What Should You Stock in your Gift Shop?

Excerpts from old forum conversation:

The Inn at Elizabethville is a 7 bedroom facility located in a small borough. Last year this community had THREE gift shops. Two of these were “generic” gift shops that carried scented candles and other knick knacks that are commonly available in similar shops throughout the country. The third gift shop was a slightly more upscale store that carried antique reproductions and European imports.

When Wal-Mart announced the construction of a new super store on the outskirts of this community, all three gift shops closed.


The two generic stores simply couldn’t compete with a large discount retail store that will most likely carry everything that these smaller stories carried.

The other store went out of business and the timing was simply coincidental. Although the merchandise carried in this store was rather nice, the products were regretfully overpriced for this area. The owner also spent no money on advertising. She simply opened her doors and expected customers to throng to her business.

What does this have to do with B&B gift shops?

Before stocking your B&B gift shop, consider who your target market is. Are you targeting locals? Are you targeting guests? These are two entirely different markets.

Locals will be interested in merchandise that’s not readily available in area stores. Guests will typically be more interested in souvenirs that either highlight your regional area or serve as reminders of their B&B experience.

Regional products for my area means Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish products – pickled vegetables and relishes, jams and jellies, and homemade soaps. I have also given some consideration to having postcards made of this facility.

Typical B&B souveniers might include coffee cups and aprons with your business name and logo.

Regardless of what you decide to stock, do some market research before you invest time and money in the acqusition of merchandise. Identify the types of products you want to sell and find out who manufatures these items. Since you have a tax ID as a B&B, see if you can purchase these items in wholesale lots.

Before committing to any purchase, analyze your competition. Who is selling identical or similar products? How are these items priced? How are they displayed? Do these items actually seem to sell or do they sit on the shelves gathering dust?

If you live in an area with lots of stores, don’t purchase items that can be readily found at other businesses. I would especially advise you against the purchase of generic products that can be found at a Wal-Mart. Even if you can purchase these items at wholesale rates, it’s difficult for small retailers to compete with the largest discount retail store in the country.

Small stores that best compete with large retailers are either those in out of the way locations who have no immediate competition from these larger facilities or those which have created their own unique niche.

Once you have found your merchandise and lined up a supplier, purchase a minimum amount of products to initially stock your shop. Track your sales and identify the products that sell the best. Once you’ve gotten a better idea of your customer preferences, restock the items that sell well and consider selling other varieties of these products.

For example, if customers purchase handmade lavender soaps, consider restocking these soaps and offer additional varieties such as lemongrass, geranium, eucalyptus, or cinnamon leaf.

Tailor your wares to customer interests. Sell them at a fair price and market your wares through the internet and by hosting an open house for your gift shop.

A gift shop can be a splendid addition to your B&B but as with anything else in business, it can also become a money pit that ties up your time and financial resources if its mismanaged.
Inn at Elizabethville