Download the PDF of the 2012 October Newsletter here.



ZAG News

Volume 11, Issue: 4                                                                               Oct. 2012


ZAG Week Activities

It’s that time of year again, ZAG week in the beautiful Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee.  So many show specials, seeing old friends, making new friends and of course new sponsors.


Tuesday, November 6th

IGES show opens and will host a ZAG hospitality room daily from 8:30-5:00. Free breakfast is available daily.


Wednesday, November 7th

 Smoky Mountain Gift Show opens. ZAG members can stop by the show office and receive a coupon for a free lunch. Free Parking! See details on page 4!

ZAG Mixer  - for buyers and sponsors- Rainforest Adventures Shuttles will be available at both shows. Please RSVP to by October 26 so we can reserve your spot.


Thursday, November 8th

Annual ZAG Meeting and Dinner  - for buyers– Hidden Mountain Resort- 5:30 p.m.-9:30p.m. Shuttles again will be available to and from both shows.

Please RSVP by October 26, The first 40 members to RSVP will receive a special gift.


Be sure to RSVP for both ZAG events!


ZAG Buyers Bingo...Win $$$!!

Your bingo card is included in this issue. Additional cards may be picked up at either the Smoky Mountain Gift Show in Gatlinburg at the show office or the IGES Show in Sevierville in the ZAG hospitality room. All you have to do is stop by one of our wonderful ZAG sponsors and they will give you a stamp. Every bingo is a chance to win!

President’s message

I hope everyone had a busy summer season.  Like most of you, I have been busy planning for next year already.  It is always a great time of year for me because I get a chance to meet up with other zoo buyers and friends at the shows.  Also very educational, as when I talk to people and see how things have been selling and what changes people have made during the year.  Don’t forget about your vendors!  Trade shows are great opportunities to visit with vendors that I normally only talk to on the phone.  Some of these relationships have lasted for 25 years.

If you haven’t attended a gift show, please try to.  The benefits are tremendous.

As I come to the end of my term on the ZAG board, I encourage every member to use what ZAG has to offer.  The special deals that the sponsors so kindly offer us are a great assistance. The most beneficial aspect of membership, to me, is the list of other zoo buyer contact information.  The ability to call or email someone that is doing the same thing as I do has proven to be an invaluable resource.

Thank you,

Brent Walter

Don’t forget to vote!

Ballots due on Oct. 26th

Ballots have been sent to all ZAG members for the 2012 election of three Board of Directors positions. The positions are open due to the completion of the three year terms of Brent Walter, Steve Fairchild, and Robin Miller. The ballots that were sent included a stamped return envelope and need to be postmarked no later than October 26th . The newly elected board members will be announced in the first week of November. If you have misplaced your ballot contact Steve Fairchild ASAP.

Congratulations to the Travel Sponsorship Award Winners!

The Zoo & Aquarium Buyer's Group recently awarded two travel sponsorships which include airfare, lodging, and meals throughout the duration of "ZAG WEEK" which takes place at the IGES & Smoky Mountain Gift Show in Tennessee during November.  The travel sponsorships were awarded to Jim Cornall, the Aquarium Manager at Fundy Discovery Aquarium in St. Andrews, NB, and to Anya Russom, Guest Services Assistant from Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth, MN.  Applicants for the sponsorship were required to meet the following criteria:  (1) be a current ZAG member in good standing; (2) was unable to attend the IGES or Smoky Mountain Gift Shows in the past 5 years; and (3) would not be able to attend the shows this year, due to financial constraints. 

When asked about her reaction after being notified, Anya replied "I was beyond thrilled.  This has been a very difficult year for our zoo, so when good things like this happen, the reaction is even greater. I really couldn’t be happier.  This will provide me with an amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge and give me insight into how the retail industry works at a higher scale."  Anya is a Guest Services Assistant at the Lake Superior Zoo which sees about 100,000 visitors annually.  This year, Brent Walter, Visitor Services Director at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, WI and ZAG Board President will be mentoring Anya during ZAG week.  Brent will help her navigate the many vendors and ZAG sponsors at the show, initiate introductions to other ZAG members and sponsors, and offer his opinion on the trends and industry.

Jim, Manager at Fundy Discovery Aquarium, was also enthusiastic about visiting the trade shows in November commenting "It’s always good to get new ideas, see new products, and get excited about the things you can do with your own facility. Listening to others and seeing what is available are great in assisting us to keep our gift shop fresh and interesting."  Jim's management duties at the Fundy Discovery Aquarium include operating a small retail establishment that sees over 40,000 visitors a year.  Fundy Discovery Aquarium recently opened in September of 2011 after the previous aquarium building was demolished.  Tommy Brown, Gift Shop Manager at the St. Louis Zoo and ZAG Board Member will be Jim's mentor during ZAG week and will be able to offer Jim some amazing insights on merchandising and store design in addition to helping Jim find vendors who are working towards conservation education and "Going Green."

We wish Jim and Anya great success and we will see them and all our ZAG friends at the Mixer at Rainforest Adventures on Nov 7th and at the ZAG Member dinner at the Hidden Mountain Resort on Nov 8th.

Membership by the numbers

ZAG Membership is at an all-time high of 335 members. Within this we have representatives from zoos and aquariums from 6 countries and all 50 states in the USA. The membership committee is always looking for new members so anyone with potential new members is invited to send the info or have them email us at the address below.

The ZAG Board has split the membership into regions, if you would like to know your contact please let us know and we will be happy to share that info with you. We welcome all new ZAG Members and look forward to meeting everyone at the ZAG Mixer on 11-7 at The Rainforest and ZAG Dinner on 11-8 at The Hidden Mountain Resort.

Robin Miller

ZAG Schedule of Events at the 2012 IGES/SSS, Sevierville

IGES/SSS Show Dates:  Tues., November 6th – Saturday, Nov. 10th, 2012 at the Sevierville, TN Events Center.


Show Hours:    9:00am – 5:00pm Tuesday – Friday

                          9:00am – 4:00pm Saturday


  Complimentary ZAG Breakfast served every morning, 8:00am – 9:30am in the ZAG lounge.

  Doors open for ZAG buyers at 7:45am each day..


Tues., Nov. 6th – OPENING DAY!  CAZAM BAGS available for all Zoo and Aquarium buyers in ZAG Lounge!  These special bags for Caves, Aquariums, Zoos and Museums are full of items  specific to these buyers only. 

            8:00am – 9:30am ZAG Breakfast in ZAG Lounge

    10:00am – 4:00pm $100.00 cash prizes awarded every hour to lucky buyers who have placed orders on Tuesday!

    5:00pm – 6:00pm Happy Hour


Wed., Nov. 7th –Walk-the-Plank Wednesday     


            8:00 am – 9:30am ZAG Breakfast in ZAG Lounge

            11:30 am – ZAA Luncheon, North Concourse, Sevierville Events Center, Show Orientation Continues.  Welcome ZAA!

            10:00 am – 4:00 pm $100.00 cash prizes awarded every hour to lucky buyers who have placed orders at the show on Wednesday!                       

       12:00 pm – 3:00 pm FREE PIRATE LUNCH & TROPICAL RUM PUNCH for all buyers with coupon (available at check-in)

        5:30 pm - Free round-trip shuttle service for ZAG Buyers and Sponsors from the Sevierville Events Center, the Gatlinburg Convention Center and Riverstone Lodge to the ZAG Mixer at Rainforest Adventure, Sevierville, TN.   ZAG welcomes all sponsors!


Thurs., Nov. 8th  8:00am - 9:30am ZAG Buyers! Enjoy a light breakfast while learning how to drive traffic to YOUR gift store with Social Media.  North Concourse (next to ZAG Lounge),  by Kimberly Warren Baker.

              10:00am – 4:00pm $100.00 cash prizes awarded every hour to  lucky buyers who have placed orders at the show on Thursday!

          5:30pm – 9:00pm – ZAG Annual Dinner/Meeting –This year at the beautiful Lodge at Hidden Mountain Resort, Apple Valley Rd., Sevierville! – Shuttles leave IGES at 5:15pm and 5:30pm, cocktails - upon arrival, dinner - 6:30pm, meeting ends 9:00pm.


Fri., Nov. 9th -  8:00am – 9:30am  ZAG Breakfast in ZAG Lounge (Special Discussion, “Green Talk”)

 Sat., Nov. 10th -  8:00am – 9:30am ZAG Breakfast in ZAG Lounge

 Free Freight Saturday!  Finish your orders on Saturday and receive ‘free freight’ from many exhibitors!

 FREE Shuttle Service during show days and evenings.  Call:  Rocky Top Tours at 877-315-8687 or 865-429-8687.


Schedule of Events at the 2012 SMGS, Gatlinburg

SMGS Show Dates: Wed., November 7th  - Saturday, Nov. 10th 2012 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in Gatlinburg, TN.


Show Hours:   9:00 amundefined5:30 pm WednesdayundefinedFriday

                            9:00 am -4:00 pm Saturday


NEW! Enter for Your Chance to Win One of Three Daily $100 Cash Prize Giveaways – Registered buyers can enter each day to win one of three (3) $100 Cash Prizes given away at the end of each day during the show. To enter, pick up an entry form at the Smoky Mountain Gift Show Registration desk, fill it out and drop it off in the ballot box located in the Gatlinburg A & B Room.  One entry per buyer per day. Show Management will contact winners by phone at the end of the show each day.

Goody Bag Giveaways – The first 100 retail stores to arrive at the show on Wednesday, November 7 or Thursday, November 8 will receive a special tote bag filled with free gifts from many of the show’s exhibitors.

Southern Hospitality at its Finest – While you’re here, be sure to enjoy our southern hospitality. Start your day by enjoying complimentary coffee and doughnuts each morning from 9:00-10:00 am in the Mills Auditorium and the upstairs meeting room level near the Parkway Tower. Then come back to these locations each afternoon to relax, unwind and “sit for a spell” while also enjoying complimentary beer, wine and cheese from 4:00 – 5:30 pm. Reserved for buyers only.

Product Preview Area
 – Make this special product preview area your first stop as you walk the show. Visit the South Lobby to quickly discover some of the wonderful lines on the show floor.


Smoky Mountain Gift Show Party

 Wednesday, November 7 | 5:45 PM

BLAINES – Free Admission – 21 & Up Only.

Must wear your buyer or exhibitor badge for entry.



 Thursday, November 8 at 5:30 pm | 3rd Floor Parkway Tower

Join us after the show closes on Thursday evening as the Living Legends Association honors Dick Brown, Beachcombers International for his commitment to the industry. The Living Legends Association seeks to honor those whose contributions have helped the souvenir industry take shape. Working together, members strive to improve and better the industry while keeping it vital and having fun along the way.


 ZAG will host a variety of networking events for its members, including a new ZAG Bingo game and a special networking reception. In addition, ZAG members are encouraged to come by the show office each day to pick up their ZAG member lunch coupon.


The Green Corner

Why Palm Oil?

Some of us buyers in Zoos and Aquariums have been told by our institutions that we are not allowed to buy products that contain palm oil due to the fact that many new palm oil plantations destroy rain forests and hurt wildlife populations within those regions of the world. Palm plantations themselves are not entirely the environmental factor but where they are located. As a matter of fact palm plantations can yield 10 times more oil an acre than soybeans thus using less land to produce more oil. As Zoos and Aquariums we want to ensure the survival of great animals like the orangutan and right now some institutions have implemented policies not to buy any palm oil within their institutions as a way to help protect endangered animals. 

On another side of the palm oil argument is that palm oil plantations have brought economic growth to Malaysia and Indonesia and palm oil is a renewable resource with future possibilities in creating veggie plastics. With any ingredient or item on the market you have to research and find out if a product is a fit for your institution. Plus as a buyer we must do what is ethical within the world and if the world is greatly harmed from something you purchase then maybe an alternative item should be sought after.  

There is some hope for the future of palm oil because of an organization called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO); they have made a commitment to try to ensure future palm oil can be citified as sustainable. If governments can pass laws on palm plantations, conservation organizations can verify outcomes and business can be held accountable from where palm oil is purchased, then we have made a great progression on having sustainable oil for the future as well as our lush green rain forests and our great orangutans. 

Only by working together as suppliers and buyers can we help the palm oil dilemma and strike a balance between animal habitats and human economic needs. In this new era of conservation awareness many companies have already switched from using palm oil to another kind of oil for their products and some companies have made a commitment to only buy sustainable palm oil. So as buyers in conservation organizations ask your vendors about palm oil in their products and find out where it comes from in the world. Together we can end rain forest degradation and animal extinction.

 ZAG Member Interview


Kim Miller

Retail Manager

St. Augustine Alligator Farm


Please describe your facility…acreage, annual attendance, major exhibits, most popular animals, etc.

 We are a Zoological Park set on a little under 8 acres of land.  We are the only one in the world housing all 23 species of Crocodilians.  One of which is our major exhibit, Maximo, a 15’ 3” saltwater crocodile.  He is housed in an underwater viewing tank so guest can get an up close a personal look at this magnificent animal.  Our reptile keepers perform various shows throughout the day including two live alligator feedings, our rainforest review showing featuring our lovely Macaws (who sing for guests), and live reptile shows.  We are located just 2 miles south of downtown St. Augustine so we are a must see for anyone visiting the area. 

 Please describe your merchandise operations…number of year-round shops, seasonal shops, square footage, seasonal carts, etc. 

 Our one gift shop is roughly 1800 square feet.  We stock anything from plush alligators, coffee mugs, and tee shirts, to hot sauce.  We do also have limited merchandise, such a batteries, rain ponchos, and bug spray available at our Photo hut.  We are in the process of updating our online store as well.  With just a few clicks the customer will be able to purchase much of our best selling merchandise on line. 

 List some of your best-selling merchandise items and categories.   Where possible, please include specifics like vendor name, color, etc.

 Some of our top sellers are alligator teeth in a bottle, small squeaky rubber alligators, and designer alligator tooth necklaces.  Our plush category is also a great seller.  Plush snakes from Wild Republic which come in many colors, many of which are true to an actual snake are a top seller.  Fancy Pals Pet carriers from Aurora, which is a purse with a plush animal inside is a close second.  And lastly, the hanging monkeys, which come in every color and species still sells strong.  We try to stock animals that are actually in our park.  We have plush gators, red ruffed lemurs, komodo dragons, and a variety of plush geared toward the exhibits. We also do a custom Maximo plush just for the Maximo lovers. 

 Are any items or categories trending downward in popularity?

Bottle Cap necklaces were a big hit for us in 2011 but seem to be losing their appeal.  Also the redneck wine glasses were selling like hotcakes when they were introduced last year and now seem to be slowing in sales. 

 What trends do you foresee in 2013?   

Nothing on the trend front yet, I will be attending three different gift shows starting next month.  It’s usually at these shows that I get the feel for what is hot and trending.  Attending these shows and seeing and hearing the buzz of what’s hot is a great way to get the foresight into what we need to stock in our shop. 

 Will there be any new shops, carts, or attractions in 2012? 

We won’t be adding any new shops but we are in talks of a store remodel early next year.  As far as new exhibits we are always changing and evolving.  Our zip line is our newest addition.  Guests pay to zip over live alligators in our alligator lagoon. 

 What trade shows do you go to?

 I will be attending The Gathering in Orlando.  And then IGES and the Smokey Mountain Gift shows in TN in November.  Next year I will be attending Surf Expo in Orlando as well.

 Anything you’d like to add?

 That staying on top of what the customer wants and pricing competitively even in an attraction is so important.  Attending the gift shows, visiting your area competitors and most importantly listening to the customer themselves, makes for a successful Shop.     

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