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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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Ants and Elephants

Photo credit: Exit Through The Gift Shop: A Banksy Film

July 17, 2017

By Blue Anderson

When I was in “regular” retail, I had a boss who liked to divide problems into two groups: ant issues, which are those annoying little everyday things, and elephants – big, thunderous issues that can cause havoc if left to run amok. He said he only wanted to be given elephants, and the managers were there to handle the ants. I remember asking him – what do you do when there are so many ants that they become elephants? He said that was impossible, as they were two different creatures.

As leaders in our institutions, it is natural that we want to be given the elephants, especially the well-trained beasts that challenge our creative side. Those big projects that can be sexy, daring, even exhausting, but we love to birth those babies and watch them grow.

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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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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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Building a Retail Team of Complementary Thinkers

January 23, 2017

By Susan DeLand

The customer’s experience is paramount in museum retail, which means putting together a team of employees that can ensure a positive outcome. There are many aspects to consider when forming a team—and one of them is the individual’s style of thinking.

So, how should strategic thinking play into your museum store’s team?

The strategic thinking mindset is a way of looking at your business for the long term. It’s getting your brain out of the weeds. Moving your business forward is both analytical and creative, and involves systems thinking, focusing on the big picture and identifying leverage.

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2017 Planning: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

December 19, 2016

By Cathy Nagle-Ervin

This time of year always brings about reflections on the year that is just about to come to an end. (As I am writing this blog post, I actually am humming “Auld Lang Syne” in the back of my head!) Our company’s fiscal year has come to a close, inventory counts have been finalized and all the performance reviews have been completed. It seems like the perfect time to review 2016.

If you asked me in February my plan for 2016, I can tell you that my answer then was quite different than my answer was in August. My plan has taken many unexpected turns in the road this year—a few anticipated, but the majority not.

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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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Challenges and Surprising KPIs of a Museum Store Operation in Laos

November 14, 2016

By Phil Zuckerman

One of MSA’s newest members is Alai Sayawed, the Store Manager at Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (TAEC) in Luang Prabang, Laos. Last week, while I was in Laos, I had the privilege of visiting the museum, and spending some time with Alai and the museum staff to learn about the operational challenges and successes of having a museum and museum store in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Laos is in Southeast Asia. It is landlocked by Myanmar and China to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. This has isolated Laos and made importing and exporting very expensive.

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