April 16, 2018
By Julie Steiner
MSA FORWARD in Washington DC marks my 9th MSA conference, and I’m looking forward to it more than any previous one. Why? Because, beyond my involvement in the process as a volunteer, and all of the great changes to our conference model that the association is proud to launch—putting all of that aside, I’m excited because of the support and information I gain by connecting with MSA members in person.
Retail is changing. Museums are changing. Our culture is changing, and with it, all the ways that we do business. With all of these changes, the best way to think about my business differently and adapt my business is to tap into the knowledge of peers in my industry. Collectively, we share ideas and experiences about what works, what doesn’t work, and what might work if we approach it differently. Museum peers are the single most valuable resource to me in professional development and ongoing education. I learn from each of you, and I rely on your knowledge to constantly reassess the way I do business.
As I look around at our changing industry, I see several consistent themes, and MSA FORWARD offers me tools to navigate each of them:
More and more, business today is collaborative. Corporations and non-profits alike are building partnerships to enhance their brands and bring nuance to their value proposition. MSA FORWARD gives me a chance to build relationships that inspire me to think about future collaborations.
Business is more globalized. The world is shrinking, and trends quickly become international. This year, MSA FORWARD offers opportunities to think about our business in a broader, more global context: MSA’s collaboration with international museums through Museum Store Sunday is a particular highlight, and the conference brings us together to think creatively about this year’s Museum Store Sunday around the world.
Business is innovative, and museums are flexing to become innovators. Museums are reaching for broader audiences, undertaking new community engagement and digital initiatives, and our retail stores are adapting to take advantage of these innovations. MSA FORWARD gives us a chance to hear directly from the people behind these innovations and to share stories, data, and real-life practical case studies we can use in our own innovations.
Consumer behavior is becoming more ethics-driven, as shoppers seek to use buying power as a way of demonstrating their values and beliefs. I often say that museum stores are uniquely positioned to capture this cultural trend, and MSA FORWARD gives us the platform to think differently about the ways that our stores support and reinforce and can capture these changing consumer needs. This event provides us with both a forum and an audience for open discussion about how our non-profit missions can best be supported, even advanced, in our retail stores.
In our MSA Strategic Plan, the leaders of this organization envisioned MSA FORWARD as a reorganized event that would inspire, delight, and connect our stakeholders. I believe it does exactly that, and I look forward to being inspired, delighted, and to connecting with each of you next week in Washington DC.
Julie Steiner is the Director of Retail Operations for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA and the 2017-18 President of the Museum Store Association Board of Directors.