A Museum Store World

April 10, 2017

By Stuart Hata

Can you imagine a world filled with gorgeous, unique and educational museum stores that are wildly successful, beloved and valued by our institutions and general public alike? A world where customers and fans flock to nonprofit retail enterprises, knowing that their patronage will support and ensure the world’s cultural patrimony for future generations?

Well, that vision is real and it exists in this very day and age – except, only all of us truly know that. How then, can we, as one of the world’s professional bodies of nonprofit retail experts, share and communicate to the planet the value and importance of our work, our institutions, and the unique products and experiences customers will encounter when they shop and support our museum stores?

Last month, I had the honor and privilege to represent the Museum Store Association and speak about our new strategic goal of advocacy for our profession at the annual ACE (Association for Cultural Enterprises) Convention and Trade Show in Edinburgh, Scotland. Similar to our annual MSA Retail Conference & Sildenafil Expo, ACE organizes an annual gathering of industry professionals who come together to connect, learn and do business.

Founded in 1978 in the United Kingdom, ACE’s mission is to promote commercial best practice in the cultural and heritage sector by providing training and networking opportunities, and facilitating the sharing of information and experience between its members. With its similar mission to MSA, the opportunity to learn more about our “sister” organization and attend their annual conference and meet “like-minded” international colleagues was an occasion I could not resist.

As their invited international speaker for this year’s conference, I decided to focus my presentation on MSA’s new strategic goal of advocacy for our industry and profession that emphasizes the value and importance of nonprofit retail to our institutions and the general public. As told to the audience, due to last year’s strategic planning process with input from you – MSA’s membership – we have realized that our industry needs an overall strategy to communicate and emphasize the vital work and value we provide to our institutions, our communities, and to business partners that we collaborate with and mutually support. The products we sell in our stores and the experiences we provide to our visitors are singular and unique to each of our institutions. This wealth of diversity and distinction is what sets our collective industry and stores apart from any other retail or, as the UK calls it, “trading” industry. We know we are important and matter to the world, but does the world know that? MSA thinks not.

So how do we tell the world about our industry and its importance?

Well to start, the MSA Board of Directors has decided to create an Advocacy Committee composed of industry leaders associated with nonprofit retail. We have identified leaders representing our cultural organizations, institutions, trade organizations, industry and businesses who have an invested stake in the success of museum stores and have demonstrated interest and support for our organization and members. We envision this committee to initially focus their work on a single initiative – what we call our “big audacious goal” that we hope will greatly increase awareness and patronage of museum stores worldwide. We anticipate the goal will generate front-line, grassroots support among our members and supporters, and we hope everyone will participate in communicating our initiative and message out to the general public. So what is this “big audacious goal?”

Well, it has to do with a Sunday – and no, it’s not our classic ice cream dessert covered with chocolate sauce with a cherry on top. We are talking about the creation of a singular shopping event, called “MUSEUM STORE SUNDAY,” that we envision will be the day for consumers and the general public to shop and support museum stores worldwide.

Positioned on the Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and sandwiched in between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, MUSEUM STORE SUNDAY is the ideal day to kickoff the important holiday shopping season and focus attention on museum stores as a “one-stop” shopping location where a customer can find something for everyone on their shopping list while supporting our institutions.

We expect the MSA Advocacy Committee to convene its first meeting in May to start planning work with the aggressive goal of launching the first MUSEUM STORE SUNDAY on November 26, 2017. We are actively seeking advocates, participants and sponsors to ensure a successful launch – to get involved, contact members of the MSA Board of Directors and/or the MSA Staff.

Another exciting advocacy initiative that is already in progress is the upcoming launch of MSA’s first publication geared to the trade and general public, “I HEART MUSEUMS”. Filled with guided activities inspired by the collections of 31 museums from across the United States, content for “I HEART MUSEUMS” was museum store-sourced from MSA institution members and published by vendor member Galison/Mudpuppy. With a portion of proceeds from purchases of the book directly supporting museums and the Museum Store Association, it is MSA’s anticipation that this publication will also provide increased awareness of our stores and institutions worldwide.

hata_headshot-msa-2016And, of course, in order for us advance and move our industry forward, we need to gather together as our UK colleagues did in Edinburgh. On behalf of the MSA Board of Directors and MSA Staff, we look forward to seeing you – our members and friends – at our recently rebranded annual conference and expo, MSA Forward 2017, happening in Pittsburgh, PA, from April 21 through 24. This is our opportunity to join together and collectively celebrate our industry and profession, and to start spreading the word about our hard work and successes, and the importance of our museum stores and vendors to the world.

See you in Pittsburgh and beyond!

Stuart Hata is the current MSA Board President and the Director of Retail Operations at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

1 reply
  1. Donna McNett says:

    Stuart what a wonderful article and I love the idea of a museum store shopping day, Museum Store Sunday. This was my second conference as a vendor/MSA member, over this last year I have met so many creative and inspiring people, buyers and vendors alike. DONA SCARVES’ mission has always been to create unique wearable art that is stylish yet depicts the mission and story of each individual museum. At the same time offering competitive pricing so that museum buyers can offer a totally unique custom item while making a nice profit margin, one that will benefit their institution. We like to think our cashmere scarves are not only elegant but educational as well .
    Thank you for your incredible and inspiring leadership! Donna/Dona Scarves

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