National and state park retailers have a unique business. National parks, state parks and wilderness areas are some of our nation’s most treasured resources. Their audience is largely captive once inside our park borders, and our retail stores satisfy not only the need for the practical, but the experiential and gift shopping our guests want to do.
Jewelry is a challenging concept for some park retailers. Sourcing quality wholesale wildlife jewelry is another challenge for park retailers. Those parks that have a third party organization that operates their gift shops sometimes feel at odds with their park rangers over the philosophy of offering jewelry to guests. But wildlife jewelry is a perfect national park souvenir because of its focus on a native animal, it’s compact size (perfect for slipping into a pack) and it’s price point.
Before you decide on your ideal product mix, you have to ask yourself a few important questions:
Who are your customers? Developing a customer persona – a demographic sketch of your typical customers – involves observation, query and summary. You can do this through exit surveys (a bookmark with a web link, or a map or guide with a survey on the back), intercept surveys (done in your store on a busy day; this is a great way to occupy people who might be waiting in a line!)
Why do people come to your park? What are your park legends? Native animals? The story of your park is completely unique! While we have epic big parks (Yellowstone, Zion and Bryce come to mind) we also have pretty epic state parks (including Tahquemenon Falls in northern Michigan, for example). Your park has beauty, legend and native animal population that draw visitors to hike, explore and immerse themselves in.
What are the expectations of your customers when they walk in the store?
This seems obvious, but you should be selecting wholesale wildlife jewelry based on the animals native to your area. Don’t try to sell penguins in the Everglades. Many of the animals in parks are elusive or legendary, and selling products with their likeness that includes information about their habitat is very appealing to customers. If you didn’t manage to sneak a glimpse of the gray wolf in Yellowstone, you might like to take a bit of the wolf’s story home with you. You’ll also want to have as many animals represented as possible, as your guests may want to collect many animals from your park as a reminder of what they experienced (or found elusive.)
What kind of store do you have?
Do you have a camp store? Or an art gallery? The way you display wildlife jewelry in your park store makes a big difference. Because jewelry is small, it appeals to those who tromp in your camp store looking for supplies, because they can slip it into their pack and head out. Park stores that are focused on helping guests experience the beauty and majesty of their parks will find a different display more effective for selling wildlife jewelry than those that are selling maps and dried snacks to tired or excited hikers.
How long do people spend in your park store?
You can observe this by assigning one of your staff to watch guests during a busy time at your store. The amount of time that they spend in your store will help you determine the best product placement for a small gift item like wildlife jewelry (it will be different based upon your guest and your park.) By extension, where the traffic patterns are in your store are key as well. You can take a video of your store, speed it up and review the traffic patterns during a particular time of day, to determine where you should best position jewelry items.
The best parks know how much time (down to the minute) the average guest spends in their store, where their traffic is, and what products sell the best, right down to floor space and product positioning. They’re seasoned retailers who happen to manage a national park store. Smaller retailers and park advocacy groups can learn from these big players the best path to retail success