T-shirts, hats, coasters and postcards. The “standard” gift shop items. Is it time to upgrade? One of our chamber pros recently asked our Facebook group for some fresh chamber of commerce gift shop ideas.
Their chamber in question doubles as a visitor’s bureau and she wanted some creative products to add to what they are currently selling: t-shirts, hats, coasters, and koozies. As always, the chamber pros in the Facebook group delivered some great gift shop ideas and items. We’ve got 26 ideas for you, plus a few questions to ask first.
What to Consider First
While selling items to visitors seems like a lucrative source of non-dues revenue, it may not be a great idea for every chamber. Do you get enough foot traffic in your chamber office? Are you tourism oriented or more business-centric? Do you have room in your office so that you can create a great display with a variety of items or will you only be able to focus on one or two items like hats and t-shirts?
With those questions in mind, let’s get into some exciting ideas from our chamber pros. Even if you don’t sell things, these gift shop ideas and items could be used as part of giveaways, new member welcome gifts, or event swag. You could also use them as part of a holiday sales promotion even if you don’t sell anything at other times of the year.
Chamber Souvenir and Gift Shop Ideas
- “Best of Your Town” baskets. Compile items from several of your merchants or make it a sponsorship to be included and then sell the baskets.
- High-end water bottles. Everyone needs to stay hydrated.
- Coffee mugs. Most hotels offer coffee makers in their rooms these days, but those awful paper cups aren’t nearly as nice as a warm mug that you can wrap your hands around.
- Ornaments. There are a lot of collectors who want an ornament from every town they travel to. Work with local artists to have them paint the ornaments so what you’re offering is different from anything that can be ordered online. Peggy Johnson Emerson, President at the Darke County Chamber of Commerce suggested, “Creative Hometown Christmas Ornaments. Do a different building or landmark each year.” Something like that would appeal to visitors and locals. People may even buy them for friends and family who moved away. The Camden, NY chamber of commerce features a different local landmark each year.
- Custom candles. There are companies that will make custom scents for you based on your area. The Prineville Chamber had some done.
- Bottle openers. How many of us have gone on vacation and forgotten a bottle or wine bottle opener? Sure, you could buy a boring one at a discount store, but why not offer something that will double as a souvenir?
- Playing cards. This is another item that comes in handy (especially when it rains). A deck of cards can be designed to feature a local photographer, artwork of local school children, images of something you’re known for, or even local architecture. There are many creative opportunities in card design.
- Local mascot stuffed toys. Draw inspiration from something you’re known for like your town or school mascot and get custom-designed items. The Clovis Chamber found a company that had stock items to which they would then add screen-printing. The little horses with the chamber logo were extremely popular.
- Snow globe. These can be beautiful collectors items but make sure everyone who buys one is local or driving. Many people have lost snow globes to TSA. Nobody thinks about the liquid until it’s removed from your bag and no amount of begging, pleading, yelling, or crying will make them give it back to you. Trust me.
- Postcards. Even for those people who no longer send mail, postcards can make beautiful framed art.
- Paintings. Give local artists a forum to sell their work.
- Books. There may be several local authors with books set in your town or even nonfiction books written about your area. Showcase (and sell) their works. The same goes for sculptors and other makers like potters. Heidi LeHew suggested, “Have your local makers run it! They can create fun local and seasonal items to sell and you’re also promoting the entrepreneurial spirit!!”
- Bags. Heidi also pointed out an environmentally conscious idea of selling canvas shopping bags to use in town. Purchasers receive 10% off at local businesses when they use the bags. If you’re a community that doesn’t allow plastic bags, these could be a big seller for tourists who didn’t realize the mandate or left their bags at home.
- Puzzles and games. Sell puzzles and games of your area. You could create a jigsaw puzzle, Monopoly game of your town, or even a Chutes and Ladders version.
- Magnets. Collectors love these too and they’re easy to transport.
- Vinyl Stickers. This is another way to get local artists, designers, and photographers involved. Create stickers of your area wildlife, for instance, or your town’s logo. Stickers aren’t just for children. People use them to decorate everything including laptops, RVs, suitcases, and especially water bottles.
- Glasses. There’s a lot of variety possible here. From hand-painted wine glasses from local artists to shot glasses with funny sayings, offer glasses for everyone. You could also work with your local wineries or bars and give away a coupon to their establishment in every glass or a reciprocal agreement for a discount if they bring in their glass.
- Locally-made goods. Dee Smith shared that they have “…canned jellies, jewelry, cutting boards, spices. It’s great at Christmas, especially. ‘Shop local’ year round!”
- Camp or beach chairs. Another item people forget. Ditto with umbrellas (can be used to keep the sun out too) and rain ponchos.
- Fans. An overheated tourist is not a happy visitor.
- Flip flops/sandals. Everyone needs them.
- Boogie Boards. If you’re a beach community, having your name/logo on this product is a given.
- Beach towels (or kitchen towels). There are plenty of people who still collect these practical items.
- Magnets. Everyone loves this easy-to-pack idea.
- Sweatshirts. Without fail, when you forget it at home, you need one. Help a tourist out with a nice logo’d sweatshirt.
- T-shirts. Nothing says “been there, seen that” like a souvenir t-shirt.
What are you selling? Join the conversation here and share your ideas.