COVID-19: How Are Other Hospital Gift Shops Adapting?

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Thank you for joining us on April 16th for our web seminar, “COVID-19: How Are Other Hospital Gift Shops Adapting?” Our objective was to bring everyone together to facilitate communications and share best practices related to adapting to the current climate for a conversation moderated by Alec Overly, our expert in hospital retail and gift. As a result, we identified a number of tips that we will share below, along with a summary of key comments and questions from the audience.

It was an incredible privilege to host a session for which over 400 hospital retail operators enrolled. We sincerely thank everyone for their time spent with us. In addition, we’d like to thank our panelists and association partners:


  • Annha Britt

    New Hanover Medical Center

  • Lynda Waldron

    Henry Ford Allegiance Health

  • Eric Wininger

    Friends of Reading Hospital Gift Shop

  • Marshall Bank


  • Cindy Jones

    Cindy Jones Associates

  • Andee Williamson



  • Association for Health Care Volunteer Resource Professionals


  • California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems



  • Cindy Jones Associates

    Cindy Jones Associates


The suggestions, questions and comments shared by attendees were tremendously valuable. In the following categories, we organized feedback and presentation content into the following “top tips”:

Communicating with employees and customers

Many attendees communicate regularly with volunteer and W2 employees via phone, text, email, mail, and social media – primarily volunteer Facebook pages and Instagram.

  1. Use all available channels: It can be difficult to reach employees via email. Consider all channels of communication such as text and social media
  2. Stay in touch: even if it’s texting volunteers on their usual volunteer days to check in
  3. Give your employees the spotlight: Showcase a different volunteer each day on your Facebook page such as when they started and how many hours they have to show appreciation and awareness
  4. Enhance customer communication: contribute to intra-hospital electronic newsletters and leverage customer engagement capabilities within your POS system.

Effectively managing inventory

Expiring and seasonal inventory were popular topics. In addition, the consensus among attendees was that effective inventory management will be even more important moving forward.

  1. Accurately document (photos can help) and label recycled seasonal inventory when packing to avoid recounting and make the unpacking much easier!
  2. Consider donating expiring inventory to the hospital, non-profits.  Attendees also suggested focusing donations to the most taxed departments such as ICU and EVS.
  3. Avoid purchasing dated promotional items (e.g. “Class of 2020”)
  4. Effective inventory management will be critical in the future. Ensure that you have appropriate inventory management processes and systems in place.

Shop closures, limited hours, and considerations surrounding reopening

Many attendees represented shops that were closed, and the vast majority of the attendee base was, at minimum, operating within adjusted hours.

  1. Maintaining revenue: some shops are participating in efforts that promote the community purchase of gift cards via the website and we delivered electronically, via mail, or to a contact at the hospital for cards purchased for, or by, employees. One attendee experienced over $3,000 in sales over the period of a week in gift cards.
  2. It’s hard to imagine a “splash” reopening for most attendees but customer / hospital promotions (e.g. 20% off for a limited time) and smaller, softer re-openings to facilitate adherence to social distancing policies will be more common.

Common Questions

We received many questions during the Q&A, organized below. In addition, we received several questions that require panel feedback and other research for which we will provide a response directly to attendees.

Q: Our shop is closed. How do we sell gift cards and other items to the employees via the internet?
A: There are multiple options available to the industry. Please contact [email protected] for additional information.Q: How can I sign up for the Cindy Jones newsletter?
A: You can subscribe to the newsletter at cindyjonesassociates.comQ: What was the name of the gift show in Pennsylvania?A: The Greater Philly Gift Show in Oaks, PA in January and JulyQ: With the ever-changing needs and interests in the shops, how do you gage quality and fit of merchandise without having actual vendor contact whether they visit with samples or going to a show?
A: Using your POS system is critical in determining what sells well in YOUR shop. Each gift shop is unique and this is why entering as much information about your items during the receiving process is crucial.  The more data you enter, the more valuable the information you get out. Adding information like color, size, style, season, vendor, etc., can all be used to quickly determine what moves quickly. Once you determine what merchandise will move quickly, asking your vendor to email pictures of their available stock that matches your specific criteria may be a good option. Annha, Gift Shop Manager at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, mentioned one of her vendors is even relying on Skype to show off their product offering.Q: What POS systems does i3 recommend?
A: i3 POS recommends NCR Counterpoint for gift shops requiring automated Payroll Deduction, strong inventory management, and robust reporting in an easy to use interface for the volunteers.  All three gift shop manager panelists are i3 POS clients using NCR Counterpoint point of sale. For smaller shops with annual sales under $250,000, we recommend Clover as a great solution for inventory management and easy-to-use POS for the volunteers. For additional information on either of these solutions, please reach out to Alec Overly, [email protected].Q: How long do you recommend running promos and employee appreciation sales?
A: A one week promotion should provide the hospital employees an opportunity to come in and take advantage of the promo; without adversely affecting Gift Shop margins.Q: If social distancing orders remain in place, yet we are able to open, how will you monitor this?
A: We recommend having clear and visible signage at the entry of the gift shop indicating the importance of social distancing and the gift shop’s maximum capacity. If you have the capability of assigning a resource or volunteer to sit by the entrance to monitor the traffic, this would be another option. At the end of the day, we all need to work together and act responsibly, including the gift shop customers.Expect to receive an invitation to our next session which will include multiple facets of retail but will remain relevant to the hospital retail space. We can’t wait to get everyone back together again!

In the meantime, if you have any questions that were not submitted, additional information surrounding any of the topics discussed, or need any assistance whatsoever, please reach out to Alec Overly.

Alec’s contact info:
[email protected]
734-259-3679 (Direct)

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