Gift Shop Renovation Increases Foot Traffic and Sales

We initially worked with the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher designing customized decals of their unique animals, which we printed locally on sustainable materials and then offered for sale in the Treasure Cove gift shop. After building wonderful working relationships and seeing our design work, when the time came to revitalize the gift shop, they looked to us to help them execute their creative vision. The new gift shop would need to reflect the beauty of the natural surrounds and coastal location, while also beckoning in visitors with bright color palettes and thematic visuals. Ultimately, making the gift shop an experience unto itself.

THE NEED: A brighter, more inviting gift shop to increase foot traffic and sales. THE GOAL: To visually update the Treasure Cove gift shop to reflect its natural and aquarium environment utilizing bright colors and thematic visuals that entice more visitors inside its doors.

“You orchestrated a beautiful centerpiece”

You orchestrated a beautiful centerpiece for the Treasure Cove Gift Shop by making the cash wrap unique to the Fort Fisher Aquarium. Your commitment and dedication to this project is so very much appreciated, it has truly been our pleasure to be partnered with you. I look forward to creating more magic with you both! – BARBRA BAYER, NC AQUARIUM SOCIETY

Opportunity & Challenge

As a cornerstone of the local community, the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher was already doing its part to promote conservation and educate their audiences on the value of North Carolina’s aquatic environments. But the gift shop itself did not continue the brand story or match the look of its natural environment or exhibits. With their team, we worked to make the gift shop a better representative of its location and tell an environmental story embodied in cash wraps, window  treatments, and other key graphic elements.

“Truly a team effort”

We greatly appreciate your help installing our beautiful ceiling shapes. This was truly a team effort; we all enjoyed you being a part of the team. As with Fort Fisher, it is with confidence I know you will take good care of whatever challenge you are given. We hope you can celebrate the reopening of our amazingly awesome gift shop with us! – GEORGIA MINNICH, NC AQUARIUMS AT PINE KNOLL SHORES

The Plan

At Fort Fisher, we used design and graphics to transform the gift shop space into an extension of the aquarium’s unique environment. Through a 4-sided cash register area and display cases to create an underwater scene, we crafted a seamless transition from the gallery to the gift shop. The bright water colored graphics make the cash wrap pop from afar, and its square shape and animals in the wrap design give the illusion of it being another exhibit space, eliciting curiosity and beckoning visitors to step inside its doors.

In the gift shop, we hung a series of printed fabric banners featuring photos from the aquarium photographer of popular animals. From the entrance to the back of the store, these banners added movement and hid pipes and electrical wires above.

Not only did we wrap the outside of the display cases, but we also encased the insides to maintain the continuous illusion of water. In the collaged graphics, we hid rays, shark’s teeth, shells, and shipwrecks to encourage visitors to explore each element by walking around the entirety of the store. We also made the inside of the merchandising cases appear as if visitors could see through the top of the water and into the bottom of the ocean so merchandise would stand out in a sea of color and texture.

To make the experience consistent even when the store was closed, we also wrapped the roll-up security gate in a simple water texture. The outside windows also feature wraps that hide the outside of the gift shop, thus keeping visitors engaged. We used recycled mural materials to wrap window display boxes and provide the retail team with additional décor pieces that could be reused.

Once complete, visitors not only enjoyed their gift shop experience more than ever before, but foot traffic increased and business was up up over 13% year-over-year after the renovation.


Our primary deliverables for the project were the creative visual solutions such as wraps, signage, interpretive graphics, and banners.

  • Design and installation of thematic water wrap around the outside of the cash register
  • Design and installation of thematic water wrap around the inside display cases
  • Designed external window treatments with location animal photos
  • Installation of fabric banners inside and outside of gift shop
  • Matching thematic water wrap for roll-up security gate housing
  • Designed and installed window display boxes

What we learned

Creating an inviting, and immersive environment shouldn’t stop with the exhibits themselves. Instead, the experience and stories should continue into the gift shops. We started from the outside of the gift shop with thematic visuals that tie the exhibit space to the shop, pulling visitors into the experience that also serves as a wayfinding tool. To accomplish this, we chose to make cash wrap seem to “glow” with bright blues and its square shape resembles that of a tank, giving the
impression of another exhibit in the retail area. Additionally, providing hidden animals into the wraps and murals has proved to really engage children. It provides entertainment for the employees and parents to interact with the children and allow them to explore and learn more about the aquarium. Making learning fun is something we strive for in any capacity, which truly brought this project to life.

Let’s support each other

We wholeheartedly believe in supporting the conservation of our oceans. You can help by donating time and money so that the NC Aquariums can continue to provide top notch education, protect our aquatic treasures and inspire future generations.

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