When visiting patients in hospitals, people often stop first in its gift shop. It is at that point where Lori’s Gifts has the chance to make a sale and an important first impression, CEO Kim Schuler says.
“We are a direct reflection of the hospital,” she says. “In today’s competitive healthcare market, all avenues must be managed to best reflect the image of the hospital and the gift shop is no exception.
“Our stores are fully stocked, open seven days a week and are staffed with customer-focused team members. Our goal is to provide a gift shop that is a true asset for the hospital and an operation that they can be proud of.”
The company was founded in 1981 by Mike and Lori Cohen. Kim Schuler joined Lori’s in 1999 after spending a decade at Hallmark Cards. In 2000, the Cohens sold their interest in Lori’s to existing investors and it was renamed Lori’s Gifts.
Today, Lori’s Gifts has 298 locations in 39 states. Schuler is proud to share, “We are the nation’s leading operator of hospital gift shops. Eighty-five percent of our new contracts begin with a referral from an existing hospital partner. We have built our reputation on providing professionally managed gift shops.”
Hospital gift shop management is Lori’s Gifts only line of business with a dedicated team of 1,550 employees nationwide. “The company’s success,” Schuler says, “begins with a talented Texas headquarters team of 48, including buyers, store and graphic designers, business and sales development, loss prevention, finance and technology. Our management structure is further strengthened in the field by our team of 25 district managers. We are here to support our clients, customers and store staff,” she says. “We are available 24/7.”
Schuler also credits the company’s success with its partnerships with many key vendors and service providers. “We continue to align ourselves with strong partners to stay competitive and evolve with the changes in the economy, industry and consumer preferences,” she says.
Lori’s Gifts also has moved into online retailing, targeting customers sending a gift to a patient. Many of its hospitals’ websites feature links to its own site. “We’ve included several of our best-selling get well gifts on our e-commerce site and have found that most on-line purchases occur between 9 p.m. and midnight,” she says.
Partners in Retail
In 2012, Lori’s Gifts formed a partnership with Sodexo, a leader in providing services to core markets, including hospitals. “Sodexo provides food and nutrition services along with facility management to over 6,000 clients - 1,800 clients within the healthcare segment alone,” Schuler shares. “We are very proud to be Sodexo’s exclusive Re:sourxe Gifts operating partner and currently manage 14 Sodexo partnership gift shops in hospitals.”
Lori’s Gifts sets itself apart by customizing its stores to each hospital. “It’s a collaborative effort with each hospital to determine store layout, product presentation and services offered,” Schuler shares.
Schuler further explains “that the hospital’s clinical specialties and demographics are also evaluated to best optimize inventory selection.”
Before Lori’s Gifts moves into a hospital, it asks the hospital employees what they would like to see in the gift shop since they account for over half of the sales generated. An on-line survey is completed by employees providing feedback on store operating hours, product selection and which services they would recommend. “We definitely do our homework to prepare for a successful gift shop operation,” Schuler says.
“Each gift shop is unique, but backed by 32 years of management experience,” Schuler shares.
About a third of the gift shops also have active volunteer participation even after a Lori’s Gifts store opens. “We welcome volunteers and are fortunate for their service,” Schuler adds. “We fully staff each gift shop, which allows for greater flexibility for the volunteers.”
To support the hospital’s quest for improved patient satisfaction, Lori’s Gifts has responded by linking with the clinical specialty units within the hospital. “Ultimately, our goal is to provide an enhanced customer service experience to the patient upon discharge by offering one-stop shopping of support merchandise recommended by the doctor,” Schuler says.
Lori’s Gifts will even support key initiatives of the hospital. For example, “If the hospital has a strong health and wellness program, we’ll provide a strong selection of healthy, single-serve snacks, trail mixes, juices, vitamin water and green tea,” Schuler shares. Gift assortments also can be further tailored to include eco-friendly merchandise.
A 15-year veteran of Lori’s Gifts, Schuler praises the leadership of board member and majority shareholder Leonard H. Lavin, founder of Alberto Culver. “Mr. Lavin epitomizes the American dream,” Schuler says. “He built Alberto Culver from a very small beauty supply company to a coveted Fortune 500 business.”
Another key shareholder is Ted Hansen, CPA in Chicago. “Ted has provided this company a management discipline that governs our business today,” she says.
Schuler expects Lori’s Gifts to expand. During her time at the firm, “We’ve more than tripled the revenue,” she says. Over the last several years, the company opened 25 new locations annually. This year, “Lori’s Gifts is on track to celebrate 35 new gift shops,” she adds.
This year, Lori’s Gifts was awarded the ICON Honor of Excellence, a national event sponsored by Gift & Home Trade Association in Atlanta. “This award was one of the proudest moments in my career,” Schuler says. “For our company to be recognized as a leading retailer amongst a group of over 1,000 talented participants was an unforgettable honor.
“I am honored to still manage our very first hospital gift shop after 32 years,” Schuler says. “Our culture at Lori’s Gifts is to serve our customers and we pride ourselves on exceeding our client’s expectations. That is job satisfaction at its best!”