To Market, To Market, To Market We…RETURN!
By Meg Hauser, Visitor Services Manager at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, and MSA Board Secretary
A wave of excitement mixed with hesitation set in as I made my way through airport security towards the first flight I’d booked in over a year. Questions old and new began coursing through my mind: How would it feel flying again? Can I trust my fellow passengers? Can my shoes go in a bin with my laptop? Should I get a snack? As I boarded the plane, I found myself hyper-aware of, not only my own personal bubble, but that of my fellow travelers. As typical, each traveler seemed engaged in their own thoughts and itineraries, yet at the same time subtly cognizant of their surroundings just a bit more intently than usual. I noticed more travelers people-watching, taking time to not only be aware of one another out of concern for safety, but also to observe how people were behaving as a collective—testing the waters. As expected, the experience was different, but not necessarily in a negative way. Amenities reduced or altered to promote hygienic options, increased reminders for social distancing and hand sanitization in abundance. I even found myself offering my seat neighbors a squirt of hand sanitizer over the customary stick of chewing gum as we prepared for takeoff. It was surprisingly uneventful, which was reassuring as we touched down in the Peach State.
Walking through the doors of IMC Atlanta was a refreshing welcome, a return to the buying experience, a feeling of comfort. In true IMC fashion, a facilitated check-in process was designed to be streamlined and touch-free. In addition to providing additional digital resources, way-finding personnel were very accessible and visible to help buyers easily navigate the three buildings. In general, traffic at the July Market did seem to be less than the crowds I’m accustomed to navigating during a standard trade show. However, this lowered attendance did allow for buyers to easily social distance while shopping and spend more time in the showrooms and having deeper conversations with vendors. Use of walkways and escalators was highly encouraged, leaving elevators slightly more spacious on each trip—which is always appreciated! Numerous vendor friends shared that business was consistent and steadily increasing daily as the market event progressed. It was uplifting to overhear conversations between vendors and buyers expressing statements of empathy, patience, and even asking consent prior to touching or shaking hands. An overwhelming sense of patience and Southern hospitality were an underlying trait that seemed to extend between IMC staff, buyers, and vendors. Most of all, it was exciting to see familiar faces, catch up with one another, and discuss plans for future success and rejuvenation.
The Florida, South Atlantic, and Southwest Central Chapters hosted a week of networking and enriching activities. We started out the week with a reception at the High Museum of Art and a private viewing of the Calder-Picasso exhibition. MSA Members mingled over barbecue and cocktails, then explored the wonderful museum store displays and offerings crafted by Patricia Sampson and her talented team.
The next day of shopping continued with a trek to the tropical Trader Vic’s for snacks, cocktails, and roaring conversation. The whimsically nostalgic vibe of the tiki-themed restaurant was the perfect setting for old friends to catch up and new connections to be formed!
Bright and early the next morning our members gathered for breakfast before engaging in a riveting session of Round Table discussions. Members took a moment to compare each other’s recent struggles and successes, then workshop techniques and ideas for on-going regrowth. After that, we excitedly migrated to celebrate the opening of the new MSA Gallery Collection at IMC Atlanta with a ribbon-cutting! This new space highlights numerous MSA vendors together in a highly-trafficked, visible, and easy-to-find space! Additionally, our MSA vendor members all throughout the market center were proudly sporting the MSA logo within their booths, making it even easier to meet new MSA friends while shopping!
The day wasn’t over yet! Our friends at Channel Craft hosted a Champagne Cocktail Hour to celebrate the new MSA Gallery Collection, which also provided the perfect meet-up spot for everyone to gather and head to our next stop on our journey…the Atlanta Botanical Gardens! Entering this idyllic landscape was like entering a lush wonderland of flowers. Flourishing foliage and beautiful glass sculptures adorned every vantage point. We gathered for yet more conversation alongside cocktails, charcuterie, and hors d'oeuvres before setting off on three docent-led tours of the gardens. Closing out our evening and final activities with a visit through the Garden Gift Shop…NATURALLY!
It is easy to feel as if we may have become rusty, disconnected, and out of touch due to current events. A trip to market showed that our resilience perseveres and that we have the skills to bounce back stronger than ever. Throughout the course of the week, you could overhear sentiments of joy as folks were excited to meet, in-person again or for the very first time. Yet, in the same conversations they also expressed how much they’ve learned, how their technological skills have improved, and how that knowledge has affected both our businesses and lives. My greatest takeaway from this trip is that, above all, the greatest asset MSA has is the strength of our membership, our network dedicated to the advancement and success of nonprofit retail. It is within that strength that we can seek shelter and support from one another—to restore our energies and return stronger than before.
Though in-person buying may take time to return to full force, you can connect with your MSA Community by getting involved with your Chapter, via Shop Talk, or by shopping the MSA Marketplace!
Check out MSA’s Instagram and Facebook for more images of MSA at IMC Atlanta’s Summer Market and upcoming MSA happenings!
Meg Hauser is the Visitor Services Manager at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. Meg is a passionate member of MSA and is currently serving as the MSA National Board Secretary, MARCOM Co-Chair /Social Media Wrangler, NEXT! Committee member. Meg is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation and combines her background in profit retail, banking, art history, and museum interpretation to cultivate revenue-generating visitor-focused interactions. When not in a museum, Meg enjoys listening to local music, antique shopping, spontaneous adventures, and hiking with her chihuahua, Porter.