Winter 2019
5 tips to plan a successful 2019 By Melinda Greene

Sarah Wall

Visitor Services Manager

Squam Lake Natural Science Center

Holderness, New Hampshire


Abstract: Any product that inspires visitors to get “nearer to nature” is going to catch Sarah Wall’s attention as a good addition to the gift shop at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.


Could you share a little about your background?

I am somewhat new to Squam Lake Natural Science Center, as I came onboard March 2017. I received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. My nonprofit career began at New Hampshire Audubon, where I held various roles, all of which focused on customer service, retail management and special events. After spending 10 years with NH Audubon, I found my way to the Science Center.


When looking at a new product or line for the store, which aspects matter most?

Most importantly, we try to match the mission of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (SLNSC), which is to advance understanding of ecology by exploring New Hampshire’s natural world to the merchandise sold in the gift shop. We are looking to extend the visitors’ experience through items that can be found in our gift shop. Other important aspects are whether it is locally made, environmentally friendly or just inspiring folks to get nearer to nature.


What sort of questions or comments do you use to get visitors engaged?

We always ask if they enjoyed the exhibit trail. Other questions are, where are they from? What was their favorite animal or exhibit? Have you visited before? If they are somewhat local, we give information on membership. I always, always thank them for visiting.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy interacting with our visitors and hearing how they enjoyed their visit. It reminds me that folks travel great distance to visit our Science Center and choose to spend part of their vacation here. It is nice to work at a location that is considered a vacation destination; sometimes I feel I am on vacation, too.

In addition, I enjoy researching new or different nature-inspired books, jewelry and gifts in the offseason to bring into the gift shop for the upcoming season.


It’s that time of year again to put away the holiday decorations, ring in the New Year and to get your store ready for the new season. Here are the top five ways I would suggest to get ready for the upcoming year so that you can put your best foot forward and be ready to refresh and renew your store for when customers start to roll in.

Inventory. It’s super important to do at least an annual inventory so that you can shore up your numbers and review your numbers. Determine if you have a section in your store that is constantly seeing a loss and consider moving that section to a more visible area and also seeing what items are still hanging on.

Let it Go. This may be a good time to play your favorite Disney songs from “Frozen” and take a cue from Elsa. Once you have reviewed your inventory, find those lingering items that aren’t selling and make a plan to get rid of them. If they haven’t sold by now, trust me, they aren’t going to get any cuter by keeping them around. Make them into a grab bag or make a clearance for them, but don’t let them jam up your inventory any longer.

Review Purchases. Make sure you spend some time reviewing purchases and making POs for orders made at trades shows, and make improvements before they start to ship. Maybe you saw the cutest T-shirt with penguins on it and your return home and find that you still have six penguin shirts in stock or you have no tiger shirts on order but several customers have asked for that. Look over your purchases so you understand what is coming in while you still have time to update.

Plan your staff reviews and staffing plan. The end of the year is a great time to do reviews with your staff. Applaud them for all the great things they have done throughout the year and work with them on goals that you would like to see them achieve for the year ahead. This is also a great time to look at who is on staff and think about the number of staff you will need to hire and how you will do that.

Planogram. You bought all that inventory but, do you have a plan for it? Start looking through your orders and making a plan for where the inventory will go. Create a loose idea for your merchandiser or sales team on what themes you will have, so once the inventory starts rolling in, you will know where you want it to go. Thinking about it ahead of time will also play into some of the other ideas of reviewing purchases and making sure you don’t have too little or too much to tell your story and achieve your sales goals.

All in all, we wish you the best 2019 season ahead and hoping for great weather and continued success for all institutions!

Melinda Greene is the retail manager at the Kansas City Zoo and a member of the Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group board of directors.

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, Michigan 49345
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