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An arrangement of fairy garden merchandise at the Mattaei Botanical Gardens. Each display in the store offers a price point for every shopper.

otanical garden gift shop owners, managers and buyers are blossoming with ideas on how to grow gift item sales.

Because The New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, N.Y., is a seasonal business with changing exhibits throughout the year, its Shop in the Garden designs and creates merchandise that is tied to each exhibit such as an orchid show or chrysanthemum show. “Many of our visitors are tourists who want to take home a memento of their visit, so merchandise that reflects the show they saw on their visit always sells well--whether it’s an orchid poster, an amaryllis mug or a custom Christmas ornament featuring our glass conservatory,” said Margaret Csala, director, retail and business development. The 7,500-square-foot shop garners approximately $3.1 million annually.

Mattaei Botanical Gardens Visitor Services and Gift Shop Manager David Betz. “It takes planning during the buying process to bring merchandise from different vendors together in compelling displays,” he said.

Martha Anne Ellis, garden shop manager, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Shop, Richmond, Va., also said that selling gift items related to a current exhibit is a great strategy to boost sales. “When our ’Butterflies Live’ exhibit opened, our front table was filled with butterfly items. The front table is the first thing that catches the customer’s eye and is a great selling space,” she said.

Grouping by theme–whether it’s birds, butterflies or flowers–also works well. “Make a grouping on a shelf that incorporates similar colors and product–perhaps a tray with birds on it, bird napkins, bird salt and pepper shakers and a flower vase with complementary colored silk flowers,” suggested Ellis, who notes that the 5,000-square-foot shop includes an outdoor terrace and generates $950,000 to $1 million in sales annually. “This creates a visual to show the customer how it would look all together in their home.”

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden volunteer Carol Jones. The Richmond, Va., attraction does well selling gifts relating to current exhibits.

Suggesting how an item might be incorporated into a home also increases sales. “We take ikebana vases and use rocks, bamboo mats, flowers, etc. and show how they can be used,” Ellis said. “Mannequins can be very useful in showing how a floral jacket, shawl, or T-shirt would look on someone.” Good signage or provenance for special items is also essential to tie a product to your museum.

Patti Hitzler, manager/buyer, Trellis Gift Shop at Green Bay Botanical Garden, Green Bay, Wis., seeks out items made by local artists or in America for the 465-square-foot shop. “Visitors like to buy local when traveling as a memento of the area,” she said. “I also keep the garden theme going in the shop as a way for visitors to take the garden home with them. I keep a good assortment of items to appeal to a variety of people and offer a variety of price points.”

Michelle Fox, left, and Lucinda Stine, shoppers at the Garden Shop at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. A great selling space for the store is its front table.

David Betz, visitor services and gift shop manager, The Garden Store at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Mich., advised presenting merchandise in collections, using color or themes to tie a display together and give it impact. “It takes planning during the buying process to bring merchandise from different vendors together in compelling displays, but it also allows you to offer a variety of price points within the display,” he said. “Shoppers at every purchasing level can shop the display and make a purchase.” The 300-square-foot shop has annual sales around $200,000.

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