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October 24, 2017

Non-Profit Retail Symposium

Understand the demographic to position your retail store

Presented by Las Vegas Market, in collaboration with Association for Healthcare Volunteer Resources Professionals (AHVRP; ahvrp.org), Museum Store Association (MSA; museumstoreassociation.org) & Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group (ZAG; zaggift.com


Millennials, an oft-misunderstood demographic. What defines the typical consumer? What's different about how they shop? Most importantly, how do you position your store and products accordingly?

Millennials make technology-based buying decisions, prefer a simple and unencumbered lifestyle, respond when experience trumps product. Explore how these characteristics apply to your retail business.

Retail as an "Experience"

  • People seek experiences: evidenced by malls closing, brick and mortar shrinking
    • Competitive advantage is excellence in customer service

  • Keep everything fresh and new to engage customers by store / with product
    • Consistently host events, change displays (same product looks different)

  • Tell the story of the product; tie purchases to a cause/purpose/mission
    • Seek experiential merchandise that is well made and long lasting
    • Often attached to the story behind a product above the price
    • Also tell stories of philanthropy – in addition to product stories

  • These customers seek very instant gratification, right now, this minute
    • Drone and GPS technologies are coming for instant delivery!

Always Document with Photos

  • Millennial shoppers are always taking pictures; documenting life through photos
    • Cell cameras always ready to share what they are seeing; is your store inspiring and products capture-worthy?
    • Create an “Insta-friendly” photo opportunity area at front of your store to encourage sharing, posting and tagging

  • Zoos report “enrichment project,” that customers purchase toys with which animals play, then send those photos to customers

Products that Reflect/Resonate

  • Willing to spend more money on items that last (as opposed to buying cheap)
    • Not necessarily checking prices but just purchase the things they love

  • Tend to shy away from an overwhelming amount of choices
    • Do not want multiple color and style options for an item

  • Probably avoid technology (Amazon), calendars (on phone) and music (various platforms) altogether, to not compete with well-established sources
    • Stock items they cannot find on Amazon or anywhere else
    • Purchase items that are locally made or made in the USA

  •  “Making it mine” popular: patches and pins on backpacks, jackets, purses, vests
    • Stocking more apparel with big pictures, graphics, scenes

  • Don’t sell things that “collect dust;” minimalists that don't want a bunch of "stuff”
    • EX: figurines, thimbles, spoons, postcards, souvenir mugs, shot glasses

Successfully Employ Millennials

  • Retain fun, positive work environment, so they enjoy the "experience" of work
    • Need to hear positive reinforcement, compliments, instant feedback

  • Millennials need to believe in / feel part of the mission, “be in line with my values”
    • Want to contribute in a meaningful way, so give the employee real responsibilities (not just busy work)

  • Be SO flexible with staffing, and adapt accordingly: happy working fewer hours, will not arrive to work even a minute early

  • Change dress codes: tattoos, piercings and dyed hair are now acceptable, no longer take phones away from selling floor

And after Millennials? Gen Z and Gen Alpha are next. Technology is rapidly evolving, as is how these generations are educated. They will be highest, most educated people in world history. Consider: what jobs will they work? Who will staff the stores?

While previous generations were driven by the most appealing in-store experience, the shopping experience of Gen Z member consists of a few clicks on a mobile device.

Thank you to these millennial non-profit retail experts for sharing their perspectives: 

Moderator Melinda Greene, Kansas City Zoo (ZAG); table leaders:

Association for Healthcare Volunteer Resource Professionals

  • Karli Stroh, Integris Health 
  • Heather Barnes, Intermountain The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital 
  • Sally Miller, UH Ahuja Medical Center

Museum Store Association

  • Melody Caban, Amon Carter Museum of American Art
  • Michael Balbone, Perez Art Museum Miami
  • Kate Botelho, Preservation Society of Newport County
  • Aubrey Herr, Walters Art Museum

Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group

  • Brandan Johnson, Henry Vilas Park Zoo
  • Kaitlyn Bailey, John Ball Zoo
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