Hotel MoJo... and HoJo

I began my visual merchandising career in a hotel gift shop,
a brand new venture that my Mom worked with the hotel owner to develop and open in the 1970's
at the Howard Johnson's Hotel across the street from Disneyland...
 That window on the left (which used to have a neon 'Kathy's Gift Shop' sign in it)
is where I experimented with merchandise to create my FIRST window displays ever.
I was thirteen years old when I started, thanks to my Mom trusting my ability.
The shop has expanded four times since then, 
and one of my Mom's original employees now manages it 
(along with the new one in the new Marriott Courtyard Hotel across the street,
owned by the same company). 

Ever since working there for six years, 
I've been watching the evolution and demise of the hotel gift shop...
 viewing many on my travels to speaking engagements, gift shows,
and of course visiting the Disneyland Hotels to see what they are doing.

Hotel gift shops have devolved 
from huge shops that carry every possible thing a traveler might want (or forget)
and offering a plethora of souvenirs silly and sublime,
into the newly-coined 'quick stop shops' in an alcove next to the registration desk,
which carry a measly offering of tiny personal care items and bottled beverages.
The change is disheartening.

Today, I read something with a more positive outlook
regarding hotel gift shops...
a new view from some independent hoteliers that have created an opportunity: 
they reach out into the community to source handmade, artisan, local products,
and to give a more entrepreneurial / independent store spirit to their shops
than we've seen in the mainstream before.

Not only that, but the design of these new shops is less 'corporate' and more 'indy' in style!
Quirky, inviting, personalized, and decidedly forward-thinking,
they are spaces that would stop any weary traveler in their tracks!

BHG has a column in their magazine called 'FRESHSHOPKEEPER'
and it was in this column that I saw these photos and read about this new direction:

I encourage you to go grab a copy of the August 2016 issue of BHG Magazine
and read up on this new outlook.

It bodes well for the hospitality industry, for retail in general, 
especially for artisans and makers who want to get their product into local shops.
It's a whole new sales opportunity that is not dependent upon
huge wholesale shows and mass-manufactured, imported goods.

Gift Shop Buyers at boutique hotels like these
are looking for exceptional, quality, unique merchandise
that will reflect the local community, attractions, and history
in a fresh, new, engaging way that customers respond to.

And that's evolution, my friends! 

Just an aside here....
I saw the Hotel Emma during construction last summer.
My son Joel is the Project Manager for the fire suppression system on the project.
Now that I have seen this photo of just one of their space designs,
I can't wait to visit him in San Antonio again so that I can see the finished hotel!


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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK