Running a hospital gift shop is no easy task. But if it’s the gift shop at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the rewards and the challenges can be many.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee is a highly-respected research hospital, so having a gift shop that meets the needs of its 23,000 employees not including patients along with their families and visitors is important.
Gift Shop Manager Myke Ondek explains, “Happy, relaxed people heal faster. A hospital gift shop serves many of the same people on a daily basis, so to keep people coming in, the merchandise mix has to change constantly. We’re always rearranging the shop and changing out merchandise. We put unusual things in the window or outside showcases so they’re stopped in their tracks and come in just to see what’s new.”
Pigs in the Window
“Retailers realized that if they put baby piglets in the store window, people couldn’t help but come in to see them. While they were there, they’d purchase something. We also put ‘a pig in the window’ to draw people in. We may use temple umbrellas from Bali, ceramic garden hippos, giant plush animals – these our ‘pigs in the window’.”
Vanderbilt logo items like t-shirts, hoodies and jackets are by far their best-selling merchandise. Snack foods and sundries are sold right alongside posh gift shop items like gemstone pendants and flowers.
Their tiny 500-square-feet shop is run by 5 full-time paid retail professionals and about 30 Vanderbilt University students through a work study program. Their dedicated staff opens early and stays open late 364 days a year and closes only for New Year’s Day. Gift shop proceeds currently sponsor medical scholarships at Vanderbilt’s School of Medicine and School of Nursing as a tribute to the auxilians who have worked for decades on a volunteer basis in the past.
Packaging You Can Cheer About
Nashville Wraps is proud that Vandy’s Medical Center Gift Shop was one of our very first customers. “One of the best things about Nashville Wraps is the selection,” commented Myke. “We may need inexpensive bags, ribbon and tissue for some general things, but we also sell rather expensive items that need packaging to match the caliber of the merchandise.”
“My favorite items are black and gold gift bags, metallic tissue, black grosgrain ribbon, printed labels and jewelry boxes that change seasonally. We’re affiliated with a world-class hospital and university. Nashville Wraps’ beautiful bags and ribbons in our official black and gold make it easy for us to satisfy internal corporate gift needs. We buy tons of giftware for our departments to use for employee recognition or staff events. The gifts are presented before University Chancellors, Chief Executive Nursing Officers, Professors and CEOs, so we want the packaging to look sharp.”
Myke offers important advice to other hospital gift shops: “Love being around people, and if you ever stop loving it, change your vocation. Sick people need to be treated differently than a customer at a sporting goods shop. If you care about them they will feel it. When my own mom was sick and I couldn’t get to see her daily, I would call the hospital gift shop and they would go to her room and put her on the phone with me or just check on her. Their kindness made me realize how important it is to be good at what I do because I care about who I am doing it for. ”
Thank you Vanderbilt for being a wonderful example to the many hospital gift shops we serve. Go Commodores!
Helpful links for hospital gift shops:
– Cindy Jones’ Hospital Gift Shop News – a peer-to-peer manager’s newsletter for hospital gift shops.
– Purchasing Power Plus – a buying group that offers great discounts from several vendors that service hospital gift shops.