If you prefer to download the PDF version, please click here.


Inside this newsletter are three special “inserts” that detail the ZAG sponsors that are exhibiting at the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies (IGES), the Smoky Mountain Gift Show (SMGS), and the ZAG sponsors that are not exhibiting at either show.

Use the inserts and save money!! The inserts provide information on where the sponsors are exhibiting, their booth number and a brief description of their product lines. Many ZAG sponsors, including those not exhibiting at either show, are offering ZAG members special deals, such as free freight or discounts on orders placed at the show! Better yet, many of these special offers are available to all ZAG members, including those who cannot attend the gift shows! 

Check each sponsor’s listing carefully, it will give you the details of their offers, who is eligible, and when the offers expire. Be sure to mention that you are a ZAG member when you place your order so the sponsor knows you qualify for their offer. Also check with the sponsor before placing your order, some have more offers available than could be listed in these inserts.

Hard copies of the October newsletter with the special inserts will be available at the various ZAG members’ breakfasts and at the annual members’ meeting and dinner. Be sure to take this information with you as you work the shows, and be sure to visit their booths to review their product lines - look for the ZAG license plate!

2010 ZAG Sponsor License Plate

Be sure to take advantage of the different types of fall specials offered by many of our sponsors
• Extended Show Specials
• Free Name Drops
• Dating Extensions
• Low Minimums
• Freight Discounts
• Free Fixtures
• “Ask” at Booth

Welcome New ZAG Members!

Please welcome the following new ZAG members:

Michael Davis - Cameron Park Zoo, Waco, TX
Bethany Mogansen - Gulf Breeze Zoo, Gulf Breeze, FL
Lex Salisbury - Safari Wild LLC & Giraffe Ranch Farm Tours, Dade City, FL

For information on membership opportunities and benefits, please visit click here.

ZAG is Now Virtually Social!

To find our page on Facebook, click here or search for zaggift and “like” us to join.

Follow zaggift on Twitter
To find us on Twitter, click here or search for @zaggift and “follow” us. 

To find us on LinkedIn, click here or search ZAG Buyers Group in groups and request to join.

Want to find out about ZAG Week activities as they are happening? ZAG Week activities will be posted as updates on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, hard copies of this newsletter will be available in the hospitality rooms at each show.


The International Gift Exposition in the Smokies (IGES) and the Smoky Mountain Gift Show (SMGS) are two of the most important gift shows for many of our members. The November shows are probably the one time of year when a majority of zoo and aquarium buyers are gathered together. ZAG has planned many member events to help you connect with other buyers and to provide you with the refreshments you’ll need to get through both of these shows!

Hospitality rooms:
There will be hospitality rooms for ZAG members at both the IGES and SMGS. The IGES hospitality room is located in the same room as in previous years, just past the food court on the left hand side. The SMGS hospitality room is located between the main convention center and the W.L. Mills center. Both are great places to rest, review your notes, organize your brochures or eat your lunch in a quiet setting, along with the opportunity to run into some of your fellow ZAG buyers.

Member breakfasts:
There will be a free breakfast for ZAG members in the IGES hospitality room from 8:00-9:30am from Wednesday November 3 through Sunday November 7. The SMGS hospitality room will offer breakfast starting at 9:00am from Friday November 5 through Tuesday November 9.

Member/Sponsor Mixer at Ripley’s Aquarium: Thursday, Nov 4th 5:30pm – 9:30pm
ZAG will host a mixer for its members and sponsors at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg on Thursday November 4 from 5:30-9:30pm. Drinks and heavy hors d’ouerves will be served. Free shuttle buses will transport ZAG members and sponsors from the Sevierville convention center to the aquarium and back again, so you don’t need to worry about how to get there! In addition to meeting other buyers and those vendors you may only deal with via phone or fax, you are also free to tour this incredible aquarium (don’t miss the underwater tunnels through the shark tank)!

Members Annual Meeting & Dinner: Saturday, Nov 6th 5:00pm – 9:00pm
ZAG will hold its annual members’ meeting and dinner at the Sevierville convention center on Saturday November 6 from 5:00pm until approximately 9:00pm. Before dinner, cocktails will be served while members mingle and view the sponsors’ merchandise tables, showcasing items they think are new and of particular interest to zoos and aquariums. Dinner will be followed by our roundtable discussions, where the members will share information on their best sellers, duds, and trends for 2011.

So be sure to visit the hospitality rooms and attend the mixer, dinner and breakfasts to take advantage of the incredible resources and experience of your fellow ZAG members!

Please RSVP now for the Mixer (sponsors & buyers) and Annual Dinner (buyers only) by emailing Steve at sfairchild@scz.org.


Not going to the Tennessee gift shows?

Don’t worry, you won’t be left out! Check out the sponsor insert below. Many ZAG sponsors that are offering show specials are offering them to ALL ZAG members! Be sure to check the expiration date for the special offers, and don’t forget to mention that you are a ZAG member when placing an order. Also, following the Tennessee gift shows, our winter issue of ZAG News will feature summaries of the round table discussions on trends and other topics held after the annual members’ dinner.








Bloco Toys Inc.

Building toy of various animals/species

3% discount + one (1) FREE Built-up Demo (of your choice) on ever order placed prior to 11/15/2010

Yes, expires 11/15/2010


Hogeye, Inc.

Lapel pins, coins, magnets, bookmarks, keychains

10% off wholesale price list

Yes, expires 12/31/2010


Mr. Ellie Pooh LLC

Fairly traded elephant dung paper from Sri Lanka

ZAG wholesale pricing and free shipping if you order during the week of the show

Yes, expires 11/9/2010


Sylvan Dell Publishing

Wildlife and nature themed children's picture books

40+ books = 55% off FF

Yes, expires 11/19/2010


XLP Marketing Group

Kodak Alkaline Batteries & Kodak FunSaver Cameras

15% ZAG member discount on all Kodak batteries and FunSaver cameras

Yes, expires 12/31/2010


Chinese Factories and Labor Networking Discussion

Come join us on Thursday November 4th 8:30-9:00am in the ZAG Hospitality Room C (Sevierville Convention Center) for a very timely discussion from several persons who work directly with Chinese factories. This will not be a sales pitch for any products, rather, an attempt to explain many of the issues that our suppliers have with China. This is a “don’t miss networking opportunity”! Come early – space will be limited.

2010 Travel Sponsorship Winners

The winners of the drawing for travel sponsorships to ZAG Week are Laurie Vanderwal from Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, and Cheryl Lopes from Buttonwood Park Zoo. Both of the ZAG buyers have never been to a major gift show or to ZAG Week. The lucky winners will be attending 2010 ZAG Week in the Smokies with all lodging, meals, and transportation paid by ZAG. During ZAG Week they will be accompanied by a ZAG Board member as they visit and work each of the gift shows. They will also have the opportunity to participate in networking sessions, and all of the sanctioned ZAG activities. We hope that this experience will be beneficial, and plans are already in the works to continue the sponsorships in the years to come.
Learn more about these new ZAG sponsors, and also our other current sponsors, by visiting their web sites! Be sure to check out their booths if you see them at the upcoming gift shows.



Bill Lucey, Rainforest Adventures
Sevierville, TN

Please describe your facility…acreage, annual attendance, major exhibits, most popular animals, etc.
RainForest is a unique blend of both indoor (15,000 sq ft) and outdoor (17,000 sq ft) of zoo exhibits that focus primarily on tropical animals. Being located in a tourist town in the Smoky Mountains we fill a niche very similar to a public aquarium. Our goal is to entertain and educate the guests for a period of approximately two hours. To that end much of our attention is focused on the exhibits themselves, recreating an “Indiana Jones” type experience with our theme and exhibiting the more unusual mammals such as genets, lemurs, African porcupines, Serval etc. We also have a heavy focus on some of the reptiles such as pythons, cobras, and crocodilians. Many of our parrots and macaws have extensive vocabularies and are exhibited in such a way as to encourage guest interaction. As a result we find that many repeat visitors actually remember various large birds by name. Attendance runs approximately 100,000 per year. 

Please describe your merchandise operations…number of year-round shops, seasonal shops, square footage, seasonal carts, etc.
We operate one gift shop through which the guests must pass through as they enter and exit the zoo. The shop is 2,500 square feet with an intentional ceiling height of 23 feet which creates a very welcoming but expansive feel. Given the fact that we are located in a tourist market much of our business comes from out of state. The out of state visitor is much more likely to spend a little extra on a souvenir that is branded both with our logo and the Smoky Mountains theme. As a result our per cap tends to trend on the high side versus a more conventional city zoo or aquarium. The school field trip business has been under pressurerecently but we continue to merchandise a large percentage of our floor space to this audience. Price points in the shop range from much less than a dollar to in excess of $300.00 on imported craft items from Africa. We successfully utilize Stoneage Arts product for both retail sales items as well as general theme product to enhance the overall feel of gift shop and create the ambiance we are seeking. Natural wood displays and bamboo/thatch artifacts help to create the retail theme. 

List some of your best-selling merchandise items and categories. Where possible, please include specifics like vendor name, color, etc. 
Plush continues to perform as our number one category, representing nearly 33% of our gross volume. We have had an excellent relationship with Fiesta over the years and find the product line to be aggressively priced as well as having sufficient depth of product and realism to fit the demographics of the average family visiting the Smoky Mountains. We have also been buying from Adventure Planet/Rhode Island Novelty as they also have expanded their product selection and realism at very aggressive price points. Adult and youth clothing come in as the second highest grossing category for us with various vendors supplying product. Noblewear has done an outstanding job on our hat/t-shirt combo for both men and women. The Mountain and The Duck Company perform well in the youth and novelty categories for us in apparel. Recent additions from Squire Boone performed well this year, which include feather shaped lollypops and small resin figurines. 

Are any items or categories trending downward in popularity?
Tubes of PVC animals appear to have been trending down for a couple of years. To combat this we have tried various sizes and styles but have yet to regain the larger sales volumes of 6-8 years ago. Puzzles of all types have also experienced a steady decline, here too we are trying various titles and styles to lure back the “family game night” crowd.

What merchandise are you looking for that you haven’t been able to find?
It seems we are perennially searching for successful product to fill the adult gift niche. The usual list of suspects such as glassware, candles etc. perform fairly well each year but we have yet to find the proverbial “home run” with respect to an adult zoo related gift item. Jaco has done a very good job with their hand painted ceramic tile items,and these have closed the gap quite a bit in the adult category but we are always searching for successful adult gifts. 

What trends do you foresee in 2011?
A continued push towards “green” products appears to still be somewhat elusive but we are always hopeful this trend will continue to grow in strength. Both zoos and aquariums are the logical breeding grounds to spread the word and provide leadership in this extremely important goal. Sustainable use products such as elephant poo poo paper offer a unique opportunity to grow this category. As previously mentioned Stoneage Arts is another company with an outstanding story to tell with respect to fair trade practices and providing the types of employment for indigenous peoples that promote our overall industry message. It is our hope this trend will continue and the respective companies will develop the types of POP sales material to support spreading the message. 

Will there be any new attractions, shops, etc in 2011?
A new exhibit featuring a troop of Capuchin monkeys is ready for 2011, as a result we will be featuring monkey product in various forms in the shop for the upcoming year. It has been very easy to find product directed at the young audience to support the new merchandising but we are struggling to find adult related gift product to round out the displays.

What trade shows do you go to?
We are fortunate to be located in the Smokies; the two shows here in November (Smoky Mountain Gift Show and the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies) are always our primary purchasing opportunities. The timing of the two shows works out perfectly as we can determine what performed well during the previous season and plan most major purchases to arrive in early spring of the following year. IGES in particular has grown to such an extent that we have been able to find the overwhelming majority of our existing needs and discover new vendors at the same time. 


Election Results to be Announced Soon

The 2010 election of two new ZAG Board members will be completed with the counting of the ballots during the last week of this month. The top two vote getters will start their three year terms after the results are officially ratified at the Annual ZAG Business Meeting on November 6th. The Board membership is permitted, per the ZAG By-laws, to have a maximum of nine members. The new members will fill the openings left by the departure of Steve Fairchild (term limits) and Laurie Taylor (resignation). The election has been conducted by the ZAG Governance Committee, and the ballots will be counted by persons not affiliated with ZAG or any of the candidates.

ZAG News in print!

This ZAG News is being distributed so that all members receive the information needed to make the most of ZAG week. Next issue will be back to the new format (electronic only unless hard copy is requested).
© ZAG - Zoo & Aquarium Buyers Group
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software