Due to COVID-19 precautions the Enloe Medical Center Gift Shop closed March 13. It became immediately apparent that it was more than a loss in revenue — employee morale also suffered because of the gift shop closure. With employees ordering Enloe-logoed apparel that would normally be purchased in the gift shop, we began fulfilling those orders in our Volunteer Services office. It soon became clear that in between seeing patients, fitting it into their short break schedules, working NOC shifts, or working at a satellite location our staff had difficulties finding the time to pick up their orders. To accommodate them and fulfill the orders, I offered to deliver their items. Initially, I was worried that these deliveries would be time consuming, but realistically it did not take very long, and they have been so grateful for the service.
Since candy and soda have historically, been our best-sellers, I began relocating those products to our Volunteer Services office, along with some seasonal items that I then worked into our office décor. When employees reached out to us to inquire about the gift shop, we let them know that candy and soda were available for purchase at our office.
Unfortunately, our office is located across the street from the main hospital, which is not very convenient for employees trying to get something on their break. In order to accommodate our employees, I designed an order form they could fill out and email. Using payroll deduction, I would fill their order and deliver it to them. Although I filled a few orders, it did not have the desired effect I was hoping for, because the gift shop is truly retail therapy. They don’t need candy and soda as much as they need the change of scenery and a quick mental break. In response, I chose to change our gift shop from a store designed to be shoppable via foot-traffic with a strategic floorplan, to a store that was merchandised from a window view only. To view sample window displays, click here.
In order to make this huge move, I masked all the windows to conceal the mess as we reworked the floor. The unintended effect was that it created suspense and anticipation. I merchandised items so that it could be seen from the lobby floor. I chose to display things with heavy layers, grouping things to create distinct, but cohesive groupings. Signage was designed by our print services department directing interested parties on how they can go about purchasing items.
Another issue we needed to tackle was flowers — how would we offer them to our customers? We approached a company, 24HourFlorist, that fabricates and services large refrigerated floral kiosks. The kiosks are a self-service, floral vending machine, that allow customers to make contactless purchases 24/7. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about 24HourFlorist, they are responsive, patient, and extremely helpful. We are currently in the process of purchasing a kiosk from 24HourFlorist, while our local florist will continue to manage and stock the kiosk as needed.
One of the most important things we have learned during this closure is how important our gift shop is to our employees. It is more than just a place to shop, it is place they enjoy coming to clear their head, have a conversation, and support a greater cause.