1. What makes your store unique?
1. Southwick’s Zoo offers various retail locations inside the zoo, including three primary stores. Our largest store and main location, The Purple Peacock Gift Shop, is where you can find distinctive gifts from around the world and a wonderful collection of souvenirs. The Marangu Trail Outpost features Big Cats and an array of fair trade African-themed merchandise, and The Parakeet Landing features wonderful bird inspired décor and gifts. We also have small retail locations that feature merchandise based on the exhibits near their location
We take pride in offering something for everyone, and we also look for environmentally friendly and Made in America” products to showcase in our stores.
2. What is your retail background?
I worked at big box retailers during my high school and college years in addition to working at Southwick’s Zoo in some capacity since high school. I was offered the position of operations manager and retail buyer at Southwick’s Zoo more than 10 years ago and can honestly say I love my job. We have grown so much in the last 10 years, increasing our retail sales from one store to more than five retail locations in 2013 and a sixth location in the works for 2014.
I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people over the years and was elected to the ZAG (Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group) Board of Directors two years ago where not only am I able to share my experience and retail knowledge with others, but I have gained so many new ideas, insights and contacts from some incredible associates.
3. What is the most popular product you sell?
Plush! As kids we love our stuffed animals and it is great souvenir memory of their day at the zoo. We sell plush in all price points and from multiple vendors, with our most popular price point being between $9.99 and $14.99. Sweatshirts would have to be a close second, with T-shirts coming in third.
4. What are your top three retail tips?
1. Customer service is the most important part of retail and our reputation is based on customer perception and service. Employees should greet the customer, be available and engaging and smile often without being overbearing. They should also “go the extra mile” for a customer to assure a positive experience
2. Visual merchandising is important because the product should have the right location, lighting and display set up for optimal sales.
3. Make it a fun and unique experience. The more time your customers spend in your store, the more likely it will translate into sales. Have your employees show customers how to use and play with the merchandise, share stories on your favorite things and utilize all your knowledge of the merchandise including where and how it was made, what it is for and why it is unique.