Ethics as an Everyday Practice

January 6, 2020

By Blue Anderson

The term “specialty store” is defined by as: A small retail outlet that focuses on selling a particular product range and associated items. Most specialty store business operators will maintain considerable depth in the type of product that they specialize in selling, usually at premium prices, in addition to providing higher service quality and expert guidance to shoppers.

The types of specialty stores can be broad: a small health food store, a high-end women’s boutique that offers couture clothing, a museum store, or a little bait-and-tackle shop are examples of such a store. Even though prices might be higher at these establishments, customers often prefer the expertise offered by small stores, which are often run by people who are passionate about the products they sell.

Moody’s Investors Service recently predicted the 2020 growth trends of the retail industry, and specialty retailers are poised “above the fold” at a 5.7% growth rate — above the 4.2% of online retailers and apparel and footwear retailers. That’s a nice place to be if you are a specialty store!

Of course, there are all kinds of new years’ predictions out there — decades of them, in fact — and there will be years more ahead. But at the core of a museum store — a true “specialty store” — are our MSA members, committed to carrying out our roles and responsibilities with the highest standards of professional and personal ethics. We assume the responsibility for providing professional leadership in our organizations, communities and the nonprofit retail industry. We are committed to maintaining standards of exemplary personal and professional conduct.

If these past few sentences sound familiar, they are; I pretty much lifted them from our MSA Code of Ethics. This exemplary code ensures we are indeed specialty stores, passionate about products and proud of our institutions and businesses. To these ends, we subscribe to the following standards:

  • We fulfill our professional responsibilities with honesty and integrity.
  • We stay informed of, and comply with, institutional policies, as well as all relevant local, state and national laws.
  • We support and recognize the need to preserve and protect our cultural and natural heritage.
  • We support and recognize socially responsible practices such as fair trade, environmental conservation, and the integrity of product components, function and safety.
  • We uphold the importance of quality sources, educational value and relatedness of all products sold in the retail operation.
  • We ensure that all reproductions and replicas of cultural and natural artifacts are clearly labeled as such.
  • We adhere to institutional policies regarding proper disposal of deaccessioned materials.
  • We treat all business affiliations with respect.
  • We do not conduct business with organizations or individuals with whom we have a conflict of interest.
  • We never use our position for personal gain.
  • We use MSA’s Knowledge Standards to educate and encourage high standards of professional competence and conduct.
  • We champion the retail operation as an important asset of the organization and a benefit to enhance the visitor’s experience.

These ethical signposts are meant to inform and mold our approach and behavior as we go about our jobs every day — not just when we review them at some point in the year. We also need to make sure that anyone we supervise understands that there is such a code — and that there are many compelling reasons for upholding it. It is part of what puts “special” in specialty stores!

Keeping these solid and proven Code of Ethics points in our vision each day is the true measure of our growth rate. If we can capture each of these points all year, we will, indeed, remain over the fold.


Blue Anderson is the director of visitor services for the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. Blue has been a member of MSA since 2000 and is a past president of the Pacific Northwest Chapter. She also is a member of the Board Governance Committee and MSA’s Education Advisory Group (EAG). Blue’s passion is education and her outstanding commitment to advancing educational programs and opportunities will help MSA achieve its strategic goals in the future.

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