Thinking of adding a gift shop to your bed and breakfast?

Many existing and potential B&B owners consider the option of incorporating a “gift shop” as part of their bed and breakfast business – with the goal of generating more revenue.

Since the building my b and b was located in was a former art gallery, I thought it was a great idea to have a gift shop when I opened.  Besides local artwork, I also displayed incredible framed photographs of the area.  Despite trying for two years to sell anything, no one made a penny off of that project.  However, I did learn some valuable lessons that I’m hoping you could consider as part of you decision-making process:

  1. Space:
  • Do you have a safe space to show your sales items so that people don’t break/walk-off with them, etc?
  • In addition to show space, where are you going to store packaging and inventory?
  • Will or do you have the time on top of running the B&B to be looking after this part of the business?
  • Do you have enough guest rooms to create the volume you will require to make enough money?
  • If you have enough space, is this the best use for this space?  Could you convert that extra space into another guest room to bring in more revenue instead?  What else could you use the space for?
  1. Considerations for type of product

  • Can you sell things that are unique or representative of the culture or location you are in?
  • Can you get a guaranteed steady supply throughout peak season?
  • How long is the shelf-life (especially if it is a food product)?
  • Can you sell your own products – e.g. jams, jellies, pickles, etc?  Find out from the municipality and public health department what the requirements are.
  • If you are selling something that you intend to be representative of the culture of your area, be sure you know what it is, what it is used for and how it is used.
  1. Items to sell

  • A good test is:  Is this something you would want for yourself? Think about the best and worst souvenirs/gifts you’ve received
  • Make sure the item isn’t on the prohibited and restricted list of key countries your guests are from – and don’t assume all countries on one continent will have the same rules.  If in doubt, do a Google search.
  • If it is something that requires special products once people have gotten it home, check out if those products are available in most foreign countries, or if the gift can be re-purposed
  • Size matters – luggage weight and carry-on restrictions need to be considered – airlines are getting stricter about this
  • Think about how difficult it would be to transport if it is something fragile.
  • If you are in a high traffic tourist area, there are bound to be numerous gift shops in the area (and don’t forget – most attractions have their gift shops too).
  • What is the price point that you can charge that makes you competitive and has still has good ROI (return on investment)?
  • Don’t overlook the space and the extra costs of wrapping materials, etc.
  • Think about your time – sourcing product, spending time with guests to create sales, keeping up the space, etc.  Could that time be better spent on running the B&B?

When I applied this criteria to my bed and breakfast business:

  • 25% of my guests were from overseas so they have very limited room to take things back
  • The majority of my affluent guests are 50+ years; have enough “stuff” and really don’t want to acquire more
  • I can’t compete with the local gift shops on variety of gifts or cost (there were over 10 within a 5 minute walk of the B&B)
  • I got a much better ROI on spending that extra time and money on marketing my business to bring people to my bed and breakfast

Knowing your demographics and local competition should help you determine whether a gift shop is something that will bring in additional revenue.

If you have an idea about how to generate more revenue for your bed and breakfast business, but need some help determining if the idea is worth the investment, consider some on-on-one coaching.  For a portion of what your idea could cost you, The B&B Coach can help you explore your ideas in concrete ways that will give you the answer – before you spend your hard-earned cash!

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