This blog was originally posted in the resource section of the One Coast website. One Coast is the leading national sales and marketing company of wholesale gift, fashion accessories, and collegiate products.
Mercy Auxiliary has owned Mercy Hospital Gift Shop of Springfield, Missouri since 1958. Through the years, relocations have created the need for a gift shop manager. Someone to buy product for the shop and manage the volunteers, among other tasks. This is a position Kym Priest feels blessed to hold.
The gift shop directly benefits the hospital. With the combination of yearly fundraisers and proceeds from the gift shop, over $5.6 million dollars has been given back since 1958. Since the gift shop is auxiliary, all proceeds go back to the hospital.
As is the case in most hospital gift shops, Mercy Gift Shop offers flowers, candies, balloons and all other staple items. But customers will also discover so much more than that.
“We try to really listen to our customers on what they like or request,” said Kym. Beyond the clothing, jewelry, accessories, scarves and collectibles that make up the majority of the products featured, collegiate products have been a surprising success. “Collegiate is proving to be a growing category. Not only do we sell Missouri schools, but we also have products from Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.”
Collectibles remain an important category for Mercy Gift Shop, but according to Kym, there has been a more downward trend than in previous years.
“I am noticing that our customers are selecting more practical gifts to give versus collectible items,” said Kym. “For us, 2012 has been fairly strong. Our customers want to give a gift that has more bang for their buck.”
Around this time of year, Kym actively works on setting up the gift shop for Halloween.
“I enjoy putting together really fun displays for Halloween,” She said. Kym works on incorporating festive decorations, accessories and home décor items, along with life size figures. “We seem to get a lot of attention from our displays and its sparking people’s moods about the fall season” said Kym. Mercy Gift Shop gets its fall and autumn items out as quickly as possible in order to increase their chance to sell through it. “After Halloween, we have Christmas out but try to keep a small display for Thanksgiving, because we think it’s important to highlight the holiday.”
During the first weekend of November, Kym coordinates a sale event to preview holiday products at Mercy Gift Shop. “This is the time we bring all our holiday merchandise out and set up our displays in a big way,” Kym said. From ornaments and decorations, to gifts and tabletop, Kym and her staff create vignettes through the shop and compass a number of artificial trees varying in sizes. The trees work to showcase their holiday ornaments and other gift items.
Displays are vital to the sales at Mercy Gift Shop. “We are always re-working our displays and glass cabinets almost every two to three weeks” explained Kym.
To complete the tasks for merchandising her store, Kym and her volunteers all contribute.
“We occasionally have students from our local college come in and help with our displays as well.”
For Kym, it’s not always the major display changes, but the little moves or restocking that is important as well.
“The displays are very important to us for they help sell our products without having to always educate our volunteers on the new product,” she said. Visual merchandising is the silent sales person at Mercy Gift Shop.
Marketing for Mercy Gift shop consists of many aspects.
“We utilize the internal hospital announcements to help get the word out about upcoming events and new products or promotions” said Kym. In addition, Kym sends out an email using SnapRetail to her database of customers at least once a month.
“For our Facebook page, we mostly use this tool to share pictures of displays or new products that have come in. We’ve received calls from customers who have patients in our hospital looking to purchase a gift they saw on our Facebook page.” For Kym, Facebook is not their main marketing tool, but it’s still an important component that adds to the overall message.
Kym enjoys trying new things all the time for Mercy Gift Shop.
“Just don’t be afraid to try something new,” she said. “It’s a learning experience that can truly be a valuable tool. You may learn to never do it again, or you may learn what to change for next time.” Whenever Kym finds herself stuck on a problem and can’t find the answer, she can be found working on her displays, for it has helped to release her creative thoughts and foster new ideas.