‘Be A Patron’: How MSA Defined the ‘Why’ of MSS

October 16, 2017

By Paul Stewart-Stand

Born out of a three month process, our Museum Store Sunday (MSS) call to action is:  Be A Patron.

The brand identity introduced on September 26 is the visual expression of the Advocacy Committee’s work over the past months.  Five committees of volunteers, tasked with different facets of MSS, contributed innumerable ideas and notions.  As this process moved forward, MSS evolved from concept to an international event, an annual celebration, and an opportunity to energize our community. We wish to communicate “to the world” the value and importance of non-profit retail.

Sounds easy, no sweat!

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Mumbo Jumbo Or Retail Jargon? Translation Is Key

October 2, 2017

By Blue Anderson

Jargon is the fancy word for mumbo jumbo.

We all can get a wide variety of emails and web links that talk about the latest trends, or how to motivate your staff, or the MSA Blog you are reading right now.  Museum Hack is a professional museum consulting company that sends out weekly tricks of the museum trade, and the most recent one is “Keeping it simple:  Why jargon is holding your museum back.”  At the Pittsburgh MSA Conference, I had presented a session on “retail speak” that could hinder the communication and performance of staff, management, and museum board members that ties in with Museum Hack’s message.  Sometimes we assume people know what we are talking about, but they could have a completely different meaning to the non-retailer, or worse, no meaning at all.

In February, I overheard my store manager talking to another staff member after our buying trip to a regional gift show, and she said “now I really get what Blue means by Permanent show rooms.” I’ve been working with her for years, and she could only “kind of guess” what I meant by permanent and temporary showrooms?  I assumed she knew the jargon.

And I’m big on creating reports, but I am always surprised when someone with a business background has to ask “What’s TY LY?” – This year, last year – that’s what I’ve used for years, even before museum work.  Now, if I’m always surprised, could it be I’m speaking in retail jargon?

Jargon isn’t bad, not at all.  It can help us communicate quickly, especially if we are in the same business.  I interviewed a gal who had an impressive resume, she was the “grocery guru” and said she knew everything about the grocery business. I asked her how they selected what items go on their end caps, and she said “what’s an end cap?” I would expect that someone who knew everything about the grocery business would know what an end cap is – you know, the place you put the stuff you want to push for whatever reason.  And even though I don’t have end caps in my store, she didn’t get the job.

On the flip side, when we were interviewing for our Controller, we had a long-term Board member sitting on the panel, and she insisted that the new Controller be fluent in the “5 Column Accounting Method.”  When all of our stellar candidates failed to know what that was, we did some research and discovered that the “5 Column Accounting Method” was something our board member developed in-house about 30 years ago.  No one outside our museum knew what that reference meant.

If you take the time to translate your jargon to your staff, boss, or board member in a way they will understand your message, you stand a much improved chance of actually being heard.  Correctly.

Top Tips for Busting Museum Jargon – Courtesy of Museum Hack

  • If there’s a simpler word with the same meaning, use it.
  • Avoid acronyms and slang, unless it’s essential to the story.
  • A house style writing guide can make sure everyone’s writing is consistent and accurate.
  • Get a non-expert to read things over.
  • Fewer words is often better.
  • If you can’t avoid using an obscure word, make sure you define it first.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. This will encourage others to do the same.
  • Show your colleagues this article!

Keeping Up with new Trends in Retail Jargonanderson_headshot

50 Terms Every Modern Retailer Should Know

Drop me a line to share your most hilarious, horrific, or finest breakthrough in translating what you mean to say into something others want to hear.

Blue Anderson is the Manager of Visitor Services at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon, and the Secretary of the Museum Store Association Board of Directors 2016 – 2018.



What Is A Museum Store?

September 25, 2017

By Julie Steiner 

One of the admonishments I heard when I was new to this field was that I should not refer to museum store products as “souvenirs.” Souvenirs, it was said, evoke cheap and poorly-made things, rather than the quality merchandise of world-class institutions. But there’s another way of thinking about that word, and that is as souvenir — simply the French word for “memory.” What better compliment to a product could there be, than to have it contain a person’s memories? Elizabeth Merritt, the head of the AAM’s “Center for the Future of Museums” pointed out at an MSA conference a few years ago that the human mind simply can’t store all the memories that we gather in our lives. And that’s the true purpose of museum store products: good products done right become externalized memory, souvenirs that hold our memories and recall our experiences.

One thing I know for sure (and that my work in museums reinforces every day) is that museum stores are an invaluable part of the experience and that retail products serve an important purpose and wield an incredible power: they carry our collections and exhibits out into the world beyond the walls of our institutions. Once the exhibits have traveled on, the educational programs are completed, and in those hours when even the galleries of our permanent collections are hushed and dark, visitors continue to savor their experiences at our institutions through the objects they purchased (or were given as gifts) from our stores.

Above all, a museum store is the place where guests select a suitable container to hold their memories of the day.

I believe souvenirs are a compliment: we only buy objects to hold those memories we most wish to reinforce. We buy to hold on to positive experiences. Shopping at an institution is a conscious effort on the part of the visitor to turn that specific positive experience into a long-term memory. Gifts for others selected at museum stores carry an additional purpose: they are physical evidence of having thought of a person while in that institution. It’s so much more than an object handed on: a museum store gift reflects a deep human need to share a meaningful experience with another person.

Creating and selecting the right products to represent our institutions and imprint the visitor experience in the mind of the visitor is our imperative. The visitor needs to connect their delight and wonder — their cherished day with family and friends – to the items we offer them. It means that quality of experience must match quality of product: no other memory will work. Our primary job as non-profit retailers is to provide the extension of that experience and help to carry that memory into the homes and lsteiner-julie-headshot-smives of our audiences.

Often, when I give tours of the museum store where I work, I gesture with a flourish and proclaim “This is where the magic happens!” I am half mocking, but behind the joke lies seriousness, because I do think that there’s great “magic” to wrapping up the intense experience of a museum visit in a concrete memento, and the magic that happens when a guest finds the perfect thing to carry out, just the right object for them that will connect their long-term memory back to this experience: this day that they have had in this museum, and this specific object that will help them maintain the emotions, thoughts, and connections created during their visit. Museum stores are where the magic of connection and memory happens.

Julie Steiner is the Director of Retail Operations for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA and the President of the Museum Store Association Board of Directors.


When It Comes To MAP Pricing You Snooze You LOSE

September 18, 2017

By Mike Lovett

As a museum store operator, or as a merchandise maker or distributor, you know that the ease of online shopping is a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s convenient — but for business owners and operators, the underbelly of counterfeited products, price discrepancies, and showrooming can quickly replace the thrill of finding a sale with the disappointment of losing one. The main culprits are usually on Amazon or eBay, selling the same product that you are for less.

These retail giants hijack MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) pricing, leaving you with inventory that’s difficult to move because you’re selling at the actual price. Your overhead costs don’t allow cutting margins to compete. And if sales continue to decline, you’re less inclined to take buying risks that might differentiate you and pay off down the road.

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PRO-File: Institutional Member

September 11, 2017

Name: Patricia Sampson: A Volunteer with Passion  — who believes in Fate

Job Title: Manager of Retail Shop and Visual Merchandising

Institution: High Museum of Art

Location: Atlanta, GA

Interviewed by: Laura Murphy, Preservation Society of Newport County

What path brought you to your job?

I grew up in Harlem, NY. There I would escape to the Museum of the City of New York located on 5th Avenue.   Admission was free then, and I often found myself walking around there.  I was in awe of what I could learn about my city!  I majored in Fashion Merchandising at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. My degree brought me to Atlanta, GA  where  I found a job in the for-profit world in Birmingham with an independent retailer, Parisian.  At Parisian I began my buying career by purchasing swimwear, intimate apparel, ladies clothing lines, and menswear.  When Parisian was purchased by Sachs, I found myself out of a job.  My goal was to leave Birmingham and head back to Atlanta where I had family.  I applied at the High Museum, but did not hear back and pretty much forgot about it.  In the meantime, Sachs offered me a position, but I would have to remain in Birmingham.  That day I made the decision to decline the position.  Later that same day the High called and offered me the job!  This was the beginning of my belief in FATE…

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PRO-File – MSA Vendor Member

August 28, 2017

This week, the MSA blog debuts our new feature: MSA PRO-Files

With over 1,300 members of MSA – there are just as many interesting stories. We plan to regularly focus on getting to know our MSA “neighbors” by sharing their stories through PRO-Files of their lives, careers, businesses, and amazing career paths. We know that all of our Members value the networking part of MSA – it is one of the three pillars of our mission:  Learn, Do Business, Connect! We hope that PRO-Files will be just another way to learn about (and from) the extraordinary individuals that make up the MSA community! Please enjoy our first PRO-File of MSA Vendor Member, Michael Epstein.

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New Shoptalk Group: Buyer – Vendor Friendly Forum

August 14, 2017

By Kristen Daniels

I like to think of a successful sales transaction as a win, win, win, win situation. The first winner is the producer, the second is the wholesaler (who is sometimes also the producer), the third is the retail store, and the final winner is the store visitor, who purchases the product.  When everybody wins, everybody’s happy!

Because of our commitment to museum visitors and each other, MSA vendor and buyer members are in a unique position to help one another rack up wins.  Even though working well together takes time, effort, and communication, I was pleased by the willingness of so many members of this community to send in their questions, comments and advice when David Graveen (Popcorn Custom Products) and I asked for suggested topics we could cover in our MSA conference session in Pittsburgh on buyers and vendors working well together. It is clear that we all want to talk to each other and find ways to work together in a way that will help the wins become easier and more plentiful.

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Let’s Talk Product Development

August 7, 2017

By Michael Guajardo

Product development is soo easy! Right? Wrong. It is hard work! With the stakes so high, the goal is always to create a successful product. When I first got started, I had good intentions and a good amount of retail experience, but I had never created a product from start to finish. Fortunately, I’ve had my share of faux pas (doesn’t mistake sound great in French!) which have been great learning experiences. They would also make a great blog for another time (#PDfails.) So, let’s talk about product development.

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Taking it to the Cloud

July 31, 2017

By Bradley Platz

Attending the 2017 MSA conference in Pittsburgh was a genuinely rewarding experience for me. I found it so valuable to connect with other retailers, and to share strategies, while making important professional connections. Being recognized by MSA for Best Store Web Presence this year is an incredible honor and I wanted to share some insights from my experience with other members.

I love eCommerce. Learning how to effectively sell online has opened so many doors for me both in the museum community, as an artist, and as an independent business owner in San Francisco. In addition to my work at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, my wife and I run a commercial art gallery in the the city. We have been selling original artwork online since we opened our doors in 2010. The explosive growth of eCommerce in the last decade has led to all types of businesses re-evaluating their online strategies, and commercial art galleries, like Museum Stores, have had to adapt in order to survive. Selling art online is a lot like selling anything online. I believe quality pictures and good design speak more than words, and interesting and engaging content will always drive sales. My goal is to make buying art online easy, fun, and to create a personalized experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

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MSA Market Tips for Buyers – New and Seasoned!

July 24, 2017

By Sarah Jones

Maximize your productivity (and your Return on Investment!) when shopping a tradeshow

Tradeshows are a significant commitment of time and resources: days away from your store, staff to cover for you in your absence, and the expense of traveling. So how does a buyer ensure a productive and prosperous buying trip that guarantees returns to a non-profit’s bottom line?

Here are helpful best practices if you are new to buying or shopping a tradeshow for the first time. These tips will also be useful for experienced buyers, as reminders how to best maximize your tradeshow experience. The following detailed advice comes from longtime MSA professionals:

  • Susan Tudor, manager of visitor services and store buyer at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville, FL
  • Christa Dyer, director of guest services and retail operations at The DoSeum – San Antonio’s Museum for Kids, in San Antonio, TX
  • Renata Tatman, lead buyer/product developer at the Seattle Art Museum’s SAM Shop in Seattle, WA
  • Karen McNeely, director of retail operations at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI
  • Melody Cabán-Naidoo, museum store manager/buyer at Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Ft. Worth, TX

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