HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Items in a giftware / coffee shop

I need to research the retail section's slow moving performance in a trendy cafe on a funky shopping strip. So far, I believe it is due to both the prevalence of giftware shops in the neighbourhood, and the unfocused selection of item for sale.
What kind of items would YOU buy from an upmarket cafe?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Reusable coffee mugs/cups.
    Impulse buy snacks in single serving packages.
    If the area is over saturated, then unique goods may be best, possibly jewelry/paintings/crafts by local artists.

    1. I've purchased three BeeHouse teapots from a local cafe. I've also seen some gorgeous Japanese cast iron teapots in cafes, and those jewel colored glass teacups with metal bases. Basically anything a bit eclectic will catch my eye. However, if there are other shops in the area that sell similar things, a cafe is probably better off selling comestibles, like nicely boxed teas or upscale jams, cookies, honey, etc.

      1. I would be unlikely to buy anything non-food related from a cafe, simply because I would likely enter the cafe only if I had food on the brain. Therefore, unique glass or tableware, kitchen gadgets, high-end coffee and tea, etc., might do well. I would also think jars/bags of the cafe's most popular items would sell well - if they make their own condiments or cookies in house, for instance.

        1. "Limit 2 per Customer" Has to be specific to the cafe'. Syrups in 8 to 12 OZ. bottles. Jams and jellies locally sourced as used. Prices that undercut competition.

          Offering perishable goods such as flowers as usually a money pit.

          1. Absolutely unique to the area food-related gifts. I'd say artisan made candy, jams, honey, salts and peppers. Printed paper napkins and candles, but unique. Handmade aprons and napkin sets. I like the idea of teapots, teas, locally roasted coffees, special vanilla. If there is a local potter, honey pots, handleless teacups, teapots, coasters, spoon rests, bowls. If there is a local woodworker, then small cutting and bread boards.

            I wouldn't carry anything too functional. Gift stores usually have fancier and less utilitarian ware.

            1. Thanks for the replies.
              Some responses:

              At the moment, the products that are collecting dust are the jewellery/crafts/paintings by local artists. There are simply too many similar outlets selling these along the strip.

              Moving best are the 1kg packages of the coffee beans that the cafe uses.

              Also not moving is plate ware, again too many shops selling these along the road.
              We are looking at non perishables like jams and etc.
              Artisan teas are something I think would work too. Teapots, coffee plungers and accessories, perhaps some kind of dietary need specifics too.

              Keep the ideas coming, and thanks again!

              1. I never buy non food/coffee related items in a cafe/gift shop. The main reason is the items I would most likely need/use are considerably overpriced in most cafes. Travel mugs, coffee makers, tea pots, etc-you can easily get the same things at BBB, Home goods, Target for a lot less. I recently saw many of tea pots Teavana carries, for at least 30%-50% off.

                I have yet to see any art work of interest to me. However I do like the idea of supporting local artist. I would consider those more of an ambience/decorating item for the cafe. I wouldn't count of them for sales volume

                Giftware-same as art work. Unless it's a gift card or an extremely unique item I am not buying gifts at a coffee shop. However I do like the idea of supporting local artist. I just would consider those more of an ambience/decorating item. I would count of them for sales volume

                Jewelry-I can't even imagine how it would be merchandised.

                Thinking about the cafes around me the biggest turnover I see is in speciality coffees and teas, volume discounts on seasonal brews, easy grab and go snack-nuts, bars, candy, apples/bananas. At the key holidays (mother's/father's day, christmas, valentines day) the gift baskets, especially the moderately priced one go pretty quickly.

                3 Replies
                1. re: foodieX2

                  Actual food or food related items would seem to be most attractive in a cafe gift shop. If you have local maple syrup, that would be another item of interest. If there is an item featured on the menu at the cafe that is packaged in a nonperishable way, then I would carry that.

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    >>"I never buy non food/coffee related items in a cafe/gift shop. The main reason is the items I would most likely need/use are considerably overpriced in most cafes."<<

                    I'd agree with that, so it may depend on the customer mix and the specific location. In a touristy area people seem to be willing to spend more on unique items (especially local products), even when they're priced far above what they might be elsewhere. Vacations tend to loosen wallets.

                    1. re: Midlife

                      Absolutely agree with the tourist aspect. Whenever I travel I always hunt down the local products both for my own enjoyment and to bring back for families and friends. And money spent on vacation doesn't really count against any budget, right?

                      I was in Vermont earlier this summer and was at a place where you could actually see the bees at work in the hive (think large ant farm with a tube to the outdoors where bees could come and go). Yep, I (and everybody else) were walking out of there with honey.

                  2. I thought of what I've purchased in such establishments over the past year. Specialty coffees and teas, local honey, local syrups (maple, blueberry, etc), local or fair trade chocolates, tea towels, jams, local ice cream topping sauces. I'm sure a few more options, but you get the gist.

                    My favorite finds are small things. I live in a household of two and don't like things open too long, so whenever I find those tiny jars of jellies or jams, syrups, etc., I tend to scoop up one or more of every flavor.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gaffk

                      The Elephant Deli and Grill in Downtown Portland has an amazing gift store. I've bought ginger candies, bakery items and looked at a lot of stuff I admire but won't spend the money on. Much of what they offer is food related, but some stuff is not.


                    2. Who is your market? Locals or transients? Residents or summerfolk? Dollars, like calories, don't count on vacation. While locals need a prybar to get into the wallet. Especially if they can get the same item cheaper at the local supermarket.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        Exactly! Before asking "what should the shop sell?" ask "who will I be selling to?"

                      2. I agree with the suggestions of going with local food products. One of the most enticing displays I've seen is honey displayed where it is backlit by the sun. Probably not the best way to store honey but beautiful.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MrsJonesey

                          Yup, I always look for local food products when traveling (if tourists are your market, cronker). In fact, I usually buy a bunch extra of those local products & make little gifties for my cat sitter, friends, etc. Even better if the local products are packaged in a small, try-me size or are cute looking. (Recent examples: from Kentucky, individual size packets of spoon bread mix, bourbon jellies, 2 lb bag of White Lily flour, a local taffy, etc.)

                        2. If it's a tourist area, some postcards and attractive, unique pens. Have stamps available, and a sign stating that plus offering to post the mail unless there's a collection box near the cafe.

                          Assuming the cafe attracts wi-fi users, unique tablet and smartphone cases.

                          Small packets of gourmet dog treats and cat treats/catnip mice, positioned near the register. Pet treats are popular impulse purchases for customers with discretionary income.
                          There used to be a cafe near me which attracted a retinue of animal-loving regulars by virtue of allowing pet adoption groups to use their walls to publicize their adoptable pets. Each month, a different shelter/group could hang matted, simply framed photos of adoptable animals. From each frame hung a broad ribbon attached to which was a small card with details about the pet's gender, age, temperament, breed, etc. Over the course of the month, when someone contacted the group wanting one of the animals, a colorful sticker saying "adoption pending", or "adopted" was added to the picture. The cafe mentioned its pet adoption gallery in its print advertising, and sold some pet-oriented accessories.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Extremely clever tchotchkes and hip items. That's all, I have to see them to let you know if I'd buy them. But I've bought them, and loved them if they were hip enough

                            1. where is it?

                              who is the target market?

                              do people sit and eat, and if so what is served? or is this more of a coffee shop?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                Its in Adelaide, Australia.
                                The shop has a slightly odd history. The current owner bought it from the previous owners when it was a homewares shop that sold gourmet cheeses, chocolates and wines alongside the more normal plateware, glassware and flatwares.
                                He owns a very successful homewares chain across three states, and thought this would be a more upmarket addition to his portfolio.
                                Since then, he has moved toward a more traditional coffee shop that sells giftware alongside. Its a bit of a mess, really, because I believe it doesnt really know what it wants to be.

                                I told him to focus on doing one thing very well, rather than trying to shoe-horn other ideas into a successful concept.

                                Target market: it is on a high end shopping strip with wealthy locals and touristy upmarket specialty retailers.
                                Its a sit down coffee and cake store, but takeaway also heavily featured. Light meals also for dine in.

                              2. I'm late checking in to this. I buy stuff from the retail section for three reasons:

                                1) Last minute gift (H forgets to tell me that we're going to a dessert party over the holidays, so I pick up a couple of pounds of coffee, a box of tea and cute mugs)

                                2) Selfish greedy hungry purchase (ooh! bagged almonds! I have to hit the road quickly, so I'll just grab a bag of those. Or two! And pay a premium 'cause they're quick and yummy!)

                                3) As Greygarious noted, little snackies for my dog.

                                1. I've been in and around the retail biz for 40 years and would add that a store that can't figure out what it really wants to be has a much harder road to go than one with a clear message. That sounds really basic, but a lot of businesses evolve that way in search of a model that works.

                                  I work in a shop, also in an upscale touristy location, that is part wine bar (with a small plate menu), part wine and gourmet food retail. It does well, but I am very aware that a significant number of people don't come all the way in because they look around from the doorway and conclude that it's a wine shop/WineBar even though the closer half of the space is full of gourmet food and gift items. I can hear them say "Oh, it's a wine place" as they walk away.

                                  Long, long ago I learned the reality that if you have to explain what you are, you are at a disadvantage from the start. Doesn't mean you can't be successful, but can make it much more challenging.