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Museum Shop Sunday – Success Across the Pond

December 18, 2017

By Joanne Whitworth

Here at the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE), we were delighted to work with the MSA and Museum Shops Association of Australia & New Zealand (MSAANZ) to help make the very first Museum Store Sunday (or Museum Shop Sunday as it’s known to us Brits!) a truly global event. We’re even more pleased to tell you that it was a huge success over here, not just in the UK but elsewhere in Europe too. Over 125 cultural venues in the UK, Ireland and even Hungary put on special events and promotions on the day, attracting new customers to enjoy shopping for unique and special Christmas gifts in the relaxing and inspiring surroundings of their local museum or gallery.

Our hashtag #museumshopsunday was trending on Twitter all day (alongside such events as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!) and there was some fantastic press coverage in high profile titles such as Metro, a free paper distributed nationwide, and The Londonist, an online title which has over 1.3m followers on Twitter, so it was fantastic to see Museum Shop Sunday featured in their ‘Top Things to Do This Week’ column.

Many venues saw a significant uplift in sales and footfall as a result of Museum Shop Sunday. Paul Griffiths, Head of Operations at the Mary Rose Museum, couldn’t have been happier with how the day went – “Our spend per visitor was up 81% on the average Sunday for the last two months, which is truly amazing. The retail team loved taking part as well!” At Yorkshire Museum sales were up by an incredible 185% and at Castle Museum, York, by 74%. Ginny Leadley, Buying & Merchandising Manager at York Museums Trust, said the numbers were amazing, adding, “This was the first weekend of Christmas activities so visitor numbers were high, however retail sales increased by significantly more.”

Museum Shop Sunday was a great opportunity to engage with new customers, and it was particularly pleasing to see the impact on smaller venues, many of whom seized the opportunity to draw in new visitors. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter gave away festive nibbles and offered a discount, resulting in a 30% increase in footfall and 38% increase in sales versus the same day last year. The Freud Museum in north London gave out free Freud cookies, which captured the imagination of the local press and public alike. Local paper Ham & High ran a feature, and the museum welcomed 55% more visitors than the same day last year. Shop Manager Iveta Rozlapa told us, “Museum Shop Sunday really helped us to connect with our local audience and spread the word about our gift shop. We had lots of smiles from visitors on the day!”

Museum Shop Sunday saw all sorts of events and activities, as well as tasty treats, festive fun and giveaways! Events included craft fairs, book signings, product launches and kids’ activities. The RAF Museum gave away their iconic pilot teddy bear with purchases over £30, while other venues treated their customers to mulled wine and mince pies. The Hungarian National Gallery Museum shop ran craft workshops in which customers were invited to create their own gifts relating to the museum’s collection. There was dinosaur story telling at the Natural History Museum, soap making at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and glass blowing at Ulster Museum. Catherine McGoldrick, Retail Manager at National Museums Northern Ireland, said it had been a really positive experience – “It was well worth doing and gives us something to build on for next year. All the visitors enjoyed the activities and learned a bit more about our makers.”

Browse our Photo Gallery to see some of the fun Museum Shop Sunday events from around the UK – from Freudian cookies to dinosaur story telling!

As you can tell, the enthusiasm for Museum Shop Sunday has been phenomenal, and our members are already thinking oheadshot_jo-whitworth-2f ways to make next year’s event on Sunday 25 November 2018 even bigger and better! It’s been a fantastic global collaboration and we are all looking forward to continuing to work together to introduce even more new customers to the amazing and unique world of cultural retail.

Joanne Whitworth is the Communications & Media Manager for the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE). Promoting excellence in cultural trading is at the heart of the business of ACE. ACE is an association of Members and Associate members who are passionate about their work in the cultural and heritage sector. Follow ACE on Twitter @acenterprises

 

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Museum Store Sunday: A Message from the MSA Board of Directors

December 11, 2017

By Ione Saroyan and the 2017-18 MSA Board of Directors

Museum Store Sunday. It is a reality. We did it – we all did it. I’m just going to put that right there and invite you all to bask in it for a moment. We announced it in late April at the MSA Forward 2017 in Pittsburgh. And in less than seven months, it launched in a spectacular way. This bright, creative, diligent, resourceful community of Museum Store Association members and partners succeeded in launching a global initiative. We succeeded in putting a spotlight on Museum Stores right smack in the middle of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Congratulations to all of us!

For me, Museum Store Sunday (MSS) existed on multiple plains. First and foremost, as one of the pillars of MSA’s strategic plan: advocacy. “To communicate to the world the value and importance of non-profit retail with its curated products and unique experiences.” Within my own institution, this was a struggle at times. For example, I had to persuade my museum’s brand guardians to allow my promotions to go forward without changing the color of the MSS brand. Second, as a volunteer on the MSS Outreach Committee – I wrote letters and made phone calls, and experienced the thrill of the success of my efforts each time the MSS store locator was updated. Finally, as a museum store retailer, I offered special discounts to museum members and the general public, a free gift with purchase, and raffled off prizes including a museum membership. I am delighted to say that we had a fantastic day, with a 212% increase over the previous Sunday, and a 334% increase over the Sunday of the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend. And it was so exciting to read and watch the great press that came in from all over!

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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.

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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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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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