How Canadian Retailers Can Target Tourists with Souvenir Offerings

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By Amish Dargan

Shopping might not be the reason a tourist visits Canada, but shopping is a significant part of their vacation expenditure.

As tourists return home, they invariably commemorate their memories by bringing back a souvenir. It can be a key chain, a scarf, tumbler, or even a fridge magnet. The souvenir market is a trend on the rise as the gifts, novelty and souvenirs market will register a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of almost 5% by 2023, according to the “Global Gifts Novelty and Souvenirs Market 2019-2023” report by Research and Markets. As novelty, gifts, and souvenirs becoming an integral part of the travel experience, the market is becoming more discerning as well, with customers showing a clear preference for specialized merchandise over mass merchandise.

IMAGE: STOCK PHOTO

So far, not much focus has been cast upon promoting souvenir retailing and sales and making sense of the right mix. To better understand tourist behaviour and shopping habits, we need to develop a successful marketing strategy and marketing mix (product, place, price, and promotion).

Creating a marketing mix for the souvenir market in Canada requires making the tourist experience better. Successful marketing strategies require developing a marketing mix that will satisfy tourists and find out where the opportunities lie to develop more effective retail strategies and increase tourist satisfaction.

IMAGE: STOCK PHOTO

Product

The huge demand for items such as novelty and souvenir items has led to a competitive market environment. Souvenirs can range from t-shirts to locally handcrafted goods. With a growing culture of gifting, an increasing trend affecting this market is the increased demand for personalized gift products. Foreign tourists are especially interested in purchasing products that include special features such as personalization or unique items. Instead of a generic souvenir, customers can bring home something unique to the specific region. Technological advancements are also leading to product innovation and premium products, further increasing demand and preference for such products. Despite large product lines and the assortment of items, there is still great variation within those products. Canadian stores emphasize higher quality products, so you can opt for handcrafted or branded products over mass-produced items to further increase variety. 

Price

A souvenir shop that has its own unique identity and offers a distinctive product will be more competitive in that region. Given the large variety of items, prices can range from very cheap to thousands of dollars for a single item. With no distinct price point, higher-priced items include handcrafted, premium or collectible items. Notably, sales are seasonal with the second half of the year seeing a greater demand for gifts, novelty items and souvenirs due to the concentration of major festivals and holidays. As demand fluctuates depending on the time of year, you can offer group discounts, coupons or bundle items. Another threat to the industry has been the advent of digital platforms and online shopping leading to retailers keeping prices low to remain competitive. 

Promotion

Gift, novelty and souvenir shops have expanded into a billion-dollar industry. Nearly every shopping mall has a retail program to allow retailers to capitalize on opportunities such as novelty merchandise, souvenirs and seasonal decorations. With no major players, the market is quite fragmented, showing a steady increase over the past few years. However, the five years leading up to 2023 may require care to navigate. The majority of advertising can be undertaken through outdoor advertising and signs to attract foot traffic. A sign at the entrance of a shopping mall or even a billboard can gain the attention of tourists. Other ways to advertise yourself would be through the radio, internet, newspaper or television. Your staff is the best way to promote your shop, greeting customers warmly and being helpful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic when presenting a product.

Place

Many of Canada’s cities are one-of-a-kind, not just when it comes to people and attractions but also the local shops and businesses. The locations of gift shops vary significantly, but it should be in a highly visible location, preferably next to a roadway, in a shopping mall or a high traffic area. Having a well-designed exterior attracts customers inside the store. Ensure good signage, window decoration, and warm colors and maintain a welcoming appearance. Tourist destinations and airports are also good locations for seasonal and temporary carts, kiosks, and stores.

People

The industry is highly labor-intensive with employees required for daily store operations, management, marketing, and customer service. With labor as the most important expense, capital expenses play a more minor role. Staff in Canada are kind, friendly and attentive with language barriers being the biggest obstacle. Listen to what customers have to say, their concerns and customize your service. To further increase customer satisfaction, you can set up multiple payment options, offer guarantees, refunds or exchanges.

Amish Dargan is a luxury branding specialist based out of Toronto. Follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter @amishdargan or his website at www.amishdargan.com

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