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Facing the Strange

June 19, 2017

By Katie Burke

Pomegranate will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. This is a little bit mind-blowing, even for those of us who have been in it for the long haul. On reflection, I’ve been pondering this question: how do we all maintain energy for our jobs without burning out or feeling like we’re continually pushing a Jeff Koons sculpture up a never-ending hill, a la Sisyphus and his rock? Even ardent passion for our profession can wear down against political, social, and economic issues, from within our own institutions to our local communities to the world at large.

The word that comes to mind is adaptability. Sticking to the tried and true can work beautifully—don’t fix it if it ain’t broke—but it can also become a rut. Change—in procedures, in vehicles of communication, in presentation, in content—can keep us engaged and nimble.

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From Icon to Impact: Merchandise Sends a Message

June 12, 2017

By Maria Kwong

Being recognized by MSA for product development this year is indeed a great honor and I wanted to share our process with other members hoping to achieve future recognition. MSA not only provided me with access to tools and vendors that fit my very modest product development budget, it provided me with an environment where I could learn from my peers.

Being the director of a museum store with our particular mission statement–to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience—has always made product development…well, challenging. Contrary to what many vendors and buyers imagine, Japanese products are not what makes up our store. We are a museum that explores the Japanese American culture, history and community; past, present and future. In fact, during the early days of the museum store, the rule was not to buy any products that were perceived as “too Japanese”. This rule served two purposes: first, it put the emphasis on the hybrid culture of Japanese Americans; and secondly, since the museum was conceived as a community-supported organization in a historically ethnic area of Los Angeles, the museum did not want to appear to be an economic threat or competitor to the merchants and businesses in Little Tokyo.

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Seeking Your Unique Content for MSA Blogs!

June 5, 2017

By The MSA Membership Committee

MSA is always seeking relevant content for our weekly blog, and we hope you are interested in sharing your skills and experiences with the MSA community. All of the members of our community are trained professionals and experts in the field – and have interesting, personal, and relevant material to share with their peers. One of the defining characteristics of our Association is their unflagging willingness to assist each other — and a blog post offering info, suggestions, and practical steps is a way to spread that word across our community!

We also revamped the MSA blog to include a photo of the MSA blogger’s business and an image of the author to personalize the post. I hope you will all consider this as a way to shine at your own institutions and businesses; publishing your expertise in a blog for your association of 1,400+ members shows the knowledge and willingness to contribute that makes you an industry leader.

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3…2…1…Museum Store Sunday Launch!

May 22, 2017

by Susan Tudor

MSA believes the time is right to amplify the sharing of why museum stores matter. If you were in Pittsburgh for MSA Forward 2017 or read Executive Director, Jason Harbonic’s email announcement, you have heard about MUSEUM STORE SUNDAY (MSS). But are you still wondering what it is all about? I am super excited to share the latest information about this ongoing initiative launching November 26, 2017.

 MSS Background: Every year, consumers are encouraged to participate in shopping campaigns for Black Friday, (11/24/17), Shop Small Saturday (11/25/17), Cyber Monday (11/27/17) and Giving Tuesday (11/28/17). Consumers plan their holiday purchases to coordinate with these days, and participating retailers see a resulting patterned spike in sales. The Museum Store Association has developed a similar shopping campaign, sandwiched in the middle of these events called MUSEUM STORE SUNDAY.  MSA’s launch of the first Museum Store Sunday is scheduled for November 26, 2017 and will span this country and abroad. MSS participation is available to all nonprofit retailers whether MSA members or non-members. MSA members will receive special marketing information, event and publicity assistance. If you’re not an MSA member, join MSA today to take advantage of these members-only opportunities.

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What I Learned – and Remembered – in Pittsburgh ….

May 15, 2017

By David Duddy

When I imagined writing a blog post about Pittsburgh, I thought of all the great take-aways: from session topics and presentations, from side conversations and cocktail chat, from panel discussions and sharing groups.

At my museum, we are migrating our store web page to Shopify – a session targeting that was incredibly informative. I learned about the necessity for real leadership from the keynote speech with Mike Tougias. I led a discussion group and learned TONS (and made a useful connection —  and a pal!) about training guards as a part of the education program. I realized that we needed to start pre-selling admission tickets online (duh!) to speed things up at the front desk. I learned that I am WAY behind the curve when it comes to the whole world of Amazon – and I better get up to speed! The closing keynote with Louis Roden was a revved-up reminder of the vital need for VITALITY (see what I did there?) in performing the best customer service each day.

And don’t get me started about the potential for 4 new product development projects and the three new vendors I bought from. It is amazing the value that I experience at every conference – and I have been attending almost yearly since 1995.

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How Effective Is Your Store’s Customer Service?

May 8, 2017

At MSA Forward 2017, we were surrounded by colleagues and connections so willing to offer insight, guidance and open minds. Some of those individuals sat next to us during the educational sessions and some led the discussion from the podium.

To close out MSA’s 62nd annual Retail Conference & Expo, we welcomed Louis Roden, founder and lead facilitator of Inspire Consulting Group, to the stage during the Closing Keynote Session, sponsored by Popcorn Custom Products. His presentation, “Creating Customer Loyalty for Life!” resonated immediately with MSA Forward 2017 attendees, who walked out of the ballroom buzzing with excitement and inspiration, and striking up conversations with fellow attendees to discuss immediate actions they could implement upon their return to their institutions.

In case you were unable to join us in Pittsburgh, had to catch an early flight or would simply like a refresher on the great material Roden shared, here’s a snapshot of his dynamic insight.

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Rewarding (and Awarding) the Spirit of MSA

May 1, 2017

Last week, hundreds of MSA members—museum store professionals and vendors alike—had the opportunity to come together to learn, buy, sell, network and explore at MSA Forward 2017, the 62nd annual Retail Conference & Expo.

We were able to catch up with old friends, grab lunch with new connections and discover products that are destined to be top-sellers in our stores. (Many of us even went for a River Cruise or took home a gift or two for ourselves from the Silent Auction.)

The MSA community is a vibrant one—an endless well of ideas and source of support. Chief among the words used to describe MSA members are “creative” and “passionate.”

At MSA Forward 2017, we were able to recognize several of the leaders within the community for that very creativity, passion, hard work and dedication that makes the MSA community so special.

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Image Courtesy of VisitPittsburgh

Preparing for Pittsburgh: What to Know Before You Go

April 17, 2017

By Allison Ebner

MSA Forward 2017 is just 4 days away! It’s high time to start packing your bags, taking stock of what you’ll be looking for on the Expo floor and planning out your schedule for the entire Conference & Expo. (Make sure to leave some time to explore our host city of Pittsburgh, too—it recently was highlighted in The New York Times as a city now thriving on culture.)

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A Museum Store World

April 10, 2017

By Stuart Hata

Can you imagine a world filled with gorgeous, unique and educational museum stores that are wildly successful, beloved and valued by our institutions and general public alike? A world where customers and fans flock to nonprofit retail enterprises, knowing that their patronage will support and ensure the world’s cultural patrimony for future generations?

Well, that vision is real and it exists in this very day and age – except, only all of us truly know that. How then, can we, as one of the world’s professional bodies of nonprofit retail experts, share and communicate to the planet the value and importance of our work, our institutions, and the unique products and experiences customers will encounter when they shop and support our museum stores?

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Art Supplies? Yes!

April 3, 2017

By Nancy Sanders

Selling art supplies might be a given for fine art museum shops, but all sorts of museum shops should consider adding this product category to their sales plan assortments. People of all ages can use some extra creativity in their lives, and activities that encourage drawing, painting and photography can fill an important need.

When I first started buying for the Gallery Shops’ children’s department in 2002, our store didn’t have a huge number of SKUs or art supply vendors. Our products could be found in mainstream stores, and we struggled to compete on retail pricing. In addition, I was pretty particular about what quality I expected. Children need good-quality supplies; otherwise, their frustration when markers lose ink too quickly or when pencil points break at the slightest pressure might be discouraging. And what about all of the young adults and adults who came into our galleries and left feeling inspired to create art—what did we offer them in the way of art supplies beyond student-grade media?

These were areas I addressed when I evaluated my options for business growth, and over the years, the category of art supplies has increased from 20 percent to 50 percent of our department’s overall sales. Here are some of my recommendations for how you can achieve similar growth.

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