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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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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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Creating the Consignment Connection

June 26, 2017

By Pam Pesetti

Consigning items in your Museum Store can be a wonderful way to support local talent, and a beneficial revenue booster if done with intent and honesty. The key is clear guidelines, contracts, and communication. Once your criteria are in place, you will be more confident in communicating with artists and finding items that will add to your bottom line.

Determine how much of your sales should be devoted to consignment. I revamped consignment when I started my position two years ago to create a more balanced sales floor. I let some artists go that were slow movers and brought in others who had a stronger connection to our exhibits or permanent collection. The outcome has been a more profitable store. The following are a few tips to navigate the consignment process.

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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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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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Expand Your Merchandise Planning Horizons

March 13, 2017

By Laura Murphy

For about 25 years, I have been buying merchandise for the Newport Mansions stores. But when Cynthia O’Malley, our Director of Retail, brought me to Ambiente in Frankfurt eight years ago, my buying experience was changed forever. Suddenly, I could buy direct from manufactures, design our own product and negotiate terms. Each time we travel abroad, it is a learning experience. Let me share what we have learned through the years, as seen through our most recent buying trip to Germany.

It is February, and Cynthia and I are off to Ambiente in Frankfurt.

Ambiente is a massive gift show that consists of 10 buildings and products ranging from housewares to gifts to jewelry. Manufacturers and companies wholesaling at this show are from all over Europe, as well as China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Egypt, Peru, Turkey and many more. It is truly an international experience (though everyone does understand the English language, thank goodness!).

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Stamina and Good Shoes: Tips for Attending Las Vegas Market

March 6, 2017

By Eleanor Harper-Dutt

“How many?”

“Um, four of that one. And this one too—four, please.”

“OK, what else?”

“Uh, this one here. Can we do six of these?”

I had a scalloped brass necklace clutched in my hand while I scanned over the rest of the jewelry on the display table. I thought back to the slat wall in our store where we display the jewelry line, and minutely contemplated which pieces would best accompany our current selection.

“OK, I think three of these, and then we are done with this line. Did we want anything else?”

I shot a glance over to my colleague and manager Jennifer, and with her nod of approval, we moved on to a selection of sculptural brass candleholders.

Attending the Las Vegas Market for the first time was an experience unlike any other, and truly a lesson in stamina and the necessity of a keen and quickly discerning eye.

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The Four Rs of Retailing (Yes, Four!)

December 12, 2016

By Susan Tudor

Every time we go to the grocery store or a restaurant or shop online, we are making financial and strategic decisions regarding our personal lives: Is this item really what I was looking for? Is this the right time to make this purchase or should I wait? Can I afford this? Is it the right price, or can I find this same item somewhere else for less?

These buying decisions in our personal lives are similar to the financial and strategic decisions we make as retail merchants in our institutions.

I have heard it said that the key to retail success comes down to three Rs: carrying the right merchandise at the right time and at the right price. This statement is simple but challenging. It is intuitive yet calculated. And it can serve as a great reminder of how simple strategy can help make or break our stores’ bottom lines.

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How to Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

December 5, 2016

By Dan Ayers-Price

Shopability—I don’t even think it is a real word. Webster’s doesn’t know what to make of it. But, I dare say that we, as MSA retailers, fully understand what shopability is and the importance it plays in our lives (even if it is a made-up word).

The term “shopability” has been around a long time, and numerous articles have tried to define it. One of the best was authored by Dr. Raymond Burke, where he defined 10 principles of retail shopability. His top four priorities—showing the product, providing visual aids, simplifying presentation and minimizing clutter—all resonated with me for my own stores.

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Lessons Learned from a Museum Shop Refitting

November 28, 2016

By Paul Griffiths

Those of you who were at the MSA 2015 conference in Hartford, CT, and were lovely enough to attend my session, entitled, “A Museum Shop Fit for a King,” may remember me discussing various issues we had with our new shop at the Mary Rose Museum in England. Well, I am delighted to say, in 2016, we have managed to redo, remodel and resolve many of these issues.

For those of you who weren’t there, let’s recap.

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