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Don’t Overlook the Importance of Offering Unique Items

Store worker smiling while serving a customer.

More than half (56 percent) of independent gift retailers in the United States offer their shoppers custom product they can’t find anywhere else. As a savvy store

owner from Massachusetts writes,

“Custom products and services are what can set your store apart from other independent stores and big-box stores. Even though we aren’t a tourist destination, we order name-dropped products from surrounding towns and I’m always amazed at how much of that product we sell,” he shares.


While the term name-dropping has a different meaning in the broader context of society, for our purposes it means being able to customise a variety of products

with your town, city or store’s name, picture, etc. Retailers across the country

commented on how well namedropped products are performing, and there are a wide range of items that can be name-dropped including apparel (t-shirts,

hoodies, joggers), jigsaw puzzles, tea towels, chocolate bars, coasters, mugs, wine glasses, insulated drinkware, jewelry, postcards, and even candy. As a New Mexico retailer explains, “We sell a lot of namedropped t-shirts and glassware – it’s our largest category. We also do extremely well with stickers and magnets.”


The popularity of inhouse engraving and embroidery machines appears to have declined since we polled Giftbeat retailers on custom products, last about two years ago. However, the retailers who still have inhouse customizing capabilities are quite happy. “I have a laser engraver and we sell hundreds of customizable items,” shares an Indiana retailer whose best-selling items are insulated tumblers.

A Texas store owner shares, “I have the P. Graham Dunn laser engraver. I engrave their items along with most Corkcicle formats such as tumblers, mugs and canteens.”


“TownPride ( has a wide selection of items,” suggests a New Hampshire retailer. “It’s a nice place to start with small minimums if you’re not 100 percent sure.” She recommends buying a little bit of everything. “From there you can determine what type of items sell (signs, drinkware, apparel) and look for additional sources for the same items.”


Before jumping feet first into the purchase of an expensive product or line, read what a retailer from South Dakota has to share:

“We carried a line for customizing frames which required purchasing a printer which only printed images compatible with the company’s software.”

Despite these limitations, she said the line was very popular among her customers, yet the company decided to discontinue the program and didn’t provide adequate notice. “We couldn’t use up our inventory before they exited the program. Then they told us we could ship back the printer at our expense and they’d unlock it so we could use it as an actual printer.” Not surprisingly, the store owner has opted never to order from this wholesaler again and says, “My advice would be to not invest a lot of money. I invested a lot and got stuck with product and a very expensive printer I couldn’t use. I lost a lot of money in the end.”

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