Become a “fan” of the ZAG FACEBOOK page today! Network with other buyers and hear about the latest sales and updates from the vendors. Ask questions on the Facebook page and get a response from your other buyer friends quickly! The more fans we have, the better it will be to get all of our questions answered. This page is now under new administration and will be posting more articles about topics that are related to what we are doing. There will also be more show updates and what ZAG will be involved with at these shows. Help us get our fan count up!



Please welcome the following new members:

  • Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, Indian Trail, NC
  • Chattahoochee Nature Center, Roswell, GA
  • The Dancing Horses & Animal Gardens, Delavan, WI
  • Fundy Discovery Aquarium, St. Andrews, New Brunswick
  • Greenville Zoo, Greenville, SC
  • Sea and Sage Audubon, Irvine, CA


We asked our ZAG Sponsors to tell us of trends they have noticed for 2011 based on customer feedback and the orders being placed by buyers, plus their experiences during gift shows. Here’s what they had to say:

Nanco Imprintable SouvenirsPeter Seresky of Nancy Sales Company/Nanco continues to see steady improvement in business confidence. Many of his customers have successfully reduced inventories over the past few years and the buying patterns seem stronger at recent shows. This is balanced with the continued challenges of sourcing products in Asia. Bright spots for Nanco’s lines include a continued strong demand for their short run in-house imprintable souvenirs (mugs, glassware, picture frames, water globes and other items), their Animaland stuff your own plush animals, and novelties with sharp price points.

Western Woods Soapstone Owl

Daren Aitken of Western Woods says that they have seen a big increase in sales for items that can retail for under $10.00. Western Woods has over 50 different styles of hand carved soapstone animals with a wholesale cost of $.75 that retailers can sell for $2.99. Their fill the bag program with tumbled stones and magnetic rocks continues to be their most popular item and can retail for $6.99 or less depending on the size of the bag. They have also seen a big increase in rough specimen bin items, which have a wholesale cost of between $.65 to $2.50 each and which the retailer can easily get a 3x markup.

Jim Pettit of Jackson Pacific has noticed that customers want more for less, so Jackson Pacific has expanded their custom universal sign ornament line where customers can get bronze ornaments for as low as $2.50 each, low minimums (144 pieces or 36 pieces each of 4 designs), and 49 different zoo and aquarium designs to choose from.

Personalization of their elephant dung paper gifts was a top seller for Mr Ellie Pooh last year, said Karl Wald, and sales have already been strong for this year. With about a two month lead time their recycled dung paper gifts can be customized with a variety of animals, themes and logos. Speaking of recycled products, Michelle Flynn of the Art Studio Company sees a trend of not only recycled products but socially conscious products. “Socially conscious goods plus recycled goods equals good products that are good for the world and the people.” This is why they developed a new line of recycled wool hand-made ornaments, which are not only cute reminders of your travels but also allow women working in small villages to earn a sustainable living.

Mama Bear Planter

The new colors that Georgetown Home & Garden added this year to their planters have been selling very well, according to Susan Georgulas. Smaller planters with a price point of $19.99-24.99 are doing better than larger planters with higher price points, and customers are really thinking twice about gifts above a $25.00 price point, said Susan. Especially hot are zebra patterns this year. Baby BugAlso in the garden/outdoor gift category, In the Breeze has seen a lot of enthusiasm this year for their best selling lines of baby bugs and birds, flower ground spinners and their new kinetic hot air balloon spinners, said Anne Seile.

New ZAG sponsor ALL U Activewear has offered licensed and custom apparel for 26 years, but hasn’t seen anything as exciting as what QR technology brings to their t-shirts, mugs and other gift items. Tom Clark explains All U Activewearthat encoding products with that little pixilated box you’ve been seeing in print lately can be read by smart phones, which connects directly to a web site that can have all sorts of educational or promotional content, games or consumer offers. The first of ALL U’s animal related items is their Bird of the Day mug assortment accompanied by a scanable code that takes consumers to an online quiz to identify that day’s featured bird species.

Price is still a major consideration for OPI (Ohio Pyle Prints, Inc), according to Carol Baker, and so their customers are going with the more basic garments. Once again their combos of water Ohio Pyle Prints, Inc.bottle/tee, hat/tee and multi-tee are top sellers based on the perceived value. OPI has also noticed that customers are trending toward simpler graphics. Finally, their listing graphics-where you can list exhibit names specific to your location-has become very popular with zoos and aquariums. Cotton prices and labor continue to be major issues that not only dictate price, Royal Resortwear Infant/Toddler Capbut have a profound impact on deliveries and order minimums, said Angelo Curmaci of Royal Resortwear, where children’s hats in all styles continues to dominate sales.

Kids Tees by Stephen Joseph has noticed that young girls are becoming more and more fashion conscious. Teresa Kessinger feels that their desire to have a longer and more fitted t-shirt has prompted Stephen Image Apparel West T-shirt DesignJoseph to add a Youth Fashion body into their garment lineup, available in four hot colors and in sizes xs to large. And Cherie Lindstrom of Image West Apparel says they are having great success with their screen print and rhinestone combinations for ladies, juniors and girls. The rhinestones add a lot of BLING!

The Duck Company’s humorous designs continue to show growth in 2011, said Jolene Marsh. The company has developed a ladies/junior design collection that is doing well. Their tear drop “V” and their scoop neck tee are both The Duck Companygoing strong. Youth and toddler designs are dominating, too. Jolene says buyers are slowly increasing their orders and the Duck Company saw some great spring break results, so they hope that is an indication that 2011 will be a great year.

One trend John Cweiber of CTM/The Penny Men has seen is to offer unique The Penny Man Souvenir Penny Booksproducts for a special or limited time event. They offer a custom penny design where they print out the pennies at their machine shop and then send them to the location, which can then offer these pennies free with the purchase of a souvenir penny book. CTM incurs the cost of the engraving so the cost to the locations is free, the end goal being to sell more souvenir penny books.

GeoCentral Dinosaur EggGeoCentral’s Joie Newberry says that the consumer continues to be more focused on products that are both fun and educational. Their retailers are telling them that parents are far more likely Safariology™Life Cycle of a Monarch Butterflyto make an impulse purchase if that item provides some type of learning or new experience. Ramona Pariente of Safari LTD expects 2011 to be a good year because Safari continues to pay close attention to price points and perceived value, and they consciously create toys that address this plus have a WOW factor.

Warm Fuzzy ToysYear after year, Shelley from Warm Fuzzy Toys sees that items that have an extra factor like light, flash, color, sound or motion are their top sellers. Examples would be their exclusive Water Wheels which have been selling extremely well. Customers are also loving their new higher end Medusa Aquarium with important extras like multi color light effects and “swimming” Medusa jellyfish.

Wishpets’ Anne Worton sees increased customization as a trend for 2011. By Wishpetsoffering low minimums and ZAG discounted pricing, zoo and aquarium gift shop buyers can offer an exclusive plush animal that could include paw print patches, name drop ribbons, t-shirts, hoodies, logo embroidery and custom hang tags. Another trend has been the introduction of fun, fresh and bright new fabric treatments such as their SPIKES line, which has made this collection a hit for 2011.

John Fitzsimmons of Rhode Island Novelty/Adventure Planet reports that the major trend in 2011 is undoubtedly price point and value. “The magic retail price point for 2011 seems to be $9.99, so any good quality plush Rhode Island Novelty/Adventure Planet Half Pint Leopardor toy that can retail for that is a huge hit for retailers.” Rhode Island’s top selling toy categories include their PVC zipper packs, small PVC boxed sets, animated PVC sets and color-a-tube, all of which can get a 3x mark up with a retail between $3.99-9.99. In plush, they offer Half Pints, Extend A Pulls, Shaggies, Paws, Snugglies, and plush snakes, which give retailers great choices for a $5.99-11.99 price point with a 3x mark up.

Cool Jewels Prepack DisplaysSmall, compact point of purchase displays containing colorful tie bracelets have been hot for Marc St. Pierre of Cool Jewels by Phillips International. Their zoo and aquarium customers have experienced surprisingly quick sell-throughs. The displays can be pre-loaded with individually bar-coded product and they can offer up to a 10x mark up. Cool Jewels is offering ZAG members a no risk guaranteed test on the small displays.

Moovie Studio BookmarksThe Moovie Studio’s new lenticular panda, hawk and elephant bookmarks are seeing a strong response from buyers, according to Neil Walwyn. Revised journal styles and lower price points are boosting sales of monkey, dolphin, shark and penguin items. Bobby Lee Rahner of Kraf & Associates has noticed a trend to more products made in the USA, such as their Kendon Candies, their degradable Kraf and Associates Souvenir Cupplastic souvenir cups, and their zoo keeper badges and tac pins. Items made in the USA have a better turn around and faster delivery. Prices from plush made in China have gone up but Kraf is working with their BJ plush line to keep prices affordable while not compromising quality.

Wildlife Cookie Company Dinosaur Animal CookiesDinosaurs are definitely one of the trends for 2011 for the Wildlife Cookie Company, says Ken Smith. They have received many requests for dinosaur animal cookies so they introduced a dinosaur box in 2011 and the response has been fantastic. Awareness about the importance ofAloe Up SPF 30 Pro Continuous Sprayusing sunscreen continues to grow for Aloe Up Sun & Skin Care Products’ Neal Klein, so having sun protection products is essential for your shop this season. Aloe Up’s Continuous Spray Sunscreens contain UVA/UVB broad spectrum protection, are water and sweat resistant, and apply evenly to your skin with the touch of a button.

Finally, in the world of gift shows, Tim von Gal of Urban Expositions reports that the Las Vegas Resort & Souvenir Show and the Gathering have already sold out, and that the Smoky Mountain and Myrtle Beach gift shows will be sold out shortly. They are also seeing some new vendors and new merchandise concepts coming in. Sarah Jones of theWorld Market Center Las Vegas says their Gift + Home at Las Vegas Market will offer a wide range of fresh ideas and new lines from new vendors aiming for the profitable youth market. And Susan Mills of the International Gift Exposition in the Smokies has seen a substantial increase in requests from buyers for vendors that offer “made in America” merchandise. Their second highest request has been for eco-friendly/green/recycled merchandise. IGES is planning on offering a list of vendors at their show that offer these types of products.



The Smoky Mountain Gift Show, held in the spring and fall in Gatlinburg, TN, is now under the management of Urban Expositions. Urban Expositions operates many other gift shows, including the Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle Gift Shows, the Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show, and the Las Vegas souvenir & Resort Show. The November Smoky Mountain Gift Show has always been an extremely important show for zoo and aquarium buyers, and we look forward to finding even more vendors and ZAG networking opportunities during the next show.

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Mission and Retail at National Aquarium

The National Aquarium was established in 1873 in Woods Hole, Massachusetts before moving to the grounds of the Washington Monument in 1878. The current facility was built in 1932 and is housed in the Herbert C. Hoover Building of the Department of Commerce. Although conceived as a government entity focusing on fisheries, the aquarium has evolved into a private non-profit organization with a strong spotlight on education and conservation. The National Aquarium in Baltimore was founded in 1981 and was originally a separate institution but the National Aquarium Institute was formed in 2004 when the two facilities affiliated. Tammy Ward came on board in January 2000 as an assistant manager and has handled membership, admissions, adoptions, outreach programs, birthday parties, evening events, office management, accounting, newsletter (editor and writer), and website. As is the joy of working in a small facility, many of these tasks were undertaken simultaneously with her ‘real’ job of running retail. Now Tammy concentrates primarily on the AquaShop as Director of Retail but is still involved with other areas such as being a member of the Internal Conservation Committee. Below, Tammy shares some of her background and philosophies on what she carries in her shop. 

A flash of green to your left is followed by blue and gold and every color of the rainbow as you journey through the waters of our National Marine Sanctuaries. Triggerfish dart among the other tropical creatures from the remote Fagatele Bay NMS in American Samoa. Sharks of the Channel Islands glide among strands of undulating kelp which serves as protection to the eggs of swell sharks found at their base. Traveling to the Amazon, red-bellied piranhas, defamed in both text and film, are surprisingly tranquil as they wait for their scheduled feeding. Visions of these silvery fish as ravenous beasts are hard to shake, but their true character is much more complex. Vibrant poison frogs, their warning colors obvious to all, hop among tropical plants as they track crickets. The wings of elegant freshwater stingrays ripple as they shake off the small stones and debris that camouflaged them on the bottom before soaring past the oscars and arowana.

This is how I see The National Aquarium, and how I want to share it with all our visitors. When I started eleven years ago, I only worked in the aquarium part time but that soon changed when they discovered that I not only had no fear of snakes, but that I actually liked them. At that point the retail unit was just a store that happened to be in an aquarium, but my goal has been to complement and complete our visitor’s aquatic journey. Much of the photography used in the aquarium is my own and I have been able to branch out and have had my photos used in books, websites, and even the new aquarium in Dubai will be using one in our graphics. Where possible, we have custom items in the gift shop that educate and inform about our species and the delicate ecosystems where they can be found. Our shopping bags are made from bio-degradable poly and we try to use them only when necessary.

My most ardent passion here has been to work with conservation groups who support indigenous human populations. If the human element is ignored during conservation efforts, those efforts are doomed to failure. My favorite organization is WIDECAST (Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network). WIDECAST protects beaches in Costa Rica where highly endangered hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles nest. In the past, these beaches have been raided for both adult turtles and their eggs. Hawksbill shells are used for jewelry and the meat and eggs of both species are sold as food. WIDECAST works with the local population to give them an alternate source of income. The National Aquarium is proud to sell their handmade jewelry and bags they knit from recycled plastic shopping bags. The loss of both turtles and eggs on the beaches they patrol has now dropped to less than 1% from a previous high of over 95%. I was lucky enough to be invited down to one of their remote locations in southeastern Costa Rica to work directly with the volunteers and the locals. No alarm clocks were necessary since the wild howler monkeys were awake and shrieking at 5:30 each morning to warn about the jaguar that was roaming the area. Between the white water rafting and the midnight beach patrols, I was able to see the items we now carry as they were being made by the local women. I was both humbled and renewed by the experience.

We don’t always make a good profit with these items – I’ll leave that for the stuffed animals and t-shirts – but some things are more important. The Earth does not care about politics or ethnic or religious differences. If you believe in global warming or have your doubts, if you are a vegan or a burger lover, if you have a house full of pets or nothing more than a rogue dust bunny, the world still belongs to everyone alive today and every tomorrow to come. Small changes that can become part of your everyday routine can have a major impact and those are the easiest changes to sustain. Oil will not last forever, coal will not last forever, but our oceans and forests can – if we let them.

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Below is the list of the current ZAG board and the committees they head. Please feel free to contact any of them if you have questions, suggestions, ideas or would like to help!

President: Brent Walter, Henry Vilas Zoo
Vice President: Dave Albert, Brookfield Zoo
Secretary: Maria Lasecki, NEW Zoo
Treasurer: Beth Feingold, Aquarium of the Bay
Board Member: Mary Jane Brown, Akron Zoo (retiring in 2011)
Board Member: Bill Lucey, Rainforest Adventures
Board Member: Robin Miller, Lion Country Safari
Board Member: Kathryn Swinimer, Calgary Zoo
Board Member: Tammy Ward, National Aquarium Washington DC

Website Committee
Beth Feingold
Bill Lucey

Membership Committee Dave Albert
Robin Miller
Kathryn Swinimer

Newsletter Committee
Dave Albert
Tammy Ward

Gift Shows Committee
Bill Lucey
Brent Walter

Sponsors Committee
Dave Albert

Governance Committee
Mary Jane Brown
Maria Lasecki
Bill Lucey

Finance Committee
Beth Feingold
Kathryn Swinimer
Brent Walter


ZAG Interview
Donna Steakley, Director of Tourism at Fossil Rim

Describe your facility…acreage, annual attendance, major exhibits, most popular animals, etc.
We are a 1700 acre drive thru that also offers guided tours. Our annual attendance is around 300,000 visitors. Our animals are free roaming, except for carnivores and rhinos. We are lucky to be one of only 6 facilities to have over 100 cheetah births. Our most popular animal has to be the giraffes. 

Describe your merchanise operations…number of year-round shops, seasonal shops, square footage, seasonal carts, etc.
Our main gift shop is half way thru the facility plus there is a small shop at the entrance. Our gift shop is about 3200 square feet and is open year round.

List some of your best-selling merchandise items and categories. Where possible, please include specifics like vendor name, color, etc.
Plush and t-shirts seem to be our most popular categories. One of our best sellers is the 25 inch giraffe from Rhode Island Novelty. We go through around 600 annually. The Posh plush from Petting Zoo is also a nice seller. Hotaling has some beautiful plush that helps support the WWF. It’s a bit more expensive but it actually did very well this year during spring break.

Are any items or categories trending downward in popularity?
Puzzles have slowed down. I believe the game night and family time needs to pick up.

What merchandise are you looking for that you haven’t been able to find?
More African inspired masks. 

What trends do you foresee in 2011?
Blingy things….jewelry, t-shirts anything with animal print and rhinestones.

Do you have any special merchandise projects that are unique to your facility (for example, photo opportunities, special sale events, school bags, web site/catalog sales, gift cards, off-site shops)?
Our i.d. dog tag machine does well, as do penny machines. This year we are supposed to get a coin machine.

What trade shows do you go to?
We attend Las Vegas gift show, The Gathering and the November Gatlinburg/Sevierville,TN shows.
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Please welcome the following new and returning ZAG sponsors, and visit their web sites. Or go to and click on the “ZAG Sponsors” section.

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Show Calendar 2011


7     California Gift Show First Tuesday Stationary


19-25     California Gift Show
  • Showrooms 19-25
  • Temporaries 22-25

24-27     Philadelphia Gift Show


1-5        Gift + Home at Las Vegas Market 
2           California Gift Show First Tuesday Eco + Fair Trade 
6-9        Orlando Gift Show and Orlando Cash & Carry Show 
6-9        San Francisco International Gift Fair
13-16     Seattle Gift Show
27-30     Fort Lauderdale Gift Show 


6          California Gift Show First Tuesday Fashion Accessories 
18-20     California Gift Show Fall Gift + Home Market 
20-23     Las Vegas Souvenir & Resort Gift Show 


4         California Gift Show First Tuesday Baby + Kids 
16-18     Gulf Coast Gift Show at Fort Walton Beach 
23-25     Galveston Gift & Resort Merchandise Show 


1         California Gift Show First Tuesday Spa, Bath + Romance 
3-7       The International Gift Exposition in the Smokies® & Souvenir Super Show 
4-7       The Smoky Mountain Gift Show® 
10-11     California Gift Show Gift Sample Sale 
13-16     Ocean City Resort Gift Expo 


4-7       Grand Strand Gift & Resort Merchandise Show

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