The Museum Store Association is leveraging its trusted relationship within the nonprofit retail industry to gather industry experts to lead a variety of unique sessions designed to educate attendees on the best practices and most innovative new ideas for store promotions, marketing, sales, and more! These sessions will be led by the most forward-thinking leaders in the nonprofit retail industry, and will follow the MSA Knowledge Standards that highlight the core knowledge, skills and abilities needed to excel at the daily responsibilities of a nonprofit retail professional.

Take a look at these breakout sessions and see how they will help you improve your store or business. Sessions and speakers are continuously being added to this page as they are confirmed, so check back periodically for the most up-to-date list of speakers.

45 Terrific Retail Tips

A 45-minute presentation with one minute tips on all aspects of retail operations.


  • Cathy Nagle-Ervin, Regional Manager, Great Lakes, Eastern National

Objective: Learn rapid-fire one-minute tips and immediately start using them to improve your stores.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Communications, Customer Relations, Financial Management, Merchandise Planning, Operations

Advanced Financial Assessment II: Using the MSA Retail Industry Report to Advocate for Your Store and Your Career

This session is a follow-up to 2018’s ‘Advanced Financial Assessment’ now that MSA’s 2019 Retail Industry Report has been released to the public.  Learn how to utilize this valuable tool to benchmark your store, ask for a raise, set goals, and improve your standing in your organization. 


  • Julie Steiner, Director of Retail Operations, The Barnes Foundation

Objective: Empowerment to use the industry report to your advantage and advance your career

MSA Knowledge Standards: Financial Management, Human Resources, Strategic Management

Creating an Experience for Your Customer

Buying is typically a matter of walking through a store, looking at merchandise and, if all goes well, buying something. But entering a museum gift store should be as engaging and, even, riveting, as the exhibits. Even more, it will drive them to the website and other follow-on purchases. To achieve this entails low-to-no cost strategies outlined in the session from telling product stories to creating a visceral, hands-on display. These ideas are based on research indicating why people buy, what input triggers specific responses and more… All while upholding the professionalism of a museum environment.


  • Susan Benjamin, Founder of True Treats Historic Candy, Former Communications Strategist, Author of 10 Books

Objective: The attendee will learn to take concrete steps for reaching customers in new and exciting ways on emotional, visceral, and intellectual levels; to think creatively when establishing a “feeling” in the gift shop; and to utilize the most recent communications findings so every interaction with shopkeepers even momentary inspires trust and interest.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Communications, Customer Relations, Merchandise Planning

Embracing Our Differences: Providing Personalized Service

We’ve all heard the golden rule; treat everyone as you would like to be treated. This session flips that a bit and focuses on training our staff to treat visitors as THEY would like to be treated. This includes welcoming the LGBTQ community, overcoming language barriers, welcoming visitors with disabilities and looking at our own businesses’ unique visitor types based on socio economic and psychographic differences as well as preferences on staff interaction and level of museum experience. By varying our approach to each customer, we can facilitate the best possible experiences and in return, the best business.


  • Colleen Higginbotham, Director of Visitor Services, Chrysler Museum of Art

Objective: You will have training tools to take back to your team and tools to begin to evaluate your own visitor types

MSA Knowledge Standards: Customer Relations

Fair Trade – Setting a Legitimate Ethical Standard

A clearer picture of fair trade principles, code of practice, and issues in the fair trade movement, all with an emphasis on how attendees can participate or adapt their work to align with fair trade values


  • TBD

Objective: Learn all about fair trade, especially how you can participate and align your business with fair trade standards, principles, and values.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Business Relations

Leveraging Innovative Resources for Visual Merchandising and Custom Product Development

By leveraging the power, speed, and low minimum investment of new technologies, services, and vendor marketplaces, MSA members can effectively compete against traditional retail stores. Using the resources and techniques learned in this session, attendees will offer truly unique products that will enhance and extend the visitor experience well beyond the initial trip to the museum.


  • Jay Thomson, Assistant Manager, The Barnes Shop at the Barnes Foundation

Objective: Learn about the innovative resources for creating custom products for your store of special exhibit

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning

Mapping a Merchandise Plan

Organize and streamline your buying trips by creating a visual thematic, functional full representation of your product mission statement. Communicate to your organization the logic, reasoning, art and science behind buying decisions and budgets. Engage and empower your team to communicate the value and benefits of shopping at a specialized museum store. Utilize visual tools to create staff training workshops, enabling team members to use appropriate design language to enhance their guest conversations.


  • Jan Banister, Guest Services Manager, Columbus Indiana Visitors Center

Objective: Create a visual road map for your strategic merchandise plan, for the purpose of evaluating products, communicating to your organization, and enlightening your staff.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning

Mentorship – Find, Ask, Grow

This session is about how to identify and ask someone to be your mentor. You’ll also learn how to lay the groundwork and how to assess and achieve goals set up by the mentorship. This session may also be a starting point for people who want to mentor those in the early stages of their careers.


  • Kelli Davis, Store Manager, Science Center of Iowa
  • Barbara Lenhardt, General Manager, Deputy Chief of Retail, National Gallery of Art

Objective: A base to ask and initiate a mentorship in our industry

MSA Knowledge Standards: Business Relations

On-Target: Take the Guesswork Out of Exhibition Catalogue Sales

Exhibition catalogues occupy a singular position of importance in museum retail, providing the greatest opportunity for revenue while also directly fulfilling the educational mission of our institutions. Catalogues also pose the greatest challenge, requiring a high level of strategic planning to maximize the highly profitable, but short-lived opportunities presented by special exhibitions while minimizing inventory investment and leftovers. A panel of museum store book buyers will discuss these issues and help equip attendees with the necessary tools to confidently develop their own effective sales and management strategies.


  • Stuart Hata, Director of Retail Operations, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco
  • Don Henderson, Senior Buyer, National Gallery of Art
  • Marie du Vaure, Book Buyer, J. Paul Getty Museum
  • Tim Niedert, Book & Media Manager, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Objective: Learn how to strategically plan for buying exhibition catalogues

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning, Strategic Management

Storytelling – Creating Meaningful Customer Engagement

We all know the value of customer engagement — but how do we develop meaningful and on-going customer engagement that adds value to our store or our brand?

We tell the story — of the museum, of the store, of the brands we stock.

How we do this can vary, but partnership is key. Vendors that can support their buyers with a strong story, well told and with supporting images and video are ideal. 

Technology and social media open up all sorts of opportunities to spread the story further and encourage meaningful engagement.


  • TBD

Objective: Buyers and vendors can work together to hone your stories to benefit both!

MSA Knowledge Standards: Communications, Customer Relations, Merchandise Planning