction scores from 95%-98%.

“Our mission is to provide our customers with an extraordinary travel convenience and gift shopping experience, and to capture lasting memories that are reflective of the local culture and lifestyle of the areas where we operate,” Chinander says.

Chinander prides herself in developing exclusive brands and concepts that are unique for each market the business expands into. She is involved in the design process — from product and concept design to branding and visual merchandising.

The company also has a heavy focus on giving back to the community through engagement,

“Our mission is to provide our customers with an extraordinary travel convenience and gift shopping experience, and to capture lasting memories that are reflective of the local culture and lifestyle of the areas where we operate.”
— Patricia Chinander, Love from USA Group

initiatives and partnerships. Chinander maintains a close relationship with partner organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Animal Humane Society, Rocky Mountain Conservancy, American Cancer Society, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Public Schools and others.

In addition to giving back, Chinander supports local artists and businesses within all markets, and she is committed to growing her business with the times while allowing time in her schedule

to support/mentor others in growing their own businesses.

Chinander says the company has a “great in-house visual merchandising team that travels between all our store locations.”

Working closely with the company’s buying and marketing team, the visual merchandisers can gather key products together based on a theme, color, holiday or marketing initiative.

In all, the company has 125 employees, with a director of training and a human resource team handling the interviewing, onboarding and instore/headquarters office training.

“Through this onboarding program, our store teams can come into their role learning the ropes firsthand through these trainers, the store managers and regional store managers,” she says.

Her favorite part of the job when it comes to the pier is the people and the place. “We have a great team at Navy Pier. When we come to town, it’s fun to take the employees to new restaurants and try all the great food Chicago has to offer,” Chinander says.

What better way to enjoy a trip to Chicago than by getting immersed in a culture that is epitomized by the iconic Navy Pier attraction, which is truly the People’s Pier. SGN

Products in all four of Love From USA’s Navy Pier stores reflect pride in Chicago.


Navy Pier’s General Manager Seth Kagy shares how the popular tourist attraction fosters successful retail partnerships.

Navy Pier’s Seth Kagy has worked at the attraction since 2017, holding the titles of senior director of guest experience, vice president of sales and guest experience and now as the general manager.


“I am truly grateful for the time I’ve spent here. Navy Pier is a Chicago landmark and our lakefront treasure,” he says. “It holds a special place in many people’s hearts and has been a pivotal part of their most cherished memories. I am most appreciative of the ability to help create experiences for our guests that showcase the city of Chicago.”

In the following Q&A, Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties talked to Kagy about the inner workings of the pier’s retail operation and its significance to the community.

Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties (SGN): What is the history and background of your souvenir, gift and novelties stores?

Seth Kagy (SK): In 2017, Navy Pier fully renovated our pavilion space into the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion. We revitalized the area into a beautiful open environment for Chicago-based entrepreneurs to offer more boutique items and Chicagocentric products. The gift shops in the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion sell items that would be found in neighborhood and museum gift shops.

Retail is primarily located in our Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion on the west side of the Pier near the main entrance. Store sizes range from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. We also have kiosks that are 64 square feet.

Seth Kagy has been with Navy Pier since 2017. Photos: Navy Pier

SGN: Describe the overall operation and how retail fits into the puzzle.

SK: The People’s Pier is all about giving our guests a wide selection of experiences on land and water. In total, we have 77 partner tenants on site.

This includes cruises, boats, dine-in restaurants, fast food shops, dessert stores, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Chicago Children’s Museum and more. Out of the 77 partner tenants, there are 12 retail stores and 25 kiosks that sell souvenir, gift and novelty items. Most of the retailers are separate stand-alone entities that have their own operating procedures.

Our partners offer everything from Chicago-logo clothing, toys, souvenirs and collectibles. All our partners offer Chicago-centric creations from local artisans and companies that offer the highest quality products at excellent values.

There are a few stores that have the same owners. The benefit of being at a destination location in a major city is that we drive about 8.5 million visitors per year to help support our business partners.

SGN: How many employees work in the stores on Navy Pier, and how does that change depending on the season?

SK: All our partners hire their team members individually. The businesses have a range of needs all based on their offerings and business plans. With the inclusion of all 77 partner tenants and Navy Pier Inc., this location could have about 2,500 employees during the peak of the season.

The Pier’s peak season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Our hours of operation for the peak

season is minimally 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Many partners choose to stay open later in the summer to serve our guests.

SGN: What is your core customer demographic?

SK: Navy Pier attracts guests from all over the globe. Navy Pier is The People’s Pier, Chicago’s lakefront treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and electric experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder. With the vast array of offerings we have many repeat visitors come to experience Navy Pier. Our attendance numbers show that we have about 50% locals and 50% tourists that come to the Pier. Many of our repeat customers live in nearby neighborhoods. It is important for us to continue to foster the relationship between our guests and create memorable moments for them to cherish.

SGN: What souvenirs tend to sell the best across the partner stores?

SK: Top selling items are T-shirts and Chicagobased items that help guests memorialize their visit. We have learned that most guests are looking for items at $50 or less. Guests are most interested in purchasing items that are unique to the Chicago area and can help to celebrate their visit and experience while at the Pier.

SGN: What is your retail business philosophy?

SK: Navy Pier Inc. is focused on providing local Chicago business owners with a platform to share their goods and services to the public. Our goal is to open the door for many small local businesses to sell their items in this Chicago staple.

SGN: What advice do you have for destination-based retailers on how to be successful?

SK: The single best piece of advice I can offer is “create an inviting environment and offer unique items to engage guests during their visit.” You want to make sure your guests feel welcome the moment they walk through the door and have so much fun that they come back.

SGN: Is there anything else you would like to mention with regard to the pier and its retail partners?

SK: Navy Pier has an amazing group of partners that are dedicated to ensuring we offer our guests a high-quality experience while visiting our location. I am proud to be a part of such an amazing team! SGN

The 77 partner tenants at Navy Pier include 12 retail stores and 25 kiosks.


These trends and ideas can set your store’s souvenir offerings apart from the competition.

Aseaside or beach getaway is always a welcome escape for busy families on a quest to unwind and detox from their hectic lives. And once they embark on a journey to your seaside location, the experience becomes so memorable that they want to find a memento that commemorates the trip and brings back fresh reminders of those good times.

But what makes a good souvenir for one person may not be the same thing someone else likes. Some people like to collect the same type of item from different locations, while others are constantly seeking something unique and individual to them and the specific coastal destination they are visit ing. As a seaside retailer, you have to please them all and stay true to your location and brand.

“Souvenirs are always great physical keepsakes of good memories,” shares Nilina MasonCampbell, owner and operator of Portland, Oregon-based Made by Nilina, maker of illustrated souvenirs and gift items. “When people go to a beach or coastal location, they’re most

definitely conjuring a new experience and building a memory. The coast is something different [than a city trip]. Even if you manage to have a loaded schedule in a coastal town, there’s an element to it that always feels like an escape — a break. Souvenirs are very much connected to nostalgia and

And the market certainly reflects people’s desires to find that perfect beachside trinket. Gift, novelty and souvenir store revenue in the U.S. is expected to grow to $16.6 billion by 2024, accord

Stock souvenirs that represent your area well, showcasing what sets your destination apart.

ing to market researcher Statista.

Seaside retailers can inspire greater purchasing on souvenir items by sourcing custom items that reflect their unique locations, as well as by using some often-overlooked tactics to help their souvenirs stand out from the noisy nearby competition.


Selecting the right souvenirs for a seaside retail location can surely be challenging. The goal is to “find the balance between staying true to your store’s theme and staying on trend,” explains Mark Carle, president of Seminole, Florida-based CJ Bella Co., a lifestyle company that makes decorated tabletop coasters, car coasters, 100% cotton flour sack towels and pillows. “If you wander too far outside of those parameters, I think it becomes confusing to the customer.”

Souvenir offerings have certainly become wider in range, making the job of stocking the right options harder.

“Where you might have once only found hats, shirts or stickers, now you will find towels, pillows and other products,” Carle says.

The goal is to provide items that showcase your specific area.

“Keep in mind what sets your region apart from others,” advises Donna Hays, national sales manager of the Lipco Group, a souvenir and gift manufacturer based in Kirbyville, Missouri. The company specializes in customized keychains, magnets, mugs, figurines, plush animals and T-shirts. “What plants or geological features define your area? What about your most prevalent or beloved wildlife? Souvenirs with a dolphin theme will sell great in coastal regions with dolphins, but they won’t sell as well in a region without dolphins.

Make sure the souvenirs you stock in your store are good representations of your area.”

So, while you can carry some of Lipco’s best-selling items like magnets and mugs, by customizing them to your location with a unique design or logo, this merchandise has a greater chance of selling and stands out from the competition, Hays says.

Sue Kinch, owner of Pontiac, Michigan-based Tangico, maker of custom wine stoppers, coasters, ornaments and magnets, agrees. “Start with best-selling apparel images and adapt them to create other custom products. Tourists want things they don’t see in multiple stores.”

She says what resonates are images on your souvenir pieces. For instance, “an anchor will be a solid image in all coastal territories, but the more specific you can make that anchor with a name drop, the better it will retail.”

When Caloosa WaterWear, a coastal lifestyle brand, decided to become one of the featured artisans at the new Delray Beach Kollective, it was obvious to company President Rebecca Fordham that local sells. “Since I’ve opened my space within the Delray Beach Kollective, I’ve noticed a lot of people who are visiting Delray Beach coming in to the store looking to support local small businesses and local artists. They come in knowing that the store is a collective of artists and are specifically looking for something made locally to take home with them.”

Her Christmas ornaments featuring Delray Beach along with imagery that captures the area have gotten a great response. “I’ve found in general people like to collect Christmas ornaments on their travels so that they can revisit the great memories made on their trips each year when they decorate the tree,” she says.

Be as specific as possible to the sights of a seaside location, since this will go further than generic coastal items with a name attached, Mason-Campbell points out. “They carry more significance since they come closest to replicating

Tourists are seeking out souvenirs that are custom to a location and as original as possible like these from Impulse Souvenirs.

someone’s experience of the area,” she says, adding that anything from types of boats to crustaceans to native fish and seabirds can be customized to a region. “Is there a way to feature your area’s actual lighthouse rather than a stand-in? Is the boat on the item the same kind seen in your area? The more representational the item, the better — it’s more personal and closer to distilling an actual experience into the physical realm.”

Then when a seaside retailer displays these items, they can partner “the same design on multiple products to give customers an eye-pleasing collection of matching merchandise to choose from,” Hays suggests.


What separates a good retailer from a great retailer are unique, niche souvenir products.

Fashioncraft’s cannabis novelty mugs certainly fall into this category. These fully functional mugs can be used for morning coffee and smoking herbs, says Executive Vice President Mark Wells. “As cannabis becomes more mainstream, our line is becoming more and more popular,” he says.

To bring relevant items to your seaside retail location, Hays recommends you pay attention to the latest pop culture crazes that your customers might be interested in when they visit your store.

season,” says Communications and Marketing Manager Carrie Rigsby.


There is still a huge trend toward the tried-andtrue souvenir items branded by a seaside retailer that can be collected to showcase multiple vacation venues for one person’s or one family’s lifetime of traveling adventures.

“Was a popular movie or TV show set or filmed in your area? What memes, sayings or modern vocabulary can you capitalize on?” she asks. “Souvenir trends don’t exist in a vacuum and will always be affected by what is trending in the surrounding world and popular culture at large.”

To bring fresh souvenir options to your customers, “look for items with low minimum purchase quantities,” Hays suggests.

For children, Squire Boone Village, a souvenir manufacturer and supplier of custom print, earth science, candy and jewelry products based in New Albany, Indiana, offers beach stones by the bagful that can connect special stones or trending ones to a region. The faux leather drawstring bags can be customized, and “we calculate how much fills a bag so retailers can price by the bagful instead of spending time weighing or counting individual stones during peak

“As a kid, every time I went to the beach, we got a new game to play upon arrival,” Mason-Campbell shares. “Eventually I had a whole collection of coastal games that I’d continue to play after we got home. Keep in mind that some people return frequently and may want to build a collection of a particular item every time they visit. Small, plush toys can work in a similar way.

“And some people aren’t collectors at all, but they want some sort of small proof — a token if you will — that they were there,” Mason-Campbell adds. “Something small that doesn’t add to the clutter may be the right item for them. Having affordable impulse items is great, too, because it can attract children’s eyes but be affordable enough for a parent to indulge in purchasing.”

Carrying items that range in price in this category is also important, advises Chetan Gupta, Impulse Souvenirs sales manager. Approximately 80% of souvenir retail items are under $20. “They create a need in a marketplace and represent a memory of a special trip,” Gupta says.

A poll found that a majority of people are willing to spend between $0 and $50 on souvenirs.

Some items that fit into this category are small and useful. Fin Pin Shop creates enamel pins, stickers, accessories and other retail items that often include funny ocean puns that draw shoppers

Personalized location magnets from Made by Nilina can grab customer attention.
“Souvenir trends don’t exist in a vacuum and will always be affected by what is trending in the surrounding world and popular culture at large.” — Donna Hays, Lipco Group

in. Squire Boon Village makes temporary tattoos that are custom created with a retailer’s store logo or tourist destination. For kids, ocean-themed hitchers on twister pops are big hits. They come in nine sea animal shapes that Velcro around nearly anything, but bundling a toy and candy is a winning combination, Rigsby says.

Magnets will always be the No. 1 take-home souvenir, Hays adds. “They are easy to pack, can be found anywhere and are inexpensive,” she says. “Keep your magnets trendy.”

A more recent trend is the revitalization of stickers — hot sellers that should continue this year, Hays emphasizes.

Useful souvenirs are also popular, such as custom bottle openers and bottle opener keychains from Catania Medallic Specialty, Avon Lake, Ohio. Catania offers a patented bottle and can opener called Pop2Now that opens both cans and bottles.

“A retailer needs variety,” says Anton Maratos, director of marketing, Noveltex, Coral Gables, Florida. The company offers a complete collection of custom-designed products specifically for seashore locations.

“They need to carry a little bit of everything to capture the needs of every customer,” Maratos explains. “The buyer shouldn’t buy what they like; they need to buy what sells. And sometimes what sells isn’t what we like. It’s all about variety of price points and products.”

Souvenirs help bridge the gap between experience and memory, Carle points out.

Rigsby agrees. “Souvenirs conjure up memories of a fun vacation with friends or family long after the trip is over. Souvenirs are something you can only buy where you are when you are vacationing and having fun. Souvenirs sell for that very reason.

“Nearly every person who travels and goes on vacation will look for a souvenir to take home and commemorate their trip,” she adds. “They’re looking to buy — so have something ready for them!” SGN

Squire Boone Village’s temporary tattoos make fun souvenirs for kids. Fin Pin Shop’s enamel pins can make great collectible souvenirs.

Museum gift shops can help children continue learning beyond the museum walls.


Museums are all about educating their patrons, and when those visitors include children, the learning has the opportunity to continue beyond the exhibit. A museum gift shop’s offerings can give children a memento commemorating their experience while also continuing the learning experience beyond the walls of the museum.

Merchandise for kids is all the rage at the Children’s Museum Houston’s gift shop called Fiddle Sticks Toys. The store offers a wide variety of items for newborns to the 12- to 14-year-old age range. For each age range, different categories of merchandise reflect the museum’s exhibits, including engineering, science, math, literature, craft kits and interactive toys.

“There is nothing for adults specifically, but they would enjoy a brain teaser, puzzle or game,” says Conchetta Lewis,

director of retail operations at Children’s Museum Houston. Similarly, the shop at the Cape Cod Children’s Museum in Mashpee, Massachusetts, aptly named The Parent Trap, caters primarily to kids. In fact, Heather Palmer, community outreach director, says that 99% of items sold at The Parent Trap are geared for children and preteens. Products run the gamut, and include apparel bearing the museum’s logo, do-it-yourself crafts, STEM kits, family games, jewelry, books, plush, bubble makers, toys and animal and dinosaur figurines.

“Visiting the store before leaving offers guests the opportunity to bring home something educational and fun that will continue to remind them of their positive experiences at the museum,” Palmer says.

At the New Jersey State Museum Foundation Shop in Trenton, New Jersey, products for kids make up 60% of the store’s offerings, according to Karen Klink, manager of retail

Children’s Museum Houston’s store offers a variety of items for a wide age range of kids.

operations at that museum shop. Children’s toys, books and games line the shelves, along with adult gifts, books and jewelry.


Because the museum is a popular destination for tourists, Lewis says souvenirs tend to garner the highest interest at Children’s Museum Houston. For example, Silipint’s cups in fun colors featuring the museum’s logo are a hit.

“They are made of silicone so they’re easy to clean, are reusable, and can hold hot or cold beverages,” she says.

both real and imaginary that are ocean related,” Palmer says.

At the New Jersey State Museum Foundation, mineral chip bracelets, carved stone animals, logoed rock pencils, putty items and mood necklaces sell well.

“These items are priced between $5 and $10 and relate to the museum’s collections,” Klink says.


Apparel is always a popular souvenir, and Wild Child Hoodies with hoods that look like lobsters, sharks, dinosaurs and unicorns are top clothing sellers at The Parent Trap. They have “Cape Cod Children’s Museum” embroidered on the front.

At Children’s Museum Houston, T-shirts take top billing in the apparel category. “We have one style that is very simple, offered in a variety of colors, and bears the museum’s name and logo,” Lewis says.

Games are another popular category for kids at museum gift shops. Self-Teaching Chess by Cardinal, sold at Cape Cod Children’s Museum, is a great product for families, according to Palmer, because it makes the game accessible for kids and adults alike. “It’s a staple in our age six-plus STEAM room.”

Blue Orange Games’ The Burger ASAP! is one of Children’s Museum Houston’s biggest sellers. In this fast matching game, players take their set of double-sided ingredient cards and start making burgers. It’s a race to flip the cards and arrange them in the proper order to recreate the recipes one at a time. Points are earned based on their difficulty level.

Kid-friendly souvenirs such as survival kits containing binoculars, a compass and a magnifying glass are also popular. Sensory toys are also a hit, such as logoed fidget balls with textured surfaces.

Unique plush toys, such as a gigantic pink Massive Squishable Mushroom, is another draw and sells for $250. Other smaller Squishable options sell for $15 to $40 and include unique shapes such as avocados and frogs.

Plush is a top seller at The Parent Trap. Its best year-round sellers are stuffed mermaids with sequins and colored hair, Ty plush, light-up items, dinosaur grabbers and wiggly sensory items like dolphins, dinosaurs and caterpillars, Palmer says.

In the summer, the most popular items include Funny Mat washable placemats; wooden puzzles with dinosaur, ocean and construction themes; eggs with growing mermaids and dinosaurs; bubble makers; and ukuleles.

“Children visit from all over the world and the most common thread is their love for all things,

Kids can’t seem to get enough plush and luckily museum stores are stocked. Ty Beanie Balls, also called Puffies, are popular at The Parent Trap. They come in a variety of animal forms and land on their paws whenever they are rolled or tossed.

At the New Jersey State Museum Foundation Shop, kids go wild for Wild Republic’s Cuddlekins and Aurora World’s Mermaid Dolls with reversible sequins and brushable hair.

“Sharky McShark” books and the National Geographic Books from Hachette Book Group, as well as “Goodnight Books” from Penguin Random House, fly off the shelves at The Parent Trap. Books in Scholastic’s “How Do Dino” series are well-liked at Fiddle Sticks Toys.

Kids’ products make up 60% of the offerings at the New Jersey State Museum Foundation Shop.
“Children visit from all over the world and the most common thread is their love for all things, both real and imaginary that are ocean related.”
— Heather Palmer, Cape Cod Children’s Museum
STEM kits and family games are popular at The Parent Trap.

Palmer says she can’t keep The Toy Network’s Dinosaur Grabbers, light-up rings and turtles in stock at The Parent Trap, while magnet sets, the Ginormous Grow Dino Egg, Break Your Own Geodes from GeoCentral, putty and gel items sell well at New Jersey State Museum Foundation.


When it comes to last-minute purchases, Lewis has found that anything under $10 attracts young shoppers at Fiddle Sticks Toys because that is typically a child’s budget. A variety of souvenirs are in that price range and are housed in a series of bins. They include Dinosaur Chompers, vehicles, Nee Doh’s sensory balls and pocket-sized plush toys.

The biggest impulse buys at The Parent Trap include Ty Beanie Boos featuring various animals, light-up bumpy rings, squishy octopuses, dinosaur eggs and fossil kits, and die-cast or plastic cars, trucks and ATVs.


The Parent Trap caters to children from infants to preteens. “Families who visit typically have multiple children and want to find something age-

appropriate for each of them,” Palmer says. “Having items that are not only fun, but also educational, is our goal.”

She has found that many items appeal to all children, regardless of gender, such as ocean animals, dinosaurs, puzzles, bubbles and books.

When looking for merchandise, Lewis starts with a main category such as science, and then tries to find an activity that will appeal to a broad age range. Likewise, she will seek out merchandise that appeals to a range of genders rather than those that are gender specific.


Both Palmer and Lewis have found that newly released movies tend to dictate merchandise trends. According to Palmer, Ariel from “The Little Mermaid,” is popular again because of the movie remake. Search-and-find puzzles are also in demand because guests love both puzzles and scavenger hunts.

Lewis says that items featuring characters from newly released movies, including “The Little Mermaid,” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” and “The Super Mario Brothers” sell quickly. Merchandise that stimulates the senses is sought after.

Traditional items such as wooden toys, paper

Products priced under $10 attract young shoppers at Fiddle Sticks Toys.

dolls and gyro wheels are a draw for parents and grandparents who have fond memories of playing with them as children. “You can’t go wrong with the classics,” Lewis says. “They are tried and true and still hold value.”


Knowing what guests want is imperative to a shop’s success. Staff at the Cape Cod Children’s Museum excel at observing and interacting with guests.

“Simply looking at a child’s outfit can tell us what’s popular right now,” Palmer says. “Welcoming and communicating with both adults and children who visit us allows us to get the inside scoop on many things, such as popular TV shows, movies, music and books.” Another helpful avenue for Palmer is attending the Cape Cod and Islands Gift Show annually.

TikTok is Lewis’ go-to for keeping abreast of trends. “I can see in real time what people promote and what kids are interacting with,” she says. “I follow a variety of stores across the country. This enables me to see what new things are available in other areas that I may not be privy to.”

Klink relies on trade shows and working with sales reps. “Nothing replaces personal connections,” she says.


Fiddle Sticks Toys is located in a prime spot in the main hallway, so guests easily spot the store and want to enter.

“Seeing a large pink mushroom and other attractive merchandise pulls them in,” Lewis says. The shop arranges items by category and age.

The New Jersey State Museum Foundation Shop displays products by department such as dinosaurs, space, rocks and art. Some lower price point items are positioned on the front countertop.

Being successful in selling merchandise at museum shops isn’t rocket science, but with the right mix of souvenirs, educational items, games and plush, kids won’t be leaving the museum emptyhanded. SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 75 PRODUCT TREND: KID’S PRODUCTS AT MUSEUMS SOUVENIR & RESORT SHOW SECTION
“You can’t go wrong with the classics. They are tried and true and still hold value.”
— Conchetta Lewis, Children’s Museum Houston


Keychains and magnets have wide customer appeal, don’t take up a lot of space and are easy to add on to other purchases.

When people visiting a new destination want a souvenir but don’t desire to spend a lot of money, or they want a memento from their trip, but it has to fit in a suitcase without breaking, there’s a simple solution. Buy a keychain or magnet. While small in stature, magnet and keychain sales can add up to big profits, especially for a gift shop that caters to the tourist crowd.

At Once in a Blue Moose, Anchorage, Alaska (or any of its other seven locations), visitor can find Alaskarelated jewelry, foods and art, Native American art and handicrafts, books, stickers, calendars, greeting cards, throws, kitchen items, mugs and shot glasses. There’s also Alaska-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.

And, there’s a wide variety of magnets, too, at the fourth-generation family business — “everything from little plastic moose heads to handmade

Urban Milwaukee’s magnet and keychain selection covers a variety of Wisconsin and Milwaukee themes, including major league sports, local beer and license plates.

Once in a Blue Moose’s varied merchandise displays include spinners devoted to keychains and magnets. The spinners are 5 feet tall, 18 inches wide, with four sides.

ones with wire wrapped around them,” says buyer Kendall Cates.

License-plate magnets and keychains are a customer favorite. “Whatever design rendition of the Alaska license plate we’re on, it always sells,” Cates says.


At Urban Milwaukee, the focus is on items that name-check the city and state or reflect its history. There are T-shirts, snow globes, Christmas ornaments, books, glasses, mugs, puzzles, kitchen towels, pins and buttons.

“We carry some vintagelooking beer-history type items,” says co-owner Dave Reid. “A lot of Milwaukee and Wisconsin-related items, some locally made, sports and cheese-focused things, and fun T-shirts with Great Lakes and Milwaukee designs.”

course, Reid has magnets saluting local beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“Some magnets are also bottle openers,” Reid says. “And everybody gets a kick out of ‘Drink Wisconsinably,’ a local company. We have their logo on keychains, magnets, T-shirts and glassware.”


The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum, Atchison, Kansas, just opened in April, and the gift shop is already selling strong. “We’re a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) museum,” says Jacque Pregont, treasurer of the Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation that runs the museum, “so we have lots of STEM things in the gift shop, plus puzzles and games.”

But there are also plenty of non-STEM souvenirs. “We have little busts of Amelia,” Pregont says. “Sweatshirts, jackets, T-shirts — we’re doing extremely well with those. And we have scarves because Amelia was known for always wearing one.”

Trends have already appeared. The most popular keychain is “the museum logo one,” Pregont says. “It has a wood-burned design with a picture of the Amelia statue in the middle of it,” she says. “It’s so popular that I called the supplier and asked, ‘how fast can you make more?’ And there’s one that is like a little Amelia doll — we sell quite a few of those, too.”

“We’ve got a big variety of magnets. One of them has our very cool, colorful logo on it, we sell that extremely well. We have another with a copy of her first pilot’s license and some with Amelia’s face.” — Jacque Pregont, The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum

Those themes carry over to the magnets and keychains. Among Reid’s top sellers are “the Wisconsin license plate magnet. It’s very popular because it says Milwaukee right across it,” he says. “We have ones for the Bucks and the Brewers, some with baseballs on them. One magnet that says ‘Milwaukee’ on it but looks like a vintage postcard. We also carry local-artist-made wooden-style magnets in different varieties.”

Milwaukee is known as “the Beer Capital,” so of

“We’ve got a big variety of magnets,” Pregont says. “One of them has our very cool, colorful logo on it, we sell that extremely well. We have another with a copy of her first pilot’s license and some with Amelia’s face.”

One of the exhibits is a Lockheed L10E plane,


the last one in existence, identical to the plane she was flying when she disappeared. And yes, there’s a magnet for it.


You’d think no one could miss the “magnet wall” at Urban Milwaukee — a 30-square-foot metal sheet that starts a foot off the floor and soars 7 feet upward. Even so, some people do manage to overlook it.

“Funny thing is, sometimes people walk around the store and they’ll go, ‘Do you have magnets?’ And then I‘ll point to the wall and laugh,” says Reid.

As for keychains, there are 30-some styles to choose from, displayed on a slatwall system suspended from hooks.

At the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum gift shop, the magnets and keychains share a four-sided spinner. “Our gift shop area is really small, only 250 square feet,” says Pregont. “If I had it to do over again we’d have more room, because we’re selling so much for the amount of square footage that we have that it’s hard to keep things stocked which is a wonderful problem to have!”

At Once in a Blue Moon, “We have spinners in every location devoted to keychains and magnets,” Cates says.


Magnets and keychains are not only great little souvenirs of one’s travels, they’re also popular as gifts for the folks back home. “They’re easy things to get if you need to pick up a lot of little things for just about anybody in your life,” says Kendall Cates, buyer for the Once in a Blue Moose stores in Alaska. “There’s something for everybody, whether they like hunting or more artistic kinds of things.”

There are other reasons for their appeal. “They’re cheap, relatively speaking,” says Jacque Pregont, treasurer of the Amelia Earhart Foundation that runs the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum, Atchison, Kansas. “A lot of older people like myself come in and buy them,” she says. “I buy magnets or Christmas ornaments when I travel because my house is full and I don’t need any more objects to sit around.”

“Many customers tell me that they collect magnets from their travels to remind them of where they’ve been,” says Dave Reid, co-owner of Urban Milwaukee. Pregont admits she’s a magnet collector who has a “travelogue” refrigerator. “I spend time when I’m traveling trying to find that one special magnet. Every time I see them I remember those experiences. They’re inexpensive and small and you can carry them home easily.”

The spinners are 5 feet tall and 18 inches wide, square with four sides. Two of the sides will have keychains and the other two, magnets.

“In some of the stores, they’re in multiple spots around the floor; in others, they’re a little bit more towards the register,” she says. “We try to make it so they’re easily accessible and don’t just stick them in a back corner somewhere.”


Magnets and keychains have wide appeal from young to old and every age in between.

Pregont says of the market for her keychain and magnet merchandise, “so far I don’t have a specific group, it’s a very diverse demographic.”

Magnets and keychains have natural kid appeal. “When we first opened school was in session,” Pregont says. “The kids buy keychains and magnets because mom sends them out with a $5 bill, and they can afford a $4 magnet. But we’ve also had a lot of older people, seniors buying them as well.”

At Urban Milwaukee, tourists make up 95% of the traffic, according to Reid. “We get a lot more travelers than people think; I’ve met people from around the world.”

“These things are definitely tourist items,” Cates says. “They’re really great keepsakes from Alaska, and they’re popular items with the visitors we get in the summer.”


The Ameilia Earhart Hangar Museum has magnets ranging from $2.50 to $8 and keychains from $3 to $11. “The $11 keychain is the little Amelia Earhart doll,” says Pregont.

At Urban Milwaukee, most keychains can be had for $3 up to $12. “We have a $10 one that’s a spinning Pabst can,” says Reid. “It’s that much because it’s a small maker that puts those out, and we have one $25 leather keychain with what Milwaukeeans refer to as ‘The People’s Flag.’ It’s more elaborate than a simple keychain.”

Reid says Urban Milwaukee magnet offerings are as low as $3. “Most are around $5,” he says. “The most expensive are these actual MLB baseballs that are $22.”

At Once in a Blue Moose, “Our range for both magnets and keychains is $4 to $15 depending on the style,” Cates says. The lesser expensive varieties are typically mass produced, where higher-ticketed items are handcrafted using higher-cost materials “like the magnet we have that’s a wooden cutout of a map that’s really intricate and quite large.”

Add-on capabilities are another perk of magnet and keychains, according to Pregont. “Once you’ve got a $25 T-shirt and a $17 book in your hand, adding a $6 magnet doesn’t matter at all,” she says.

They work that way for Reid, too. “That’s pretty common because of the way the store is config-

“Funny thing is, sometimes people walk around the store and they’ll go, ‘Do you have magnets?’ And then I‘ll point to the wall and laugh.”
— Dave Reid, Urban Milwaukee

ured, people generally find the magnets right away. People will be done shopping and they’ll add on some stickers and magnets.”


These items aren’t hard to find and come in a variety of options. “I have multiple sources for buying,” Pregont says. “I find a lot on Faire and Etsy. I also go to the big souvenir gift shows in Gatlinburg and Sevierville every year.” She imports some items China as well.

Pregont says some bigger wholesalers have started putting things up on Faire. “What I love is that when you buy something through them on a credit card it doesn’t get charged for 60 days. I’ve reordered some things way before the first invoice came in. And if you buy multiples of an item they’ll give them to you at a wholesale price.”

Reid also uses Faire, and also and works with some local vendors who handmake pieces. “That

$25 leather keychain, that’s a local maker,” he says. “And then we have a number of wooden magnets and bottle-opener magnets from a couple different local artists. We also buy directly from WinCraft and a few other places that have the more sports-related keychains and magnets.”

It’s often the little things in life that make a huge difference. Magnets and keychains, though small, can really help swell your bottom line. Why not give them a try in your store? SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 83 PRODUCT TREND: MAGNETS & KEYCHAINS
The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum’s gift shop sells a keychain with the museum logo that is a top seller.
“Once you’ve got a $25 T-shirt and a $17 book in your hand, adding a $6 magnet doesn’t matter at all.”
— Jacque Pregont, The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum


Lake-inspired product trends show continued love for that easy-living lifestyle.

Aquiet lake town has always been a draw for people who need a break from hectic city life. Vacationers are surrounded by nature and outdoor activities. Whether people want to swim, fish, lounge, grill, hike or even ice skate, lakes are year-round playgrounds for active and easy living.

“We see the lake market as a growing opportunity for our lakeside customers,” says DeVon Miller, director of marketing and e-commerce at P. Graham Dunn, a wholesaler in Dalton, Ohio.

Tara Merrill, sales and marketing manager with Cape Shore, a Yarmouth, Maine, wholesaler,

says the inland/lake market has started to expand in recent years. She says, “Lake vacation dreams and memories keep us going through our hectic workdays and busy lives.”


When it comes to lakeside products, there are some key images that stand out, including anchors, sailboats, canoes and compass roses, Merrill says.

“In land-locked states, people still love the water — whether those are lakes or rivers,” emphasizes Laurel Ryan, owner of Nautically Northern, a wholesale gift and jewelry company based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.


Ryan notes that lake locations often incorporate woodland themes as well as products that tout adventures, including hiking, boating, camping and exploring the great outdoors.

Birds like the iconic cardinal or darling chickadee are highly desired images as well, adds Lynn McKernan, vice president of product design and development at Rightside Design, based in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Lakeside retailers can use classic lake-inspired images to fill the shelves in their stores, inspiring shoppers to take little pieces of their trips or experiences back home with them.

For instance, people want to celebrate their lakeside trips with small engraved souvenirs, such as metal ornaments or keychains in lake or sailboat shapes. Especially when vacationers are traveling from a distance, they gravitate toward smaller items that can be carefully tucked away in a suitcase like picture clips or coaster magnets, says Abbey Grooters, director of marketing for the gift and home decor company Sincere Surroundings, Rock Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s about remembering the trip,” explains Mike Sayig, owner of Lakeshore Impressions in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan, adding that the goal is to offer fast-selling, high-quality products. “When travelers are visiting a new place, they want a trinket to commemorate their trip. That’s what makes these markets quite sustainable; people are always traveling.”


Lake products will typically come in a base of calming colors that are traditional and comfortable like pale blues, grays and light browns, McKernan says. Nautical colors like navy and white are also common pairs seen in lake products, sometimes adding a touch of red to the mix.

The latest trend is adding more natural, woodsy tones to this mix, including rosemary greens, pine greens and even a bold orange, McKernan says.

Holly and Jason Snider, owners of Leisurely Lakeside, Bryan, Ohio, like to add a rustic finish to their dark blue, gray, cream and bluegreen color palette to reflect their key market: the Great Lakes.

“Customers love the ‘broken-in’ look and weather-faded colors often found along the Great Lakes,” the owners explain. “The colors of

the Great Lakes can change dramatically with the weather even within the same day, so we take our inspiration from that, and our decor and products reflect that.”


Lake-centric home decor items give customers who love the lake a chance to bring that lake feeling home. These coastal comforts include everything from pillows to pottery to switch plates and linens to totes and candles.

The market for lake home products is huge “because people who travel to the lake are staying in homes more than hotels today as they desire more privacy and serenity,” explains Ali Pfeifer, sales manager of Baltimore-based MD-Brand.

Items like lakescape artwork and wooden blocks that spell out “L-A-K-E” can add those nautical feelings to a space, the Sniders explain. Decorating with outdoor adventure elements like canoe paddles or buoys of varying sizes is also a unique way for lakeside retail customers to blend a sense of lake activity memories into their home interiors, the Sniders share.

Homeowners looking to add a simpler edge to their decor may opt for actual wood slabs turned into signs that can stand on their own on tabletops, bookshelves or dressers, adding natural style, Miller says.

Other easy lake-themed home additions are kitchenware items like bottle openers, spoons and coasters that can be customized with lake outlines or themes. Cutting boards customized with a specific lake shape and the latitude and longitude of the lake are popular souvenirs or gifts, Ryan says.


Lakeside retailers are also expanding their lake apparel collections to bring that cozy comfort to clothing with sweatshirts, long-sleeved T-shirts, embroidered branded apparel, and even branded personal accessories like tote bags and pouches that

P. Graham Dunn, a wholesaler, sees opportunities with lakeside customers. Baltimore-based MD-Brand manufactures clothing, dog bandanas and drinkware.
“It’s about remembering the trip. When travelers are visiting a new place, they want a trinket to commemorate their trip. That’s what makes these markets quite sustainable; people are always traveling.”
— Mike Sayig, Lakeshore Impressions

can all go from boat to beach to dinner out on the town, according to the Sniders.

Whether it’s hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, bags, towels or blankets, lakeside retailer customers can get “everything a boater would need to be adventurous and casual on the water,” says Annette Alsobrooks, creator and owner of Lake Folks Designs, Soddy Daisy, Tennessee. “They are buying that awesome, casual lifestyle that they love.”

“Life at the lake can be energizing, relaxing, funny and sentimental,” explains Melissa Johnson at Lakegirl in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

“It translates to family picnics on the Fourth of July, water skiing till the gas runs out, fishing at dusk and singing around a campfire while fighting off the mosquitoes. Above all else, life at the lake is comfortable.”

The casual lifestyle is what drives clothing with lake puns and themes like Lakegirl, Rivergirl, Lakebaby and Dockboy.

Additionally, sunscreen struggles inspired Megan Luchtel to design Lake Label swimwear, particularly the sunsuit that offers full-body, UPF 50-plus coverage in lightweight, breathable material for kids.

Lakeside retailers can add a bit of whimsy and

sparkle to soft sweatshirts and sun-shielding swimwear with lake-inspired jewelry, which continues to sell big at lake area retail locations, says Bret Kimes at DKD Co., which is based in St. Louis.

“Personalized jewelry is our most requested item, and we don’t see that ending any time soon,” Kimes says. “Popular link style necklaces and bracelets are easily customized.”

Kimes says jewelry with pearls, shells and flowers are on trend for 2023, as are requests for more sterling silver items.


Lakeside retailers are also taking advantage of their specific lake locations and surroundings by adding numerous customization options to their products, which has helped drive sales, Merrill says.

Sayig adds that he loves getting special requests and turning customers’ thoughts into tangible items that can be sold in stores.

Customization also does not have to be expensive or involve large orders, which helps retailers offer these options without holding excess stock, Kimes adds.

As Kimes says, “People love their lakes, and they are proud to wear or purchase products that promote and celebrate the area.” SGN

Lake Folks Designs offers casual styles for lakeside customers like hats and T-shirts.


Officially licensed sports products can hit profit margins out of the park.

When it comes time to “take someone out to the ballgame,” they may want more than peanuts and Cracker Jacks as the song indicates. They may want a souvenir that lasts a little longer like a licensed, authentic MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA or WNBA jersey, hat, cup or other item to commemorate the game.

Selling officially licensed sports products can be a very lucrative enterprise for a gift shop owner. People all over the world love their sports, their teams and their players, and they love to display their fandom in tangible ways.

It’s a home run if your store happens to be located in a big sports town like Chicago.

The Windy City is home to two major league baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, plus the NHL’s Blackhawks, the NBA’s Bulls (Michael Jordan’s former team!) and, of course, representing the NFL, “da Bears.” These legendary teams have been joined in recent years by the WNBA’s Sky and soccer’s Fire. 94 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023

Stephanie Ganal owns and manages Grandstand, not far from Guaranteed Rate Field (formerly Comiskey Park) where the White Sox play. It’s a family business; her parents opened the 3,000-square-foot shop in 1989.

“There’s always a sport playing, always a big game being played somewhere in Chicago,” Ganal says. “When baseball’s over, football starts; when football’s over, you have hockey and then basketball and then we go right back into baseball. So our door is always open.”

No matter what sport a fan favors, they’re bound to find something to take home at Grandstand. “We pride ourselves in knowing that we are the largest supplier of all Chicago team merchandise under one roof,” Ganal says. “Anything that the leagues license for all five Chicago teams, we carry. We have thousands of SKUs.”

College teams also get in on the gravy train, as Chris Stephens, manager of Gator Beach & Sport, Daytona Beach, Florida, can attest. The store carries only licensed University of Florida Gators


One of the great things about selling licensed sports goods is that they are purchased by customers of every background, gender and age group. “I wouldn’t say there’s a particular age group that buys it,” says Chris Stephens, manager of Gator Beach & Sport, Daytona Beach, Florida. “The Gators have a very loyal fan base.”

Stephanie Ganal, owner and manager of Grandstand, Chicago, echoes that sentiment. “We don’t have a certain demographic or age group. We’ve been here 37 years, and we pride ourselves in knowing that everybody that walks through the door either is or has been part of our family.”

She says the store has been around long enough to have seen generations of fans come through its doors. “It’s the grandpa bringing in the son or the grandson, definitely a heritage thing,” she says. “The entire family comes in.”

“It’s a trickle-down effect from kids to adults,” Ganal describes. “The kids remember coming to our store before games. Say you’ve been bringing your daughter in from the time she was little. Then all of a sudden you’re in your 60s, she’s in her 40s and now, she’s bringing in her kids.”

The store is also a favorite stop for folks who grew up in Chicago but now live elsewhere, according to Ganal.

merchandise for any of the teams bearing that name, whether they play football, basketball, baseball, softball or volleyball.

At Baltimore Sports & Novelty, owner Jeffrey Katzen carries both licensed pro and college-team merch.

“We have some stuff for the Baltimore Orioles and the Ravens, also for the University of Maryland Terrapins. We don’t sell as much of the U of M stuff because it’s harder for us to get.”


If you’ve ever been to a Disney resort, you know there’s no shortage of Disney-branded merchandise for sale, everything from plastic light sabers to mouthwash cups. It certainly looks as if all the professional sports leagues have taken a page from The Mouse’s merchandising playbook.

Grandstand’s merch mix includes “literally everything that the MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL licenses — pins, keychains, cups, shot glasses, flags, sippy cups, gift cards, greeting cards, rugs, trailer hitch covers and toothbrushes, plus shirts, jerseys, and hats for all sizes from 12 months all the way up to a size 6X. You name it, if it has a team logo on it, we have it in the building.” For tiny fans-in-training, there are even team-logo diapers.

Baltimore Sports is stuffed with “jerseys, hats, helmets, flags, tumblers, T-shirts, polo shirts, jewelry, plush animals, inflatables, bats, blankets, pillows and pictures,” Katzen says — all of them bearing logos for Baltimore’s teams: the Orioles, the Ravens and the U of M Terrapins.

Gator Beach & Sport is similarly outfitted, carrying a large selection of licensed Florida Gators apparel, “from outerwear all the way down to T-shirts, tanks, women’s clothing, hats, sandals, belts and socks for infants, youth and adults,” Stephens says. “We also carry licensed accessories like house flags, stickers, lunchboxes, golf stuff and some novelty items.”


All of these stores feature items in a range of price points so that even the most budget-conscious shopper need not go home empty-handed.

“Our range starts at around $3 and goes up to about $500 for a framed autographed jersey,” Katzen says.

Grandstand’s price range extends all the way from a 60 cent pencil to a $1,200 autographed World Series bat. Ganal says the average price point is around $40.

Grandstand serves as the largest supplier of all licensed Chicago team merchandise under one roof.

“We have hats that are $25, some that are $40, some T-shirts that are $30 and some that are $50, plus kid’s shirts that $12 and $20,” Ganal says. “We even have a clearance section where it’s ‘buy one, get one free.’ We make sure we have something for everybody’s budget.”


Ganal says Grandstand is only “kind of” slow in January and February, with the busiest time being from March to October “and then again in November and December — of course, we’re always busy for holiday time.”

At Baltimore Sports, the busiest days are “right before the home games,” Katzen says. “People want to go to the game and get something new.”

The mix of licensed sports merchandise varies throughout the year depending on which sports season it is. This also impacts sales. For Stephens,

says. “Anything that people see on national TV that the players or coaches are wearing, like the on-field hats, those type of items are the most popular.”

She makes sure fans can find what they’re looking for in the store. “We carry jerseys for all five Chicago teams and hats for every MLB team, not just the Chicago ones.”

For Stephens, the current hot item is Gators team T-shirts.

Sales of licensed sports products spike when a team is on a hot streak. Baltimore Sports gets busy “if a team makes the playoffs,” Katzen says. “Also just before Father’s Day and Christmas.”

Currently, Katzen’s biggest-selling items are “Orioles jerseys and T-shirts because right now they’re winning, and people are going to the games.”

Ganal adds, “Although we’re steadily busy all year ‘round, in the licensed sports goods industry, your sales are only as good as your team is. The better your team is doing, the busier you are. But if the team isn’t doing well through the season it’s a rough one.”


not surprisingly, “Football season is probably the most popular.” But, he adds, “We’re in a tourist location so we do have a lot of foot traffic in the spring through the summer as well. Football season is a smaller time frame, but in terms of sales, fall football probably beats out spring and summer.”

Grandstand also sees more demand for football gear during the fall. But for that store, baseball is always king. “Because of our location right outside of the White Sox stadium, we’re always busy with baseball gear,” Ganal says. “We do a lot of online sales too for other teams. Sales are stronger for teams that are in season.”


Jerseys and hats are the most popular licensed apparel at Grandstand.

“Jerseys are always going to be number one — anything that the players wear on the field,” Ganal

Among a retailer’s many jobs is keeping tabs on changing fashions. “That’s something that we pride ourselves on,” Ganal says. “We’re huge fans of all of our Chicago teams. Just from being true fans, we know what’s trending with fans within the city.”

Sourcing the merchandise isn’t a struggle. “The leagues have licensed companies that we deal with,” says Ganal. “We don’t outsource, they come to us and show us the new product lines.”

Stephens makes an effort to showcase new and seasonal items when they come into the store.

Katzen takes a more laid back approach. “We just put them on the rack and mix them in with the other stuff,” he says.

Ganal posts her new items on social media, “but within the building, we don’t really put them in a specific area.”

Retailers carrying licensed sports products have huge customer bases, appealing not only to sports fans but also for people who like to buy gifts for the sports fans in their lives. It’s a winning scenario. SGN

Baltimore Sports stocks Orioles, Ravens and the U of M’s Terrapins gear and accessories.


Native American casinos have a successful history in the United States. As of 2011, there were 460 gambling operations run by 240 tribes with a total annual revenue of $27 billion, according to online sources. The stores at these casinos give tribal crafts and gifts a selling home alongside such finds as name-dropped souvenirs. Casino gift stores offer a perfect break from the gaming floor and a chance to pick up mementos of a guest’s trip.

At the Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana, the Bayoutique Gift Shop, located in the Seven Clans lobby, keeps shoppers interested with a wide range of gifts and souvenirs. Store Manager Elizabeth K. Childs says the store

carries a nice selection of pins, magnets, postcards, mugs, shot glasses, hats, shirts and similar souvenir items. Childs says most souvenir gifts feature the casino’s logo, including specialty Coushatta Casino Resort logo items, while others are Louisiana-themed. There is a second store located directly on the casino floor. “This gives us a variety of retail options that our guests enjoy and support,” she says.


Bayoutique Gift Shop sources from 15 to 20 different vendors. Two primary vendors are the women-owned It’s Promo Time from Slidell, Louisiana, and W.E. Distributors from Lake Worth, Florida.

FINDING MEMORABLE AND CULTURAL SOUVENIRS IS A SURE THING AT INDIAN CASINO SHOPS. STORY BY CAROLINE RISI Jewelry curated by Cherokee crafters is popular with patrons at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina. SOUVENIR & RESORT SHOW SECTION

“Typically, we attend Atlanta Market, yet the majority of purchases are done one-on-one with different vendors with whom we have great relationships and who search out items they believe will work for us,” she says.

Apparel and accessories are the store’s main focus, across all price ranges.

“We also feature a small, carefully chosen selection of children’s toys, and of course, Coushatta tribal goods, like intricate beadwork items and their world-renowned longleaf pine needle baskets,” Childs says. “Our best-dressed guests will cheerfully confirm that our curated apparel section is very popular.”

Childs says the Bayoutique Gift Shop’s handcrafted tribal merchandise, as well as jackets, shirts and bags, sell well.

“Our patrons enjoy owning and wearing Native American art and/ or accessories and clothing designed, handmade or embellished by tribal artisans to express the creator’s unique cultural designs, plus the knowledge that each purchase supports the arts. The combination of tribal colors makes these items aesthetically pleasing — a desirable addition to home decor and personal wardrobes,” she says.

Impulse buys also have a home at the store. Sunglasses, watches and seasonal goods are displayed at the front of the store and near the checkout area.

The Bayoutique Gift Shop prices range from $1 to $300-plus, with authentic tribal baskets topping $1,200, Childs says.

“Patrons often shop for themselves and friends and family members,” she says. “They like to take a break from the gaming floor and have a different experience away from the casino action, selecting a ‘treasure’ or two as a memento of their trip.”

The hottest trend for 2023, according to Childs, has been gnomes. The flocked bunny for Easter was extremely popular as well, she notes.


At Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina, there are six retail shops across the property to choose from. The six retail stores can be found on the casino floor, in the Creek Tower, in the Cherokee Convention Center and at the River Shops located on the second floor of the casino,

according to Harrah’s Retail Manager and Buyer Carolina Stebbins.

Souvenirs generating interest for shoppers include keychains, shot glasses, mugs, stickers and apparel, she says. Visitors can also choose local native jewelry from Cherokee as well as logoed apparel and hats.

“Our customers love that they can purchase our local jewelry that has been curated by our Cherokee crafters,” she says.

Stebbins says the resort overall carries a wide range of products from souvenirs, novelties and gifts to outdoor gear, high-end jewelry and home decor. The bestsellers differ by store, she says. For example, at the Gilded Basket and the Tower Shop, logoed souvenirs and gift items from Darling Affect, Vera Bradley and DM are bestsellers.

For souvenirs on the casino floor, the Gilded Basket offers a variety of Harrah’s logoed merchandise such as shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and glassware. The shop showcases a beautiful selection of locally made Cherokee crafts.

Stebbins says name-dropped clothing is also available at the Tower Shop in the Creek Tower. The store offers sundries, snacks, drinks, tobacco, books, magazines and cards as well as Cherokee crafts, too.

Also a source for logoed apparel is on the second level of the Cherokee Convention Center at the Cherokee Tower Shop. The store also offers sundries, snacks, drinks, tobacco, books, magazines, cards and Cherokee crafts.

The casino’s newest outlets are Cherokee Outdoors and Rivershops Home. Shoppers can browse higher-priced items at Cherokee Outdoors in the River Shops, where there is outdoor gear and clothing from the big brands to the small and undiscovered labels.

At Rivershops Home, shoppers can find the perfect pieces for their homes. The store offers accessories, home decor and gourmet food, and shoppers can browse through brands including Stonewall, Rewind and more, Stebbins says.

At Studio and Swarovski, shoppers find ladies’ apparel, shoes, accessories and sportswear/coordinates with vendors such as Karen Kane and Tribal Sportswear. Inside Studio is Swarovski, which is known for its jewelry, watches, sparkling crystal figurines and home accessories.

“Our patrons enjoy owning and wearing Native American art and/or accessories and clothing designed, handmade or embellished by tribal artisans to express the creator’s unique cultural designs, plus the knowledge that each purchase supports the arts.” — Elizabeth K. Childs, Coushatta Casino Resort
Carefully curated apparel and accessories are popular at Bayoutique Gift Shop.


Impulse purchases include snacks, keychains, magnets, name-drop mugs and shot glasses displayed on spinners or near the point of sale, according to Stebbins. Bestsellers include name-drop shot glasses and keychains, and the stores’ prices range from $1.99 to $1,000.

Casino shoppers are buying for themselves and friends and family. “We’ve observed that visitors like to collect items from their visit, and our outlets

gory is jewelry, with plated jewelry selling best and sterling silver coming next,” Downey says.

Native American-themed merchandise includes handcrafted jewelry and pottery “along with some very popular Native-inspired blankets from Pendleton and Native-made blankets from Eighth Generation,” she says.

Guests can find everything from a logoed deck of cards for 50 cents all the way up to blankets, pottery and jewelry in the $200-to-$300 range at the store, Downey says. Some shoppers are buying for themselves, while others are purchasing gifts for friends and family.

are ideal for them as we carry Cherokee souvenir items, casino souvenir items and Great Smoky Mountain-themed souvenir items,” Stebbins says.

Merchandise is sourced at trade shows or through vendors on the road, and Stebbins attends the Smoky Mountain Gift Show, IGES and Atlanta Market. She says guests are “really looking for more local artisans in all categories.”


Gifts with a Michigan theme or with a casino logo sell well for the shop at the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg, Michigan. The store is located near the main entrance of the gaming floor, says Brandy Downey, guest relations supervisor.

The merchandise mix additionally includes gifts with a Native American theme and sterling silver and plated jewelry. Handbags, northern Michigan wine and snacks are also offered.

Apparel is the current bestselling category, she says. “Logoed clothing is a little more popular than our Michigan-themed clothing. Our gift and accessories category are next with everyday gift items selling best and Michigan-themed gifts and accessories close behind. Our third bestselling cate-

“We get people who are in the area for the first time and are just stopping in, or it is their first time at a casino, and they want something to commemorate their visit, or someone brought a friend for a special occasion, or they promised to bring something back for a family member,” she says of shoppers’ motivations.

Souvenir and gift purchases are made easy with highly accessible stores at casinos. For Native American casinos, handcrafted tribal gifts are hot-selling options, while name-dropped souvenirs sell quickly. It is all in a day’s work for the store managers and buyers who keep the sales floors stocked with the best merchandise choices for tourists and locals alike.

Logoed apparel is popular among shoppers at the gift shop in Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg, Michigan.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort features six retail shops for visitors to choose from.
“We’ve observed that visitors like to collect items from their visit, and our outlets are ideal for them as we carry Cherokee souvenir items, casino souvenir items and Great Smoky Mountain-themed souvenir items.” — Carolina Stebbin, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort


Adding someone’s name to a souvenir can make them a more special keepsake.

Few gifts put a smile on a person’s face as much as a personalized gift. Magnets or keychains bearing the name of someone special might cost a few dollars, but the response of the gift recipient is priceless. Personalized items are a niche category for some retailers, but it’s a thriving one.

Bethany Trading Co. in Bethany Beach, Delaware, is a destination souvenir shop for beachgoers with three distinct “shops” in one: toys, accessories and souvenirs. In the personalized category, shoppers can find necklaces, bracelets, shells and sand in bottles, keychains and ornaments.

Manager Victoria Dava explains the appeal of personalized items to different demographics: “I feel like little girls like the unicorns and mermaids; tween girls want to give their friend something that says ‘BFF’ or their name; and grandparents like to


give them as gifts to their grandkids.”

At Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, Arizona, personalized items include wood-carved knives, keychains and jewelry as well as a selection of popular name-dropped items identifying the park. Samantha Haley, gift shop manager, says visitors are drawn to the special memories attached to these souvenirs.


It’s not enough to just have personalized (or customizable) gifts in stock — they should be items that are truly unique and differentiate one retailer from another.

“Guests look for something they don’t already have, but still reminds them of the place they have

visited,” Haley points out. She says items can be even further customized by adding the attraction’s name or logo on mugs or clothing, photos of the

attraction on magnets, name-dropped ribbons and T-shirts for plush, and embroidery. Add a person’s name for a special customized touch.

The retail shop at the Space Needle in Seattle has two programs in the personalization category.

“One of our name programs and our backpack clip program are both totally custom, with unique art and shapes you will find only at the Space Needle,” says Jack Cavanaugh, senior retail buyer at Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. The other program features Seattle-themed art or Space Needle dangle charms to make them commemorative for guests.

According to Cavanaugh, personalized products are among their biggest sellers: “People love to bring home a souvenir with their name or the name of someone they love on it as a gift. Our Laser gift flash-n-flip keychain spinner is the top

Bearizona Wildlife Park’s personalized items include and street signs and wood-carved knives.
“Guests look for something they don’t already have, but still reminds them of the place they have visited.”
— Samantha Haley, Bearizona Wildlife Park

seller, but they all do great.”

Because some retailers carry much of the same personalized merchandise due to product or vendor availability in certain locations, Dava says it’s important to find other ways to stand out to shoppers.

“Always keep the personalized items in stock and try to have backstock of the items that sell quickly,” she advises. “There are some things we carry that others don’t, and there are things we don’t carry that others do.”

Customer service is another way to leave a lasting impression on consumers, especially in a busy tourist community. Bethany Trading Co. has a strong tourist customer base, many of whom stop by to pick up last-minute beach essentials or a quick gift year after year. They return because of the store’s reputation, merchandise selection and friendly service, according to Dava.

Much of Bearizona Gift Shop’s merchandise reflects experiences and encounters visitors have in the park. For instance, it carries plush versions of animals found on the grounds. “When customizing personal items like a keychain, we like to use photos of things you will also see in our park so you can give a visual and know where the item is from,” Haley says. She says kid cups are a new personalized offering at Bearizona’s gift shop this season. “They have bright colors, assorted pictures, and different names.”


Although name-dropped items are consistently strong sellers, retailers admit the inventory can be difficult at times. “One challenge is you have to keep the displays full and even with names you

don’t sell as often,” Haley says.

Her team addresses this by simply displaying fewer pieces of the slowerselling named items on each peg to keep the racks stocked. “Presentation is key. You want the display to look nice and not empty, as a fuller display sells more,” Haley explains.

Keeping display racks neat and orderly is “the most difficult and important thing,” according to Cavanaugh. There are no new name programs rolling out at the Space Needle, although every one they’ve offered has sold well.

“For us, right now the most important factor in choosing a new line is service from our local rep,” he points out.

The spinner racks in Cavanaugh’s shop need weekly servicing in the summer because of their high volume. “We have preferred reps who get the lion’s share of our personalized business because of the high level of service they provide,” he says.

Customers regularly ask Dava about various spellings of a particular name. Many have straightforward spellings, so “Amy” will receive a gift; “Amie,” “Aimee” or “Ami” may not.

“Sometimes companies don’t allow us to pick the names,” she explains. She would like to see the store purchase a Cricut machine so items can be customized, noting, “I feel bad when a little kid can’t find their name.”

While it’s important to offer consumers a variety of options, Haley does not want to overwhelm shoppers. “We display personalized gifts and souvenirs throughout the shop so that there is something different at every turn,” she says. “By spreading the displays out, it allows people to shop at their convenience and not feel rushed to look.”

Product placement is key, however. Cavanaugh says although personalized items are in a single grouping at the Space Needle, the merchandise is hard to miss. “It’s some of the best retail space in our store, and these fixtures have consistently proven to be worth premium placement,” he says.

Because of Bethany Trading’s customer demographic, Dava says its personalized items are displayed in the “kiddie” section, and its higher-priced merchandise is available on shelving in the gift section. “It’s usually in the front of the store, and very noticeable,” she says. “The items are on their own racks with headers, and the prices are clearly visible on the racks.”

Variety — in both product and name availability — helps to set personalized items apart from other gifts. Consumers appreciate a wide selection of options, and recipients appreciate the thoughtfulness of a customized gift. SGN

“Always keep the personalized items in stock and try to have backstock of the items that sell quickly.”
— Victoria Dava, Bethany Trading Co.
Bethany Trading Co’s personalized selection of merchandise appeals to both children and grandparents.

Getting holiday ready

These zoo and aquarium retailers share their insights into the upcoming fall and winter holiday season in a Q&A with ANDMORE.

Zoo and aquarium gift shops may be all about the animals yearround, but they are also able to take advantage of the fall and winter holidays to offer special merchandise and a festive feel inside their stores, giving customers more reasons to buy. ANDMORE shares insights gained from three zoo and aquarium retailers who attend the its various buying events, which include Atlanta Market and Las Vegas Market. They discuss holiday trends, staffing, merchandise and tips to drive store traffic.

Q: What holiday products do you see trending this fall and winter for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Emily May (EM): You can never go wrong with light-up and glow toys for the fall/winter season. Even bubble swords/wands that sell amazingly in the summer can still be sold during the colder months. Most have dual modes that run both lights and bubbles, or just lights. For adults, lightup necklaces are a fun accessory, and they come in multiple styles for all seasons.

Lake Superior Zoo and Aquarium’s Samantha Halligan (SH): As with all seasons, trends change, but this year we’re looking into products that are multifunctional and versatile to meet the demands of our diverse consumers. We’ve seen that items that can also be used outside of the holidays are more likely to continue to sell well, not only during these seasons but before and afterwards. Candy and plush are always a top holiday gift item, but we’re also seeing an increase in recycled tote sales.

ZooTampa’s Elie Johnson (EJ): I am finding our guests are interested in purchasing items that align with their values. They are willing to spend more money to purchase sustainable items in the gift shops. We do well with items that tie back to our mission, such as snare art that supports painted dog conservation, marble items that support sea turtles, bracelets that support wildlife or oceans and items

EMILY MAY Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Columbus, OH SAMANTHA HALLIGAN Lake Superior Zoo and Aquarium Duluth, MN ELIE JOHNSON ZooTampa Tampa, FL

made from sustainable goods.

Socially conscious items also are very successful, especially around the holidays. We find our guests want to purchase an item that they not only love, but also help to make a difference. Our guests are spending more time learning about the items and purchasing gifts that will have a lasting impact.

For Christmas here at ZooTampa, we do really well with beach-themed Christmas items like manatees with Santa hats, beachy ornaments (Santa riding a sea turtle, Christmas trees made

be able to find unique costumes like this at most big box stores.

SH: We’ve found that pairing items together to create a holiday-themed product has worked well for us and allows us to use products that are already on our shelves while upselling merchandise as a package.

As a zoo gift shop, we have plush items such as rabbits, bats and reindeer already on our shelves, and we often pair these with candy and other gift novelties to create a holiday-themed package. This creates an easy buy for the consumer and an opportunity for increased profits for the shop. After the season/holiday, items that are left can be dispersed and sold separately as they were prior.

“Socially conscious items also are very successful, especially around the holidays. We find our guests want to purchase an item that they not only love, but also help to make a difference.” — Elie Johnson,

out of sand), nautical nutcrackers and plush animals with winter or Christmas themes. Gnomes, snowmen and Christmas signs still seem to be trending this year.

Q: How are you preparing and stocking merchandise for seasonal sales?

EM: Plan ahead! Do your buying for the fall/winter in the spring/summer if you can and project out your orders. If you wait until closer to the later seasons, lots of items will have already been sold and gone. This goes for cold weather items as well. Custom blankets take a while to produce and hats/ gloves/handwarmers may have low stock by the time you think of it.

If you have a Halloween event at your location, consider stocking some toddler/youth costumes in late summer. They may look cute in your store during the Halloween season, but at that point, most parents/guardians will have already selected and purchased a costume for their child. If you have members that frequent your location, this is a great item to promote to them as they might not

EJ: I try to order items for the holidays as early as possible to avoid missing out on the most popular items. We do not have a ton of warehouse space, so I often order early but delay the shipment. This allows me to secure the items I want but not have to store them for months.

I use my vendors as a guide to show me top trends for the season. Going to trade shows to see new items and how others display them is really helpful. I also work with my marketing and events teams to see what themes we will have for the event season so I can try to find merchandise that aligns.

If we are going to promote bats for Halloween, I will buy extra bat-related merchandise — plush, T-shirts, stickers, giftware. If penguins are going to be featured for Christmas, we will theme our Christmas shop heavily with penguin merchandise. Then if we do not sell through all of these items, I can repurpose them in our shops.

Q: What are some ways you drive traffic into your store during these seasons?

EM: Work with your communications/social media team if you have one. Any custom items that

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium stocks up on light-up toys and bubble wands for the fall/winter season.

are unique to your store and the holiday are always great to promote. Consider having a member promo as well, something just for those loyal to your location. They may bypass the gift shops if they’re there frequently, so try and get them in your stores to capture those sales.

SH: We have several events that are hosted around each season/holiday that help drive traffic to our store. We also host a membership drive in the spring and in the fall that includes additional perks, which tend to bring in additional traffic. With this, we also offer member discounts and specials to help increase sales in the gift shop.

EJ: We have special holiday events for both Halloween and Christmas. Select nights in October, we host “Creatures of the Night” geared for all ages. Guests can join us for Halloween adventures complete with animals, spooky frights, festive treats and themed merchandise.

Name-dropped snow globes and ornaments are among the holiday items available at ZooTampa.

During this event, we will stage portable carts throughout the zoo. Due to the increased traffic and limited space in our stores, we need these portable locations to capture sales for guests who do not wish to wait in line to enter the shops. The carts are very successful in promoting our animal adoption program as well as selling items like bubble wands, light-up toys, ice cold drinks and glow-in-the-dark cotton candy.

Likewise, select nights after Thanksgiving through the end of December, we celebrate the holidays with Christmas in the Wild. We are open late so guests can experience cheerful realms, merry shows, jolly animal experiences, festive treats and holiday merchandise. For the Christmas event, we have portable carts similar to Halloween, but also add a holiday store complete with holiday decor, gift items, ornaments and plush. We also have a customizable ornament stand added to one of our outdoor gift shops.

We work closely with our marketing team to boost sales by promoting our webstore and animal adoption program on our social media platforms. For example, we will promote the red wolf adoption during Halloween or our pygmy hippos for Christmas (I want a hippopotamus for Christmas).


Q: What are some tips you have for staffing for the increase in seasonal/holiday traffic?

EM: Lots of our seasonal employees are students. Work with local school districts and colleges to attract employees who are home for the holidays or looking to make some extra cash during the holiday season. If you don’t already offer benefits to your employees, consider free admission to your institution for employees and one other person, while employed. Some people work for the fun benefits alone, but a competitive wage never hurts.

SH: Keep things simple! Discounts and promotions are a great way to get people to your store, but too many can cause confusion and profit loss. Focus on your budget goals and how best to reach them and share those goals with your staff.

EJ: In order to staff for the holidays, we open our seasonal positions starting in September. This gives us time to get new staff trained and ready for the busy season. We allow our staff to have flexible schedules that coincide with their commitments outside of work. We find that anyone can be trained to work on a cash register, so we mainly focus on hiring staff with a positive

attitude who are willing to learn and engage with our guests. SGN

ANDMORE serves as the center of commerce for the wholesale furniture, gift, home decor and apparel industries with more than 60 years of relationships and experience creating scalable business platforms for wholesale commerce. Its premium showroom spaces spanning more than 20 million square feet in High Point, North Carolina, Las Vegas and Atlanta, paired with digital tools connect the wholesale industries it serves. More information can be found at JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 117 MERCHANDISING: ZOOS & AQUARIUMS
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium plans ahead what it will buy for the holiday season.



Best sellers in the kitchen accessories and housewares categories typically have the winning combination of functionality and attractiveness. Add some local flair or other unique element and it’s difficult for many retailers to keep certain product lines on their shelves.

This has been true for The Great Alaskan Bowl Company in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is a home goods and food shop as well as a forest product manufacturer and one of America’s last working bowl mills, according to retail manager Emily Berriochoa.

“We carry the products that we manufacture, Alaskan birch bowls, steins, vases and other laser engraved products.

We provide personalization services in-house. We also carry items from over 200 Alaskan makers, businesses, artists and authors,” she says.

The Great Alaskan Bowl Company represents approximately 50 North American-based companies. Bowls are the company’s standout best seller, as along with cutting/charcuterie boards, ulu knives and wooden utensils.

Similarly, Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, North Carolina, with 11 locations in 10 towns in four U.S. states, stocks merchandise that fits the rural, homespun, and vintage theme of a general store.

Kitchen and housewares include standard cooking (Lodge cast iron, mixing bowls, gadgets) to baking to mixol-

Mast General Store likes to tell stories with its displays. A dispaly might feature lemons as a focal point. From there, the story emerges.

ogy. When it comes to choosing themes and colors, the team at Mast, including Elizabeth Lowe, visual merchandising coordinator, buyers Connie Gioscio and Greta Hollars, will select items that fit the Mast General “story,” and create a story within a story.

For instance, a display might have lemons as a focal point. From there, an entire color and theme story will emerge, complete with lemon-printed dishware, towels and other items to create visual interest. Fiesta tableware, Lodge cast iron, jar openers, old-fashioned dish cloths and dish towels and chainmail cast iron cleaners round out Mast’s best sellers in the kitchen and housewares category.


It’s all about cheese and cheese-cutting housewares at Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, Wisconsin. According to creative director Natalie Broussard, Mars stocks a variety of cheesecutting housewares that appeal to cheese enthusiasts, home cooks, party hosts looking for the right implements to take their food presentations to the next level, chefs and culinary professionals, shoppers looking for the perfect gift, and wedding planners or event coordinators seeking out the ideal food preparation tools.

“It is important to note that the customer base for cheese-cutting tools may vary depending on the specific type of tool, its functionality and the market it targets,” she says.

Along with their selection of over 1,000 kinds of cheese and Wisconsin-themed souvenirs, Mars’ carries cheese-cutting tools, such as cheese knives, planes, boards, graters, boards, slicers and forks.

“Overall, cheese-cutting housewares make it easier to prepare and serve cheese and can add a

touch of elegance to any cheese platter or charcuterie board,” Broussard says.

She notes the staff’s knowledge of its various cheeses is essential to recommending the proper tool for enhancing their cheese-eating experiences.

“And we always recommend a beautiful board to not only enhance the presentation, but also provide a sturdy surface for cutting and serving cheese,” she says.


Grouping is the preferred merchandising method at The Great Alaskan Bowl Company: “We try to display within both a product line or a theme. So for example, we have a baking section with rolling pins, biscuit cutters, sourdough starter, cookie cutters and bread cookbooks. We keep all our boards together in one place, all our wooden utensils in one place,” Berriochoa explains.

The Great Alaskan Bowl Company is an attraction, a factory and retail store all in one, perfect for explorers: “There are sections/departments, but it is really just a lovely journey through Alaska that relates to every household,” she says.

For an even more authentic experience, visitors can see products being made right in front of them. “Many of our items are investments that remind customers of their parents or grandparents and in turn, they can imagine their grandkids eating popcorn out of the same bowl, or rolling out cookies with the same rolling pin,” she says.

At Mars Cheese Castle, Broussard says merchandising methods depend on the item. “We utilize open shelving units to showcase the different types of cheese-cutting tools, arranging them in an organized manner, grouping similar items together,” she says.

Pegboards are used to hang cheese cutting housewares, with tags on each item explaining product and pricing information. She also recommends bundling to show how the items can be used together.

Mast General Store stays true to its roots by using display pieces that tie in to the rural, home-

Mars sells various cheese-cutting housewares. Mars offers over 1,000 kinds of cheese and many other ‘cheesy’ items.
“We utilize open shelving units to showcase the different types of cheese-cutting tools, arranging them in an
organized manner, grouping similar items
— Natalie Broussard, Mars Cheese Castle

spun aesthetic of the store itself. “We build many of our display units but use antiques whenever possible,” Lowe says.

Antiques are used liberally in the stores’ mercantile department, where they might use an old cast-iron cookstove to display Lodge Cast Iron with corn meal, mixing bowls, wooden spoons, and aprons. Or, using apple butter as a theme, customers might expect to find displays featuring house-branded apple butter, an apple peeler, baskets and some “soft things,” like an apple-themed towel, to add

more color and to tie the tableau together.

“We use crates of different sizes and custom risers to create height in our displays, and we adhere to the general store idea of ‘packing in as much stuff as possible’ into our stores and our displays,” according to Sheri Moretz, storyteller at Mast, and part of the visual merchandising team.

Mast’s merchandising strategy is a bit unconventional: a little overwhelming, yet inviting and shoppable, according to Moretz. “A visit to the Mast Store is a journey to discovery — you will find what you came in for and you might also discover something else that you have been looking for for a long time or something you didn’t know you needed,” she explains.

Berriochoa says her team members face the challenge of not having enough space to fit all the merchandise they want to display. She relies on keeping items at eye level and leaving enough room for items in one area.

“Our merchandising strategy is to make it look

“We use crates of different sizes and custom risers to create height in our displays, and we adhere to the general store idea of ‘packing in as much stuff as possible’ into our stores and our displays.”
— Sheri Moretz, Mast General Store
Mast’s merchandising strategy is “a little overwhelming, yet inviting.”

modern but homey — we have found a handful of old hutches online in the last few years that have helped soften our display but also remind customers of being home,” she says.


Kitchen and housewares’ universal appeal make them strong sellers. Whether buying a gift for themselves or someone else, consumers can find plenty of options for foodies of all kinds. The Mast team guesstimates kitchen and housewares make up approximately 60% of sales due to the fact that the items have a universal appeal and because of their stores’ locations in tourist destinations, college towns and areas with expanding populations.

“They are popular places for people to come pick up wedding and/or housewarming gifts, a little something special for someone setting up housekeeping for the first time, accents for kitchens, souvenirs for their trip, et cetera,” Moretz says.

Berriochoa says giving customers the opportunity to handle the merchandise to better understand its features and functions is important. “I think you want them touching things, imagining the item’s use in their home and hands. We want our store to feel like a place where they could hang out for a while,” she says.

The Great Alaskan Bowl Company is always looking for display pieces that look like they belong in someone’s home, according to Berriochoa. She says the store also prefers items that help customers reach the dream of making homemade bread, popcorn movie nights or a slower, more authentic way of living.

From novice cooks learning their way around the kitchen to the most experienced chefs seeking out the latest and greatest food preparation gadget, consumers look to niche and general retailers for a wide range of kitchen accessories and housewares to help them fulfill their kitchen dreams. SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 123
The Great Alaskan Bowl Company offers an entire experience.


Thanks to generous support from Heart on Main Street with funds from Indie and Main, one Fort Myers Beach retail store owner finds hope for the future.

When Hurricane Ian made landfall on Sept. 28, 2022, in southwestern Florida, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the state since Michael in 2018. As a gateway to southwest Florida and a major tourist destination, the Fort Myers Beach community suffered significant damage. Among the businesses impacted were three stores owned by independent retailer Anita Cereceda, and because of the shoreline, only one, The Islander, can be rebuilt.

Cereceda, who also lost the contents but not the structure of her 1926 cottage home to 8 feet of stormwater, is far from alone in her journey toward reopening The Islander. The tight-knit Fort Myers Beach community was devastated by the hurricane and recovery for retailers is moving slowly.

Amid the chaos, the Heart on Main Street team, in partnership with Indie & Main, awarded Cereceda with its first grant by presenting her with a check for $10,000 to help in the rebuilding process. The Dallas Market Center will also host her later in the year during one of its shows. 124 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023 RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: THE ISLANDER
Anita Cereceda, owner of The Islander in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, accepts a $10,000 grant from Patrick Keiser, executive director of the Heart on Main Street program


With her many years in retail, Cereceda has strong vendor relationships. So, when Sue Larmon, territory manager with the OneCoast, Mud Pie Sales Division, told her to answer a call from someone named Patrick, she took note.

“She said, ‘I know you’ve got a lot going on. I can’t tell you anything because I really don’t know the details, but I want you to answer the phone or return the call when somebody named Patrick calls you from Heart on Main Street,’” Cereceda says.

“So, the next day, lo and behold, I got a call from Patrick. He introduces himself, tells me about the Heart on Main Street program, and what he’s been doing. And then he proceeds to tell me that I was chosen as their first recipient of a $10,000 grant. I was absolutely blown away,” she says of her conversation with Heart on Main Street Executive Director Patrick Keiser.

Keiser presented the check in person at the store site. “Then I got to actually meet him, which was wonderful, and Sue, my sales rep, met me there, too,” she says. “It was all very emotional and lovely, and I was just so grateful. And quite honestly, now I’ve been following that Heart on Main Street

for in other companies offering to help to avoid scams.


Cereceda has a long history in the Fort Myers Beach retail community. After her father retired from the Sysco food company in 1985, he opened the Pier Peddler with her mother. With both parents gone, Cereceda took over the store, and it would have celebrated its 38th anniversary had it not been destroyed in the storm.

page and listening to the podcast and it has helped me tremendously, being inspired by it all.”

Keiser says the group couldn’t have found a more deserving recipient. “Anita isn’t just a retailer in Fort Myers Beach, she is a staple in the community. When I first started looking into her businesses and her story, I was brought to her Facebook page, which has been a source of inspiration for the town over the past seven months. She consistently went live to talk to her community, and thousands of people tuned in to watch.”

Keiser says despite losing three businesses and her home, she kept talking about the sunny days ahead. He said she informed her community on news and progress from federal recovery efforts, and that she spoke about best practices in dealing with insurance companies and what to look

In 2003, she opened Local Color. “It was just a beautiful, wonderful, artsy store, and it was also completely demolished. This is a building that was built to hurricane code. It was built in 2003, but it went down into rubble. There was virtually nothing left to recover,” she says.

Cereceda opened The Islander in 2017. She will use the $10,000 grant for a cash wrap area and its computers, phones and furnishings.

“I talked it over with my store manager and told her that I wanted to be reminded every day about the generosity of others and pay it forward! The smallest acts of kindness help every day. The Heart on Main Street donation will be our starting point,” she says.

Cereceda is unsure when The Islander will reopen. The store is located at the south end of the island in the Santini Marina Plaza Shops, which is a concrete block structure.

“The structure survived, but all the

“Anita isn’t just a retailer in Fort Myers Beach, she is a staple in the community.” — PATRICK
KEISER, HEART ON MAIN STREET The Islander is located at the south end of the island in the Santini Marina Plaza Shops.

businesses in the plaza were demolished by storm surge. So, the water just kind of rushed through, and everything had glass fronts. You can imagine what the plaza looks like. It was just completely demolished,” she says. With the hurricane glass in,

and have been hosting monthly webinars for retailers, and we will have an in-person education event this summer. We plan to have in-person education events during each show season,” he says.


Cereceda waited out the storm at her sister’s home about 20 miles from the beach. At another time of crisis for the family, one of her sisters told her that hope can be a strategy, which is an idea Cereceda has embraced. “From that moment on, I’ve had a little piece of paper somewhere that I would see that says, ‘Hope is a strategy.’”

and a new roof on the plaza, she says “there’s a little bit of hope there.”


According to the Heart on Main Street’s website, the organization launched in 2022 with a goal to help retailers evolve and to help create more sustainable businesses in local communities. Keiser says Heart on Main Street wants to help as many retailers as possible. The organization will continue to support retailers affected by natural disasters but will use other funds it raises to invest in programs like grants and mentorships, Keiser says.

“We also have a significant focus on education

Cereceda also finds a beacon of hope from her fellow retailers. She met the owner of Babe’s in Lakeland, Florida, while attending trade shows, and the woman has been posting images and videos from Atlanta Mart.

“It just has lit me up. I feel like I’m living vicariously through her. And so that’s been a high point. I sent her a message on Facebook and thanked her for it,” she says.

For Cereceda, these small signs of hope are a strategy to get through times of difficulty.

“You just have to pay attention, and quite honestly, you have to make a conscious effort with it because it does not come easily,” she says. SGN

“The smallest acts of kindness help every day. The Heart on Main Street donation will be our starting point and something every employee knows about and is reminded of daily!”



Located along the Bridgewater Channel by the historic London Bridge — the largest antique ever purchased — is a quaint shop that carries everything you need for a day on Lake Havasu in Arizona. From beachwear to accessories, jewelry and flip-flops, the year-round family-owned business delivers a lake shack themed experience in a major tourist destination.

“We are fortunate to meet people from all over the world,” says Stephanie Finch, whose husband Danny Finch opened Beach House with brother, Dallas, in November 2019. Stephanie Finch runs the daily operations of the English Village shop, which is a district on the water with charming retailers and a unique vibe. Many enjoy visiting because they can go “across the pond” without leaving Arizona. RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: BEACH HOUSE 130 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023
Beach House’s mix of go-to brands and name-drop items keep Lake Havasu visitors coming back for more.
Stephanie Finch manages daily operations of Beach House, which opened in November 2019. Photos: Daisy Nelson

Finch says Beach House runs a busy spring and summer business by keeping up with trends, including offering brands like Salty Crew apparel and Maui and Sons surf shirts and boardshorts. “Being by the water, we keep it casual and fun!” she says.


Beach House Havasu is a prime example of how special things come in small packages — and the

beachy items and says that in spite of being on the lake, customers are still after coastal themes that feel like vacation. “When I am shopping for merchandise, I look for prints with water, palm trees, boats and vibrant colors,” she says. “It is really similar to beach and coastal.”

And some items are not necessarily coastal but just plain fun. “A favorite for some of our customers is our T-shirts with VW buses on them,” Finch says. “I work hard to search for products that you might not see in every other touristy shop.”

shop wisely uses every square foot of display space to showcase lake-themed products. The store is the size of a bedroom with a Tudor style exterior that complements the shopping district’s English vibe. Yet inside the shop, it’s all about soaking in everything Lake Havasu.

“We have a register at either end of the store, and we utilize our wall and floor space to display merchandise,” Finch describes. Both registers come in handy during the busy season. “It also helps with loss prevention having someone at both entrances.” And the shop has even carved out a single dressing room for customers, which can help reduce returns.

Vertical presentation allows the shop to maximize the compact area. “We utilize every bit of space we can, getting creative when necessary to display what we have to sell,” Finch says.

As for product selection, Finch builds an inventory of fun-loving,

“The biggest sellers are beachwear and Lake Havasu T-shirts,” Finch says, adding that items carrying the iconic London Bridge image are also attractive to guests. “No bad days,” is a popular Lake Havasu saying that moves when emblazoned on merchandise.

“We refresh our stock constantly,” Finch adds. “We look forward to our spring season with all the latest trends with our beach brands. After a cool winter, we are ready for the warm-weather season products. Hats, cover-ups, swimwear, tees and flipflops are a must.”

Beach House carries brands that include Roxy, RVCA, O’Neill Surf Co. and Billabong. Beachy straw hats hang from the rafters, and “little things” like velvet scrunchies or beaded earrings offer something for everyone at every price point.

The shop also carries fun buys that aren’t specifically lake focused but are appealing to those on vacation who are in an “anything-goes” mood. For example, vintage ballcaps bearing “Thelma,” “Louise” or “Don’t Make Me Go Beth Dutton on You!” are spontaneous good-time buys for the ladies. Also appealing are tote bags made from repurposed canvas and military tents that are available in a variety of patterns.

T-shirts and crop tops from the local Lake Havasu brand Rvr Lyfe Co. say “Live Free, Live Fast” and are created by a family with a “passion for LYFE on the lake and river.”

And capturing a carefree lake attitude are can koozies with phrases like, “I only drink beer on

Coastal is a heavy theme at Beach House. “No bad days” is a popular Lake Havasu saying that is emblazoned on merchandise. Beach House makes sure to stock up on staples like hats.
“A favorite for some of our customers is our T-shirts with VW buses on them. I work hard to search for products that you might not see in every other touristy shop.” — STEPHANIE FINCH

days that end with Y,” and “In our family, we don’t hide crazy we put it on the porch and give it a cocktail.”

A selection of kids’ items gives the younger ones something to take home from vacation, too. Those include namedrop T-shirts with sayings like “River Rat” and a colorful display of Hang Loose Bands bracelets, wristbands and ring bands that can be stacked, mixed and matched.


While the shop is open year-round, Beach House focuses on winter staples during the cold months. “We bring in some hoodies and crewneck fleece, as well as long-sleeve T-shirts,” Finch describes.

Because the weather is temperate year-round, there are plenty of visitors who frequent the lake town and the shop during what could be considered “off season.” For the most part, Beach House Havasu is always “on.”

“We get a lot of winter visitors who come to Lake Havasu for our warmer temps and beautiful weather — most of the places they are coming from are very cold and most likely have snow,” Finch says.

She refers to Lake Havasu as “a bubble” that is a relaxing getaway “when the world is a little crazy.” In fact, this atmosphere is what drew her and her family to the lake 31 years ago. Since moving to the area, she has raised three children and is now a grandparent. “We love the small-town, patriotic vibe we have here.”

As for Beach House Havasu, Finch says, “I feel our store is unique because of our friendly atmosphere, the decor and the location, of course!” SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 133
RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: BEACH HOUSE Open year-round, the shop also stocks long-sleeve T-shirts.



For shoppers who want to step back in time but also access unique merchandise trends, the family of Mast General Stores answers the call for today to meet yesterday. Now a 10-store enterprise that also includes the sister store Rivercross Made in USA, the original Valle Crucis, North Carolina, Mast General Store opened in 1883 and has been serving customers for more than 140 years.

Storyteller Sheri Moretz, who is part of the company’s employee stock ownership plan, has worked for the business for over 29 years. She says the nostalgia of general stores such as Mast is RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: MAST GENERAL STORE

appreciated by shoppers of all ages seeking a fun, unique shopping experience.


The first Mast General Store owner, Henry Taylor, built what is now referred to in the original store as the Middle Room in the 1880s, Moretz says. As new products and increasing traffic changed what was needed to meet customers’ needs, he added new rooms to the store.

In 1897, William Wellington Mast (W.W. Mast) bought a partial interest in the store. It was known for a time as the Taylor and Mast Store. In or around 1913, Mast purchased the remaining shares in the store, and it was operated by the Mast family until the early 1970s.

It was sold to a professor at Appalachian State University and a doctor from Atlanta. They had ideas for keeping the store open and bringing in new customers. Sadly, in the winter of 1977, they decided to close for the season with a plan to reopen in the spring of 1978 that was never realized, Moretz says.

John and Faye Cooper had visited the store before it closed and found it intriguing. Faye famously remarked, “We knew someone should save it. We just didn’t know it would be us.”

The couple purchased the store in late 1979 and moved their young family to Valle Crucis from Florida in 1980. The store reopened June 6, 1980, and the Cooper family lived on the second and third stories of the building for the first four years of its ownership. John and Faye’s daughter Lisa Cooper is now the president of this family- and employee-owned company.

Moretz says in the beginning, the Coopers added merchandise and opened new rooms of the store as they could, stocking items that would have been found in an old-time general store but would still be useful today. Many people drove the roughly eight miles from nearby Boone, North Carolina, to “step back in time.” In 1982, they opened a closeby Mast Store Annex, with expanded clothing offerings and eventually an outdoor department.

In 1988, the Mast Store in Boone opened in an old department store building from the 1920s. The JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 135 RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: MAST GENERAL STORE
The original Mast General Store opened 140 years ago in Valle Crucis, North Carolina.
“We knew someone should save it. We just didn’t know it would be us.”

company would continue to take over old department stores in other new locations, she says.


The Coopers have owned Mast General Store for 43 years, and Moretz says they are proud to call themselves caretakers of the store.

“In looking at the history of general stores, it is truly a feat that the Mast Store is still in existence,” she says. “When the economy changed in the

mountains — moving from a more agrarian life to one that was more manufacturing oriented — it meant that the workers at the shoe plant and other factories that were set up in nearby Boone would pick up the things they needed in town before coming home for the day.”

She says this shift was primarily what led to the store’s brief closure in the late 1970s. From the Coopers’ standpoint, they can attribute their longevity to listening to customers as well as having

Mast General Store has something for everyone from 2 to 102, including cookware, candy and even rocking chairs.

a creative and smart approach to buying products, she says.

Moretz says other stores can learn from Mast’s success strategy of having a good mix of products. “The Mast Store has something for everyone from 2 to 102 with products ranging from cast-iron cookware, rocking chairs and country gourmet foods to classic fashions, hundreds of favorite candies, technical outdoor gear and outerwear. It’s important to have a core inventory — something people can rely on and expect — and let just a part of your overall inventory respond to trends,” she says.

Customer service is an important part of the mix, too, she says, and that means really listening to the customer and asking questions to help find the right product for their end use whether it’s a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail or a wedding gift for a co-worker. “Oh, and being an ambassador for your hometown. It’s about people having an experience that is memorable,” she says.


Moretz says the company will open another store, but the owners haven’t found the right town or the right building just yet.

“Typically, we have about four or five years between openings of new locations to allow us to

get to know our newest ‘family member’ before welcoming another,” she says. “The Mast General Store likes to be referred to as a family of stores instead of a chain because while many of the products will be the same, there are items that are unique to each individual town and each building has its own personality.”

General stores once dotted the American landscape and were community centers. The original Mast store still houses the Valle Crucis Post Office. In addition to picking up mail, long-ago shoppers would buy things they couldn’t make themselves and learn about a community’s news and events.

The shopping experience may have changed for today’s customers, but Moretz says the company is committed to giving back to its communities by supporting local nonprofits in the areas of conservation and preservation, basic human needs and initiatives such as mentoring, education and the arts. A community couldn’t ask for more from a local business with its roots in the past, its feet planted firmly in the present and its eyes on the future. SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 137 RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: MAST GENERAL STORE
“It’s important to have a core inventory — something people can rely on and expect — and let just a part of your overall inventory respond to trends.”


The shops at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, provide a comforting, celebratory and convenient experience when it really counts.

It’s a happy place, a welcome break from stress and sometimes sadness — a spot where people from all walks of life can find a smile and a spirit-lifting conversation. The gift shops at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, are much more than places to buy candy and flowers.

“Sometimes, a person will come in and stay for 45 minutes talking to our employees or volunteers, and this shows us why we are here,” says Barbara Ipjian, gift store manager. “It’s not just to sell an item. We are here to help customers.”

Supervisor Nancy Leppo recalled telling a new employee during training, “You don’t know why someone comes in. It could be the worst day of their life or the best day of their life.”

Because of this, employees must stock for a range of experiences while also keeping in mind their constant customer base: hospital employees who enjoy the convenience of finding gifts and goodies. Sometimes, price is no object.

Case in point: a rustic, large-scale hand-

painted sign from Second Nature by Hand retails for $129.99. It features a phrase found on a cellar wall during the Holocaust, and it reads, “I believe in the sun when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I cannot feel it. I believe in God even when He is silent.”

The shops stock products including luxuriously soft baby blankets and comfort shawls, Willow keepsakes, special picture frames, home decor, pet items, wedding gifts and clothing. Variety is key.

Because of this, the shops are a destination for customers who specifically visit to shop, not to see a doctor. Leppo says, “Employees come down to the shop to look for gifts, and we have people who come in off the street.”


Ipjian and Leppo buy for five UPMC shops. They price the items and sort them so their inventory is stocked at each location. Some goes into storage to refill shelves. The two have worked together in the shops for years and are longtime friends.


They mainly purchase all products at Atlanta Market, staying for five or six days, spending full days sourcing items on the floor. They have products shipped throughout the year.

“We have learned our clientele and what they will pay for something,” Ipjian says, noting that there’s not a certain customer demographic that will spend more or less. Sometimes, purchases are emotionally driven. Leppo adds, “Grandparents come in and spend $100 or $200 on various baby items because they just had their first grandchild and are so excited.”

Other times, guests are in a need-it-now mode for a gift and are more focused on finding an item that suits the occasion than the price tag. On the other hand, the two are occasionally surprised when a category like jewelry sits on the rack longer than a pet bereavement blanket.

Plus, it’s not uncommon for some guests to enter the shop simply because they want to look around rather than sit in a hospital room. “They need a break,” Leppo says. “So, it’s like therapy. They can come down and read the decorative signs, many of them are inspirational and some are snarky and funny.”

Both come from a retail background and focus on collecting items from a wide range of vendors — hundreds, actually. Stuffed animals might be priced at $9.99 or $99. Travel cups and canteens can carry a $34.99 tag and appeal to doctors and nurses on-site.

The shops also carry gift baskets from community groups that support local charities, schools and the hospital. In fact, all proceeds from the gift shops go back to UPMC for patient care services.


Success for UPMC gift shops is more than selling items. “We are driven to succeed, but mostly we are there to help, and that is the biggest difference between a hospital-owned gift shop and a shop owned by an individual with a rented space,” Ipjian points out.

Training is crucial — and product knowledge does move inventory which, in turn, supports the hospital. “We educate our employees and volunteers if a product is sustainable, if a company gives back, if it’s made in the USA or if the item can be used in various ways,” Leppo says, referring to a scarf that can be tied in five different manners.

When they find a new product, employees receive literature so they can learn more about it. “I started writing a newsletter with all of our new product information on a monthly basis and leaving it for employees and volunteers to read while they are on their shift,” Leppo says.

Prior to the pandemic, the shop set out testers for beauty products and fragrances, even food. While this is no longer the case, employees receive

samples so they can try and share their insight with guests. “They can talk about their firsthand experience using it and when selling it, they can convey that,” Leppo explains.

Hospital employees also share what they love with each other, sparking more sales. For example, when a nurse purchased a FarmHouse Fresh kit with items including Honey Heel Glaze, she shared how well it works. “We sell so much of it now and we offer the bigger size,” Ipjian says.

Certain brands like Willow Tree and Mud Pie sell themselves. Shops also carry Malabar baby blankets made famous by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry that wear a price tag of $54.99. Blankets sell from $39.99 to $79.99. Some are made by Goose Waddle and others by Demdaco include inspirational sayings.

As for apparel, the shops mostly carry one-sizefits-all items or flowy styles because there are no dressing rooms. “We buy items that are flattering to a lot of different body types,” Ipjian says, relating that the shops will accept exchanges within seven days of purchase if tags are still on and a receipt is provided. But this is rare.

Clothing lines include Top It Off, Mary Square, Coco + Carmen and Hello Mello pajamas and robes. Clothing can range from $9.99 for a UPMC logo shirt to $19.99 for tees to $100 and more for capes with fur accents.

Ipjian says, “Someone might come into the ER and need something to wear home.”

As for presentation, “Things in boxes do not sell well for us, we have learned,” Leppo says. The shops’ displays are arranged with this in mind and

also organized into departments. “Each shop has a men’s section, a retirement section, pet section, wedding, clothing, jewelry, frames and gifts like stuffed animals and flowers.”

Windowfronts highlight feature items, which are switched up regularly. And decorative signage might be propped out in the lobby by the doors to shops. “People read them and purchase them, so it’s visual,” Leppo says.

Overall, the customer experience in UPMC gift shops is highly visual — and most of all, personal. Indeed, Ipjian says, “We are that happy place for employees and visitors.” SGN JULY-AUGUST 2023 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE 139 RETAILER SPOTLIGHT: UPMC HARRISBURG
“Sometimes, a person will come in and stay for 45 minutes talking to our employees or volunteers, and this shows us why we are here. It’s not just to sell an item. We are here to help customers.”
— Barbara Ipjian, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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

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Industry experts weigh in on important topics affecting souvenir retailers.



Name-dropped products are a staple at most souvenir stores, and there is a good reason, according to Tara Merrill, sales and marketing manager at Cape Shore.

“A name-dropped product will always outsell a similar product that is not customized,” she says. “A pretty, high-quality product will sell, but if you add a name drop with a city, state or tourist destination, it elevates that product and catches the customer’s eye.”

Merrill recommends being as specific as possible in the message that is being used.

Ornaments and drinkware bearing name drops are bestsellers in tourist locations, according to Merrill. She says, “Don’t be scared to carry ornaments year-round. They will sell no matter the season.”

BUY Impulse buys at souvenir stores generally fall into two categories, according to Kim Williams, account manager at Impulse Souvenirs, a souvenir wholesaler based in Kent, Washington. Those two categories are: 1.) functional and 2.) fun, immediate use. An example of functional might be a customer that is headed to the beach and has her gear but no place to put all that stuff once she gets there. “A simple canvas cinch or tote can be that convenient carry all,” Williams says. An example of a fun, immediate-use impulse buy might be something the customer doesn’t necessarily need, but the convenience factor, fun and price makes for an easy purchase. To capitalize on this, Williams says, “When they are at the cash register at the shop, right there is a fun peel-andstick embroidered patch that captures their trip in a fun, easy way to put on their shirt or backpack.”


Five ways signs help sell

1 Visuals list the type of merchandise customers may expect to find in a section, on a selling unit and on a shelf.


When advertised specials are posted, customers can find those items quickly and spend more time browsing other products.

3 When price signs contain product information, they become part of your silent selling strategy.

4 Signs featuring promotions for coordinating items help cross-sell and encourage larger purchases.

5 Product information listed or outlined on signs reminds customers why they need the product.


Many destination retailers are embracing recyclable and reusable bags to replace plastic bags for customers to use to transport their purchases.

For retailers in some states, legislation bans single-use plastic bags, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

North Wildwood, New Jersey-based Bags by Bruno makes PP5 and PET recyclable and reusable custom bags rated to hold up to 35 pounds.

While many retailers automatically switch from plastic to paper assuming it’s the most cost-effective solution, Joey Catrambone, owner, Bags by Bruno, disagrees, noting that double-bagging often comes into play. The company’s customprinted, reusable bags start at 35 cents each and don’t need double-bagged. SHOP TALK
144 SOUVENIRS, GIFTS & NOVELTIES MAGAZINE JULY-AUGUST 2023 AD INDEX 1 Brilliant Gift – 65 A & F Gift and Souvenir – 91 A.T. Storrs Ltd. – 9 Alaskan Suncatchers – 128 Alynn Neckwear dba Wild Attire – 45 Amusemints – 92-93 Ande Rooney – 119 Art Studio Co. – 20-21 Atlanta Market – 27 Beach Biscuit – 125 Beacon Design – 24-25 Bucket Wonders – 81 Cape Shore – 17 Capsmith – 63 Coastal Connections Conference – ........................23 Corpus Christi Souvenir & Resort Show – ..................................................... 135 Crystal Arrow – ................................... 123 Desperate Enterprises – .............. 49, 95 Dutch American – ...................................... 3 Eagle Emblems – ....................................... 16 Exist Inc. – 148 Exotic Sea Images – 116 Fiesta Toy – 71 Holden International – 89 IGES – 34-35 Impulse Souvenirs – 61 Jack Russell – 105 Jackson Pacific – 87 Kay Hova Art – 123 Kool Tees – 117 Kurt S. Adler – 37 Las Vegas Market – www.lasvegasmarket.comen 29 Las Vegas Souvenir and Resort Gift Show 52-59 LaserGifts – 146-147 Lipco – 115 Little Critterz – ........................... 67, 101 Lorab – ................................................................ 122 Management One – ............ 145 Mei Wah – ....................................................108 Mitchell Proffitt – ...................... 39 Momadic – ............................................... 136 Monogram International – .................................................. 129 Montana Artistic – 76-77 Mountain Graphics – 51 Panama City Beach Gift Show – 137 Parris Manufacturing – 103 Penny Bandz – 84-85 Phillips International – 68-69 Punchkins – 13 R.S. Covenant – www.rscovenant.comproducts.html 107 Ramsom Imports – 131 Rhode Island Novelty – 97 ShipShapeStyles – 136 Signs 4 Fun – 83 Silver Streak – 10-11 Simply Southern – .............................. 14-15 Sincere Surroundings – ............................................. 90 Smoky Mountain Gift Show – ............................................... 111 Souvenir Avanti Inc. – ................ 79 Souvenir Source – ......................... 7 Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties magazine – 141, 145 SS Handcrafted Art – 66 Stuffed States USA – 75 Surf Expo – 19 The Charleston Mint – 46 The Gathering – 111 The Petting Zoo – 73 The Postcard Factory/PCF Souvenirs 133 Touchstone Distributing 18 Town Pride – 113 Venu+ – 99 Village Originals – 121 Violette Stickers – 127 Wayne Carver – .............................. 2, 5, Wheeler Manufacturing – .....109 Whistle Creek – ............................... 126 Wikki Stix – ................................................. 44 Wildthings Snap-Ons – .......... 74 Wind River – ................................47 Xplorer Maps – .................................. 43