Happy Valentine’s Day…I’m shopping for you!

Hi everyone. It was a perfect weather day in Florida but I wanted you to know that I still thought about Searsport Shores and our guests…it was just easier to do it on a beach under the palm trees instead of on skis along the Maine shore…a change of pace is always good but I admit that I’m sorry to miss our first real snowstorm of the season…I’ll just have to hope for another when I get home next week.

One of the ways I justify leaving the campground in the winter is that consumer trends travel from West to East. In order to fill our gift area of the campground store, I spend a lot of time looking in gift shops and scoping out boutique windows to see what people are buying while I’m in Florida. I’m happy to report that retail is strong in St. Armand’s Circle, Sarasota. Clearly the most popular gift items are about “feel good, be happy” merchandise with a heavy emphasis on retro with a sarcastic twist. Colors are similar to those of seaglass and everything appeals to multiple senses.

You may not realize it but a top-notch campground cannot survive on site revenues alone. In our world, when we discuss the viability of a campground, we talk about the profit centers: store sales, laundry, activities, video arcade, etc. Each source of revenue is essential to our goal of providing the best possible vacation experience for your family. The gift shop is one of the necessary profit centers and I think it’s one of the most difficult tasks to manage properly.

At Searsport Shores, our reception room is divided into three essential areas: the check-in/accommodation desk, RV and camping supplies and gift items. RV supplies are easy because Dad owned a successful RV dealership for 35 years before he bought the campground. Steven tent camped since he was a toddler so the tenting supplies are no problem either. But the gift store is different. Gifts should delight and inspire. Shopping should be fun and affordable. Just like your campsite, you want to feel that you’re receiving good value for your purchase. The gifts you choose should reflect your vacation and it’s important to know that if you’ve bought something for a friend, she won’t find the same item in her local store. If the item is unique to Maine, fun or practical, and affordable I’ve hit a homerun. Finally, since the great majority of our guests are returning from a previous visit, it’s important that I always having something new to offer.

Every year we stock our campground store with things I believe our guests will want to take home. But imagine buying thousands of dollars of gifts for people you only know see on special occasions. It’s scary. Here’s what I know about my typical guest: she has disposable income, prefers to shop in places that are very different from those she finds at home and she is generally practical…she wants to offer gifts that make her friends, family and colleagues happy or improve their lives in some way.

Today I found a press pot masquerading as an insulated travel mug. It’s well made, functional and is perfect for life on the road (for a night, the week or a season). For those who don’t know me well, at 8 AM and 3 PM, good coffee and high-quality sugar treats are very important to me. I’ve personally blended the coffee we serve at the Shores and it’s locally roasted every week from shade grown, fair traded beans. We serve the Searsport Shores Blend created by Rock City coffee…you can check them out at http://www.rockcitycoffee.com. Anyway, this new travel mug allows you to put two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee into the mug, cover it with boiling water and after 5 minutes, press the grounds down and enjoy your coffee…the results are wonderful and as an added bonus, there’s a hidden storage pod in the bottom of the mug that allows for another cup of coffee later in the day. I saw it in a gourmet shop in St. Armand’s Circle so tomorrow’s job is to track down the wholesale distributor and see what we need to have them on the shelves in May.

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