December 23, 2020
By Cvent

Many people agree: hotel gift shops are cool again. Although revenue per available room (RevPar) declined by nearly 30% in 2020, consumer spending is expected to regrow quickly and give hotel gift shops the power to bounce back over the next five years. Take advantage of this market with creative hotel gift shop ideas that will help your store stand out and help boost your overall business in the process. Explore examples from leading brands and discover foolproof wholesale items worth stocking up on regardless of your location. 

Boost your business with these 16 hotel gift shop ideas:

New hotel gift shops are opening up in countries with growing middle-class markets, while US-based brands are branching out internationally as chains and franchises. Clearly, there are a lot of opportunities. However, a low barrier to entry means new and established stores will have to evolve further in the coming years. 

To be competitive in this industry, hotel gift shop owners and managers need to lean heavily on specialty products, unique in-store shopping experiences, and fluid service both on and offline. Follow these hotel gift shop ideas and examples from leading brands to outperform the competition.

1. Adopt a boutique mindset.

Boutiques appeal to a wide variety of potential customers, not just ones staying at the hotel. According to Stephanie Robson, senior lecturer at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, “the key is going to be to attract non-guests as well as guests.”

2. Curate incredible local art.

Not only does it boost the local economy, it also ensures that out-of-towners will get a one-of-a-kind gift they can't find anywhere else. For example, Charleston, South Carolina hotel Emeline sells one-of-a-kind prints made by a local artist using freshly caught fish from the nearby coast. 

3. Create a fluid, immersive layout.

Use diagramming tools to create an open-concept floor plan that blends your hotel lobby with your shop like The Keep Shop at the Alida Hotel does. This layout strategy makes it easy for people passing by to see everything you have to offer at a glance, eliminating any physical barriers to purchasing. 

4. Host pop-up events.

Focus on highlighting local businesses through themed pop-up events like the one Sofitel Los Angeles did in their SoSpa boutique. In addition to featuring their latest skincare products, they also hosted complimentary chair massages, seasonal items from a locally-owned clothing brand, and five-minute spray tans.

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5. Focus on handmade, small-batch items.

Pick two to three main categories of goods that support your store theme. Focus on variety within that and think wide, not deep. It’s better to have many different types of items than a lot of the same items just in case some don’t sell as well as you anticipated. For example, the minimalist and curated inventory at The Eloise Shop at The Plaza offers one-of-a-kind merchandise based on the book series. 

6. Expand your merchandise area.

The more floor space you have, the more merchandise you can sell. Some shop owners forego having an on-site office and instead demolish it to put in more display units and shelving. You may want to create a lounge area or a coffee and tea stand to increase foot traffic. 

7. Network with local small business owners.

Get the scoop on local business licenses, rent, break-even points, hot items, and more. Also, get their perspective on other boutique shops that have open and closed during their time in the area,

8. Hire experts.

Small business owners can automate many of their tasks by outsourcing them to specialists. Instead of spending years increasing your skill-set, consider hiring:

  • An attorney to look over your lease
  • An accountant to revisit your business plan
  • A store designer to create an enticing display
  • A PR agent to help your store grow its audience 

The goal for a brand new hotel gift shop should be to quickly turn a profit. Investing in expert assistance will help you skip the trial-and-error phase as much as possible and get to the earning phase that much faster.

9. Have a pre-launch marketing plan.

Build an email list with valuable tourism and local attraction information that future clients will look forward to reading. You can also promote blog posts or podcast content via social media.  And don't forget to host a launch party with drinks and small door gifts for both hotel guests and locals.

10. Donate merchandise to nonprofit auctions.

Doing so will help you invest more into the community and become well-known throughout your city. Paying it forward is always the right thing to do, but it’s also an emerging trend thanks to Gen Z. In fact, experts say brands that implement social responsibility will connect more with them over time. 

11. Make informed spending decisions.

If you haven't already done so, invest in marketing and sales software that shows you real customer data. Experienced hotel gift shop owners agree that what people say isn't as important as what they spend their money on is. So even if customers who walk in are excited about your store, let their wallets tell you what they're most excited about. 

Track all of your data in one place and create reports to see what's worth buying more of, what you should be advertising on social media, and what buying trends you see among your own unique client base for product types and seasons.

12. Add a shop design focal point.

A mural, faux fireplace, or even a bathroom can make your hotel gift shop a talking point for guests. For example, the Courthouse Inn & Restaurant in Lisbon, Ohio has a ladies’ room covered from floor to ceiling in reflective gemstones. It’s so beautiful that returning guests look forward to showing their friends and family. While it's not a part of the gift shop, it's ideas like these that make your property stand out and earn more business. 

13. Add experience-oriented services.

Adding services to your hotel gift shop customer interactions helps set your store apart from other retail locations. Plus, it satisfies the unspoken expectation of hotel guests who assume they’ll have a number of convenient options during their stay anyway. Your services can be seasonal, such as complimentary gift wrapping, or location-inspired, such as free ice water bottles near a popular hiking spot. You can even offer free walking tours of the area.

14. Have monthly themes.

Guests love shopping at Poketo in Los Angeles, California because there's something different about the store every time they go in. Poketo features a new artist every month and displays a selection of their locally-crafted goods alongside information on the creator and art style. Part shop, part gallery, stores that offer a constant evolution of products are popular among almost every audience. 

15. Tie in local attractions.

Is there a particular attraction, activity, or type of cuisine your location is known for? Play it up with complimentary gifts in your shop. For example, Nashville is considered one of the country's hottest bachelorette party destinations, and products such as zipper scrunchies that hold miniature alcohol bottles likely do well here. 

16. Incorporate emerging trends.

Keep up with trends by following newsletters, such as those from Cassandra Daily, Sparks & Honey, and TrendWatching. And don't forget to consider all age groups. The more people your store can appeal to the better. You never know whether a guest is shopping for their ninety-year-old neighbor or their four-year-old niece.

Put these hotel gift shop ideas to use!

Up next, check out other ways to go above and beyond and impress hotel guests.

Grow your MICE business today!

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Cvent is a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider with more than 4,500 employees and nearly 21,000 customers worldwide.

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