Five months after joining DZG as Retail Manager, Isobel Blackwell, has put her stamp on our new-look Safari Gift Shop.
With 80 per cent of zoo visitors buying a souvenir of their visit from the shop, the recently-restored Tecton building is now packed with colourful, cuddly animals of all shapes and sizes, toys, confectionery, stationery, balloons, badges and magnets.
Isobel, who joined us from Birmingham Botanical Gardens in April, just days before the opening of the new shop, said: “It’s been a very busy few months, but great fun to get stuck into. I’ve had to learn a lot about the zoo very quickly, as I admit I wasn’t a regular visitor and I didn’t know a lot about animals before I arrived, so I’ve made sure I know what species we’ve got here and what are the most popular.
“But it’s every Retail Manager’s dream to work in a brand new shop; a blank canvas to plan and fill with great stock.”
And Isobel, of Wolverhampton, has plenty of expertise; after leaving school at 18, she started work at department store, Beatties, where she remained for 16 years, working her way up from the shop floor into the buying office for ladies underwear.
After being made redundant, Isobel relocated to the Botanical Gardens, before moving to DZG to head our retail team.
Isobel added: “Ladies underwear and a zoo are complete opposites but actually the buying process is quite similar.
“I go to trade shows around the country to search out new stock and I order products from suppliers I already had contact with, although I’ve discovered suppliers seem very supportive towards the zoo.”
One of the first jobs Isobel decided on was to bring in more DZG branded items and review the soft toy stock.
She added: “I discovered soft toys have always been a great seller for DZG, but I wanted toys that looked more realistic and were representative of the animal collection we have on site. What we need to sell should represent the animals visitors have just seen during their day out.
“And I also knew I wanted to bring in more zoo specific items as visitors want to take away something as a memento of their day out at DZG.
“I ordered stationery, magnets, badges, keyrings and confectionery with the zoo logo and I’m also bringing in DZG branded soft toys, jute bags, baby items and adult t-shirts as well as DZG Christmas cards.”
As well as running the shop, Isobel also oversees all customer service aspects of the zoo, heading a team who welcome visitors at the entrance to operating the chairlift and face painting duties.
Isobel added: “It’s certainly not a one-dimensional role and no two days are ever the same, which is great.
“But I didn’t realise how passionate people who worked here are about DZG. It’s refreshing to see in a business and fantastic to be involved.”
DZG CEO Peter Suddock, said: “Isobel has made a great start to the role and has brought many values to the business.
“She has a wide expertise in the retail business and has turned an empty shop into one of the best retail experiences you’ll find within a zoo.”