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Museum Store Sunday: A Tale of One City

September 10, 2018

By Lori Brazos

When I heard of Museum Store Sunday for the first time, my immediate thought was “brilliant!” What a perfect way to promote museum stores. Not only do we have the best selection of awesome things, but purchases also support worthy institutions; it’s a win-win situation. I have seen the success of Small Business Saturday, so I knew Museum Store Sunday could be a great way to market the four museum stores I oversee as holiday shopping destinations. While the idea excited me, I knew I would need support — first and foremost from the marketing directors at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.


mss-2017This introduction to Museum Store Sunday occurred at the MSA FORWARD 2017 Conference held in Pittsburgh. There were several representatives from Pittsburgh’s numerous cultural institutions in attendance, many I had never met — thank you MSA for bringing so many of us together! As it turned out, the reaction I had to the Museum Store Sunday announcement was not unique. My new Pittsburgh museum store friends were equally as excited. On the last day of the conference, the Pittsburgh attendees gathered for a few minutes and decided on the spot to join forces and meet soon to form our Museum Store Sunday citywide strategy. We would all need the support of our marketing departments, but we would support and inspire each other, as well.

About a month later, we met at one of our museum stores. When this group of then seven museum store leaders started discussing ideas, the creative sparks flew! Out of our first formal strategy session grew the concept for the Pittsburgh Passport, a sweepstakes designed to encourage patrons to visit multiple participating museum stores on Museum Store Sunday. In addition to the passport, we planned outreach to additional museum stores in the area to grow participation, discussed special events and offered ideas, and — most importantly — strategies to get our individual marketing departments behind our efforts.

In the weeks following, each store leader met with their marketing director to introduce them to Museum Store Sunday. They shared the press release, news of the local museum collaboration and the concept for the Pittsburgh Passport. They discussed in-store specials, giveaways, and events for their location and requested marketing support. Our group took full advantage of all ideas and offers from marketing teams at various museums. One marketing team set up a Museum Store Sunday Pittsburgh Facebook events page, another helped create an interactive google map of participating museums, and yet another donated his monthly time slot on a local TV show to promote Museum Store Sunday. Two marketing teams helped create the final passport design, which allowed each location to customize with their specifific events and promotions.

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Our collaboration ultimately grew to include 13 Pittsburgh museum stores in all and got the Pittsburgh Passport and Museum Store Sunday a lot of local press interest and exposure. The unique store events, promotions and giveaways advertised via the passport promised a great experience to shoppers at each store and were well received. Events ranged from steep discounts on selected items, gift with purchase, complimentary gift wrap, holiday music performances and even a life-size dinosaur puppet show. The press coverage reminded local and regional residents what terrific shopping venues museum stores are with their unique offerings and purchases, which support valued institutions. I believe the press coverage helped drive significant increases to museum attendance for the day, as well. Like results achieved nationally, most of our group of stores achieved double digit or better sales increases for the day. I had the opportunity to walk one of the more concentrated “museum neighborhoods” on the afternoon of Museum Store Sunday, and I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see many people carrying multiple museum store packages!

If I had to narrow Pittsburgh’s success to one word, it would be “collaboration.” Having multiple sizes and genres of museum stores fueled creativity and offered the opportunity to pool resources on bigger parts of projects. It was our strength in numbers that helped us make a big splash and get media attention. It also fostered a competitive spirit among museum marketing teams — nobody wanted to be outdone!

As the season for planning your Museum Store Sunday is fast approaching, take a moment to thinking about possible partners outside your institution. You could even go outside the museum world and reach out to local coffee shops, universities and fellow small businesses. Here in Pittsburgh, we will be meeting soon to brainstorm, and I can’t wait to see what we come up with!

Happy planning!


headshotLori Brazos is the general manager of retail operations at the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. She oversees retail stores of four distinctive museums: The Carnegie Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, The Carnegie Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum.

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Keeping our Chapter Scholarship Funds Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

August 20, 2018

By Ava Maxwell

As cliché as it sounds, keeping our scholarship funds healthy and wealthy will result in chapters filled with wise members! Utilizing the resources, invaluable education and information, and networking provided at chapter conferences, as well as at a national conference, can be the difference between stellar museum retail professionals and those struggling for success. For some, opportunities to attend these conferences can be challenging, but if the chapters can assist financially — and meetings gain a greater and more diverse group of attendees — we all benefit. We learn from each other and all become wiser.


But, how do we keep our scholarship funds healthy and wealthy so we can be wise?

I asked each chapter for some of their favorite, most successful fundraising ideas and tips — and to share any pitfalls, and don’t-ever-do-that-again flops! Here’s what I got:

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The North Atlantic Chapter has been doing an online auction for the past two years. The first year they raised $1,000, and last year their earnings increased to $1,500. They used BiddingOwl.com, because it was free to set up and auction fees were minimal, but they found the site was not as user-friendly as they would have liked. Another downside was that the auction was open to the public, and collecting payment was difficult (and, at times, impossible). They realized that a strictly MSA auction may be the best way to go, and they are looking into a new service: 32auctions.com. They are a tiered program, offering many features.

All in all, the results outweighed the problems, and they were pleased with the amount of money they raised! Their advice to any chapter planning an online auction: Establish a fundraising committee to help bear the load. This is a fundraiser that requires a well-organized plan and process, from start to finish: setting up the items online, obtaining donations, working with the vendors to ship to highest bidder, and collecting and managing the finances.

The chapter feels it was well worth the effort and hopes to continue in the future.img_0002

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter has kept their scholarship fund healthy by having a silent auction during their fall chapter meeting. This annual fundraiser has raised approximately $500 to add to their scholarship fund. The chapter has also been fortunate to receive a generous donation from the family of a former chapter member, now deceased. Though they are uncertain whether or not this will be an ongoing gift, the chapter has put this to good use. Honoring or remembering a special person or occasion is always a great way to raise monies for scholarships.

The Midwest Chapter has a task force dedicated to the regional meeting. The task force has created a vendor sponsorship program with defined sponsorship levels that feed the monetary needs of all aspects of the conference. Each level (Bronze – $200, Silver – $400, Gold – $600 and Platinum – $800) is clearly outlined, and the incentives are well thought-out and a win-win for both the chapter and the sponsor. In addition to the sponsorship program, the chapter accepts in-kind gifts as well as raffle or silent auction items. Dollars earned will contribute to a lucky recipient’s registration to next year’s chapter meeting. Details of the sponsorship levels are available. For anyone interested in receiving a copy, please contact me at amaxwell@morsemuseum.org, and I will send a copy to you.

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The Western Chapter uses their annual chapter meeting registration fee to maintain a healthy account balance. Their $95 registration fee not only covers the majority of event expenses but also leaves a little extra in their account. In this way, they are also able to support scholarship dollars.

The Florida Chapter has funded their scholarship account through a variety of ways:

One manager uses the “roundup” method at each POS terminal. Rounding up to the next dollar has earned the chapter close to $400 for their scholarship fund! Be sure to check with your finance director before you proceed.

Another museum shop has held a silent auction for museum employees only. Scheduled during the “slow season,” they used merchandise that may have arrived slightly flawed, samples and/or mistaken items (items that were to be donated or discarded.) These were organized individually or in groups and arranged on tables in a meeting room with bid sheets attached, including minimum bid amount and increments. Each museum employee was given a bid number to use. At the end of two weeks, all winners were notified. Cash payments were made, and all monies were deposited into the chapter scholarship account. (Since none of the auction items were ever entered into museum shop inventory, there was no inventory transfer that needed to be handled). Setup and tear down were somewhat time-consuming, but the chapter earned close to $400 for the scholarship fund, and the museum staff loves the event and looks forward to the next auction!

Dona Scarves created a beautiful silk scarf for the Florida Chapter, which included many of the museums and cultural institutions of Florida in the design. The scarf was launched on Museum Store Sunday, and Dona Scarves donated a portion of the sales to the Florida Chapter for its scholarship fund.

Vendor sponsors to the regional chapter meetings have been a valued and welcome source of dollars to the scholarship fund, but remember: vendors have limited resources too. A suggestion (from a vendor): Choose a vendor that many of your chapter members support in their shops, and ask if they will support your chapter’s scholarship fund by choosing one item in their collection, and designating 5 percent of (wholesale) sales worldwide to be donated to your chapter’s scholarship fund.

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Keeping our scholarship funds in a prosperous state is challenging, but the challenge can be fun and rewarding. Shared ideas are always welcome, and chapter growth is often an immediate result of a healthy and wealthy scholarship fund. And we are the wiser for it!


ava-maxwellAva Maxwell is the manager of retail operations at The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida. Throughout her 29 year career (21 years at The Morse Museum and eight years at The Orlando Museum of Art), she has been an active volunteer for both the Florida Chapter and MSA national, serving on various committees, in leadership roles, and as a presenter during chapter conferences and MSA’s national conference. She is currently the Florida Chapter vice president and is chairperson of the National Board Development Committee.

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PRO-Files: Colleagues in Culture

August 6, 2018

By David A. Duddy

Charlie Stathacos, David Somlyo and Marodeen Ebrahimzadeh are dynamic and personable colleagues and are all proud MSA members. Come and introduce yourself at the upcoming NYNOW in the Artobjects Booth (#7266) in the Museum Source section.


Charlie Stathacos, President, Artobjects Unlimited charlie-image

Where did you grow up? What has your life journey been like?

I grew up in Buffalo, New York, graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in anthropology. After a stint with the Peace Corps and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, I received a master’s degree in applied economics from Cornell University. My international career, advising agriculturalists and small businesspeople, eventually brought me to Artobjects. My mother, Leta Stathacos, who had been store manager at the Albright-Knox and was very active in MSA (eventually honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award) founded Artobjects Unlimited in 1987 as a wholesale rep company, and it has been participating in MSA conventions ever since. I took over as president when Leta retired, and the company continues to act as representatives for American artists and designers as well as global artisans. Artobjects has acted as an incubator for art- and design-driven businesses, and we have watched many of them strike out on their own to forge a path to their own success (and a few becoming MSA vendors!).

What was your first experience with a museum or nonprofit? What work did you do with them?

I remember my first MSA conference in Chicago on Navy Pier. It was very interesting! Since then, I have come to work closely with many institutions, often trying to provide the right products for their stores that fit upcoming exhibitions. In addition to working with and representing U.S. art and design companies, I have managed to fuse my career in international trade and development with Artobjects, working on projects for which I have provided access to trade shows in the U.S. And with funding not always available, I assist my international clients with developing their own businesses and products, so they may participate in the Artobjects booth and we can help sell for them. We even started a GoFundMe page to support travel, training, product development and getting samples shipped (https://www.gofundme.com/helping-african-artisans). The experience of a wholesale trade show is new to many of my clients, but it offers them a unique opportunity to present their work and meet the buyers directly. There are some learning curve moments for them. Don’t be so anxious to please the buyers to the point where you sell all of your samples!

There are many challenges in the current retail world. What are you trying to use to your advantage, and what keeps you awake at night?

I think e-commerce is the answer to both of those questions. Just as we try to make our offerings more global by working with overseas artists and artisans, the whole marketplace has global access through the internet. There are so many challenges to keeping all of our channels open and current, particularly when you represent small artisanal businesses. Keeping websites fresh and inviting and balancing that with still doing trade shows to meet the clients in person.

Have you ever been to an MSA chapter meeting?

No, but I may make it to the one coming up in September!

What do you eat for breakfast? Is it always the same?

Two slices of super multi-gain toast — maybe with peanut butter. Sometimes eggs and potatoes.

Any hobbies? Special talents?

I love biking and rollerblading!


David M. Somlyo,Owner, Museum Music Inc. / Museum Coffee House Inc.david-image

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? What has your life journey been like?

I grew up in NYC — very close to where I live now. I went to Friends School, then Vassar College, then Syracuse University Law School. I practiced law for five years with a small litigation firm on Wall Street, then started my own firm practicing entertainment law for about four years. I was very motivated to live abroad at some point in my life, and in 1997 moved to Budapest working as an attorney there for more than two years. It was a spectacular experience! When I returned to the U.S., a client of mine had been working on creating a CD with MoMA, New York, and I helped with some advice. I became very interested in the company and wound up joining it and then running it in 1999.

What was your first experience with a museum or nonprofit? What work did you do with them?

My first collaboration was with the MET, on our “Painters in Paris” CD. We have continued to partner with museums and have now produced more than 80 custom CDs for over 40 institutions! With the decline in interest in CDs and DVDs in the general population, museum stores remain the best and most targeted market for our products. They are still seen as gifts or souvenirs of the cultural experience, and customers will still purchase them on that basis. We find the MSA Expo is a great way to directly connect with the market that we primarily target.

There are many challenges in the current retail world. What are you trying to use to your advantage, and what keeps you awake at night?

The whole CD industry is challenged by MP3s and streaming music. Initially, most of our products were compilations of music, and my knowledge and skill as an entertainment lawyer was incredibly useful in obtaining rights. We now pursue more projects involving original content that can only be found through us. For example, it took us three years working with MoMA to create a really terrific children’s CD called “Pop! Goes the Easel” with original songs performed by Broadway stars. Prep and design time is much longer, but you wind up with a truly original product that you control. We also have diversified with a new product line: Museum Coffee House, offering certified organic and fair trade premium packaged coffee targeted to the museum market.

Have you ever been to an MSA chapter meeting?

Not yet, but I should investigate one if it is close by.

What do you eat for breakfast? Is it always the same?

Steel-cut oatmeal with bananas and sometimes other fruit.

Any hobbies? Special talents?

I swim on a regular basis and often test out our latest music using waterproof earphones while I swim. We need to know what it sounds like however people listen! I see a lot of theater with my daughter, and I go fishing with my son, mostly in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, and in Central Park! You wouldn’t believe the fish we have caught (and released!) there. I have cage-dived with great white sharks, tracked mountain gorillas in the Congo, and, yes, I can juggle!


Marodeen Ebrahimzadeh, Owner, ETANA Inc. and Made 4 Museum marodeen-image

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? What has your life journey been like?

I was born in an Assyrian Christian family in Iran, and so we fled the country in 1978. In Iran, I had a master’s in fine art and interior design. In the U.S., I went back to school studying fine art printmaking. My concentration in Iran — my first love — was bronze sculpture. It led to my own extensive personal collection and to my business of providing fine art reproductions to museums in this country and globally since 1985. After Cal State Fullerton, I did some fine art framing, printmaking and jewelry design. I then began to start sculpting for others as well as doing my own work. I started doing wholesale shows around the year 2000 in New York City and other venues. In my travels and through referrals, I identified MSA as a great potential market for my line of reproductions.

What was your first experience with a museum or nonprofit? What work did you do with them?

I was fortunate to connect with the British Museum in London and to create for them a Lamassu, a winged deity with the body of a lion and the head of a man, originally from Assyria. Many such reproductions are being made now overseas in resin, but I try to remain true to the bronze materials that lend real quality to a small piece like that. I sell to many other institutions with encyclopedic collections, like the de Young in San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Getty in Los Angeles. There is an upcoming special exhibition at the British Museum that I am creating work for now that focuses on pieces from Ashurbanipal, which has always been a particular special interest of my studies and my own collections.

There are many challenges in the current retail world. What are you trying to use to your advantage, and what keeps you awake at night?

There are a lot of middlemen flooding the market with cheap reproductions, and, of course, many such things can be found on the internet. I am beginning to use sales reps to gain more access to fine art galleries in order to open up those wholesale markets to find more suitable markets for my work. Certainly, clients from MSA are very knowledgeable and interested in quality.

I am not that concerned about 3-D printing … yet. There are still many flaws in the production process, requiring the hand of an artist or craftsman to finish a piece properly. If you are insisting on quality, there is still the hand of an artist involved.

Have you ever been to an MSA chapter meeting?

I was a sponsor for a Western Chapter meeting in Santa Barbara that Stuart Hata from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco was part of, as well as David Howell, another MSA vendor. I know that MSA has been making many changes with more inclusion of vendors in the direction they are taking. So I am considering participating more with MSA in the future, as long as those partnerships continue to be fruitful.

What do you eat for breakfast? Is it always the same?

I usually have cereal with almond milk — sometimes a boiled egg. I usually go to the gym in the morning before work, so a healthy diet is very important to me.

Any hobbies? Special talents?

I have an extensive personal art collection since I also operate a fine art gallery: Square I Gallery in Claremont, California. I have a large number of small bronzes, which have a particular fascination for me for all the fine detail they can record. Although I am devoted to sports, I am told that I am an excellent dancer. I took some physical education courses in college at the suggestion of my basketball coach, when I would sometimes get roughed up on the court by the other players who may not have been that happy with an Iranian on the team. And I always loved those old movies with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly!


David Duddy is the Deputy Director for Operations at the deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts,  and is a past president of the MSA Board of Directors.dec_staff_headshots_print_anchorimagery-20

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Putting the Retail Industry Report to Work for Your Store

                                                                                                                                                                                    By Julie Steiner 

Have you ever heard any of the following questions at your institution?

  1. Why doesn’t the store sell more, given our visitation?
  2. Inventory? Why does the store have so much money tied up in inventory?
  3. Personnel is one of our biggest expenses—can’t you do the same work with fewer people?
  4. Can’t you increase prices and get a higher profit margin?
  5. The store takes up a lot of space in our institution—what if we use part of it for [fill in the blank: a café, ticket sales, event space, etc.]?
  6. Everyone’s shopping online these days—can’t we just move to selling on our website?

How do you answer such questions when they come your way? Some might feel a moment of defensiveness, or put on the spot. The Museum Store Association 2018 Retail Industry Report is created to give non-profit retail professionals up-to-date benchmarking data to use: first for assessment of your retail operation, and second to advocate for your store’s business needs. When you understand not only your own business data but also the metrics describing the industry, you can contextualize your business and talk about it with confidence.

Before looking specifically at how to put the MSA Retail Industry Report to work in your assessment and departmental advocating, consider two essential factors:

  1. Context is key. All of the answers to the list of questions above are relative. The key question to continually ask in any assessment is “compared to what?” Profits aren’t objectively high or low, they are high or low when compared to some other profits. Maybe it’s profits from a previous fiscal year, maybe profits of a similar institution in another city, maybe profits of a nearby corporate/for-profit retailer. Likewise, a store isn’t inherently big or small, a store is bigger or smaller than some other store or perhaps is being compared to some other department. Inventory, personnel, sales, e-commerce: no single measurement is objective, they only make sense in comparison, and the context for comparison needs definition and clarification. The Retail Industry Report is designed to give you that definition and point of comparison to answer detailed questions about your business.
  2. Data is neutral. It’s human tendency to shrink from statistical feedback, as if numbers reveal something we won’t want to see. It’s like refusing to go for a medical checkup to avoid hearing something we’d maybe rather not hear. But the numbers don’t care about us: they are impartial, and non-judgmental. We bring the judgment, the data itself is neutral. And when we look at those numbers as neutral feedback, and know how to assess context, they can only help. Ask yourself “what’s the worst that can happen?” Maybe the worst is that we find our business strategy has a weak spot—but just as we want to know our daily sales totals on the days when business is slow, as well as when it’s busy, we can’t fix what we haven’t measured. At the end of the day, it’s not knowing that presents the most risk. So let’s take a look at some of those hypothetical questions listed above, and how the MSA Retail Industry Report can help answer them. First of all, the report covers a variety of institutional types and sizes of operations. For the purposes of this exercise, I have pulled the stats specifically for art museums to use as examples. Data for stores from history, natural science, and other types of museums and institutions are included in the report too, and you can do this same comparison for those stores.chart-1-store-sizeI prefer to study and present statistics in graphic form, so I’ve made some example charts based on the summary statistics in the Retail Industry Report. The graph represents the median figures for all art museums responding to the MSA survey. Other art museums can plot their size against this graph. I’ll use extreme examples for purposes of illustration: perhaps a store has sales of $500,000, and takes up 4,000 square feet in a museum’s entry lobby. That museum board might be reasonable in saying “some of this space could be better used, apportioned to a different use.”chart-2On the chart above, I’ve added visitation: the axis on the left shows attendance to the museum, the axis on the right is square footage of stores. Here, a store making $450,000 a year in a 500 square foot space, with 300,000 visitors coming through each year, might look at this and say “we could increase our retail earnings by expanding the physical space given over to our store.” Of course, many other factors play into each conversation, but how do you know if your store is “big” or “small” unless you know “compared to what?” Plotting your own store on a graph allows you to compare to the “average art museum store, of a certain visitation number and gross retail sales volume.”

As for the rest of the questions listed above? The stats in the Retail Industry Report that can help you answer those questions fully, and compare to your segment of the market, include but are not limited to:

  1. Sales per visitor, average transaction values, and proportion of attendance that comes from school groups, tour groups, and special events (particularly useful when those groups exhibit different buying behaviors from the general admission visitors).
  2. Inventory values, cost of goods sold, annual inventory turn, number of vendors and number of SKUs.
  3. Tallies of paid staff and volunteer positions, with wages, salaries and benefits, including sales associate’s positions.
  4. Profit margins, cost of goods sold, margin per transaction, margin per visitor, margin per square foot.
  5. Store sizes, visitors per square foot, sales per square foot, and gross margin per square foot.
  6. Percentage of retail sales from e-commerce, median purchase amounts for e-commerce, number of items offered online, and top-performing items sold online.

I’ve highlighted only a few among many of the conversations museum retail professionals have about their operations every single day, that can be clarified and contextualized with data from the MSA Retail Industry Report. The amount of data compiled in the survey process is enormous, and the ways of looking at it are as varied as the stores represented. Aggregating and sharing our community data is one of the top services an industry association such as MSA can provide. Whatever challenges and questions you face in your organization, chances are that understanding those within the context of the industry will highlight strengths and opportunities that can help your business grow stronger. It will help you advocate to the decision-makers for the improvements you need to strengthen your business!

The 2018 MSA Retail Industry Report can be ordered online here. The 2018 MSA Retail Industry Report is sponsored by Andoniadis Retail Services.andoniadis

Julie Steiner is the Director of Retail Operations for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA and the 2017-18 President of the Museum Store Association Board of Directors.jsteiner-2018-msa-sm

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MSA FORWARD: An International Perspective

June 25, 2018

By Rebecca Allport

I recently traveled to the USA on a Gallery scholarship to attend the annual Museum Store Association conference in Washington, DC, followed by a trip to New York City to meet with the retail teams at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

What a trip!

It came about because we are in the middle of expanding the Art Gallery of New South Wales and transforming it into one of the world’s great art museums. Called the Sydney Modern Project, this expansion will enable the display of more of our art collection and the hosting of more major exhibitions from around the world.

It’s due for completion in 2021 for the Gallery’s 150th anniversary, and the new building complex will provide space for art in all its evolving forms, with opportunities to learn, create, discover and engage. Oh, and let’s not forget about a brand new shop, in prime position in the entrance foyer. This will give us two permanent shops, one in each building, and the potential for more temporary exhibition shops.gallery-shop-2-agnsw-photo-by-felicity-jenkins

We are currently in the planning phase for the Sydney Modern shop design, so it was timely for me to attend the MSA conference in Washington, DC, and to visit New York City, as both are overflowing with incredible museums and galleries – and they really know how to do cultural retail well.

I arrived in Washington, DC’s cherry blossom season, and before the conference started I hit as many museums as I possibly could. Now, I have a confession to make and I know this is a safe environment in which to make it, because we all live and breathe cultural retail, right? Oh boy I hope so. Here goes: whenever I visit a museum or gallery, I visit the shop first. The art comes second. I can’t help myself, my feet just automatically take me to the shops. You do the same, right???

So – I did see some breathtaking art. I am always struck by the size and calibre of many international gallery collections. They really are very impressive. But – back to the shops.

It was an incredible opportunity for me to look at what other retailers are doing in cultural spaces. What challenges do their retail teams face? How are the teams divided across various trading areas? How is product mix split across multiple shops? What are the latest trends for branded merchandise? Are we, as Australian cultural retailers, keeping abreast of international trends, and are we competing on a global level?

I was particularly impressed by the National Gallery of Art, and how they cleverly adapted their retail spaces across both heritage and contemporary buildings.

Once the conference began, I attended so many interesting and informative sessions. Among my favorite topics up for discussion were managing social media, creating a strategic plan for your museum shop, and public relations for museum retailing. There was even a session on the 2018 Museum Store Sunday, with creative ideas discussed about promoting the day and getting your institution’s marketing team on board. And lastly, store metrics and KPIs: telling your story through numbers. These really are an excellent way to advocate for your shop to your institution’s executive and management team. Metrics matter because they enhance our stories with quantitative measurements of success, and our board members and executive strategic planners respond to these. Those metrics help to give us a clear voice and demonstrate the worth of our having a seat at the table.

This also ties into something I’ve noted in Australia that was reinforced for me in Washington, DC while listening to opening keynote speaker Rich Pedott, VP and General Manager of the Met. It’s that no matter our size, we all struggle with the same issues.

For example, with 7 million visitors per year, 33 million online visitors and a 70-80% conversion rate, the main Met shop has not been refurbished since 1992! Don’t get me wrong – I saw it when I visited, and they still manage to make it look fabulous – but as Rich explained, the fittings are dated and tired and in need of a refurbish. Their ongoing issue is securing funds through convincing the institution’s board members to invest in the retail business.

On many levels, we all face these funding challenges, and we need to continue to be advocates for our shops, within and beyond our galleries and museums. We need our voices to be heard and we need that seat at the table. This will be my challenge with the Gallery Shop’s new design and fit-out – to balance our commercial and logistical needs with the architect’s and retail designer’s visions – and I’m anticipating many opportunities for me to champion best-practice cultural retail!

Once in NYC, I looked closely at the big guns, the Met and MoMA, to inspire me for the road ahead. Their shop fit-outs and design, product and merchandising ideas, signage options, packaging solutions, messaging about the importance of supporting the shop and gallery membership, online presence – visiting these places really does open up a world of possibilities. The Met blew me away with their immaculate presentation and merchandising, MoMA was the pinnacle of on-brand aesthetic, and the Whitney showed the world how to build a stunning shop in a glass cube with no walls!

These visits also reminded about me about what we are already doing well at home. We may not have the budget, huge teams, or big name of the Met or MoMA, but by benchmarking ourselves against the best in the business, we can better measure our strengths.

Overall, the trip was an invaluable way to prepare for the Gallery’s retail future. At the conference, it was amazing to be in a room with hundreds of people passionate about cultural retailing to discuss our unique industry niche. Throughout my visit, I met wonderful people who were full of enthusiasm for what they do and the institutions they work for, and I’m more determined than ever to keep raising the bar here in Sydney.

And since this is a museum shop readership, I should also answer the most important question about my trip – yes, I bought loads of cool stuff.

Rebecca has worked at The Gallery Shop at The Art Gallery of New South Wales since 2001, and has been the Retail Manager since 2013. She starterebecca-allport-headshot-1d as a Stock and Sales Officer, then became the Retail Operations Manager and Giftware Buyer in 2008. She is responsible for the commercial retail business, including temporary exhibition shops and advises the Publications Committee on all AGNSW publications. 

[Photos courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales]

*** Local Caption *** Interior view of the gallery shop and products.

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BLOG IT OUT!

Monday, June 11, 2018

MSA is always seeking relevant content for our bi-weekly blog, and we hope you are interested in sharing your skills and experiences with the MSA community. All of the members of our community are trained professionals and experts in the field – and have interesting, personal, and relevant material to share with their peers. One of the defining characteristics of our Association is their unflagging willingness to assist each other — and a blog post offering info, suggestions, and practical steps is a way to spread that word across our community!

We have revamped the MSA blog to include a photo of the blogger’s business and an image of the author to personalize the post. We hope you will all consider this as a way to shine at your own institutions and businesses; publishing your expertise in a blog for your association of 1,200+ members shows the knowledge and willingness to contribute that makes you an industry leader.

Perhaps you have an intriguing industry topic you’ve been itching to write about, or you devised a solution to a common non-profit retail problem. Did you present something at the recent conference in Washington D.C. – or find inspiration there that led you to investigate an issue? Maybe you recently presented to your board and the content is relevant and would be of use to our community. What have you been working on that you would love to share?

Blog Submission Details

MSA Blog submissions should be between 400 and 900 words.

Topics can include anything relevant to our profession or association under the umbrella of the eight MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning, Customer Relations, Operations, Financial Management, Human Resources, Communications, Strategic Management, and Business Relations.

Topics must be educational – offering tips, information, and advice that would be useful to the MSA community. The MSA Blog is not a platform for advertisement or solicitation.

MSA Blog submissions should be emailed to David Duddy at dduddy@decordova.org with the email subject line: “MSA blog submission.”

MSA Blog submissions should be accompanied by your head shot portrait and one or more photos of your business (or a photo relevant to your content.)

MSA Blog submissions should include, in the body of your email, the MSA Knowledge Standard(s) that your blog applies to.

 

Here is a link to recent MSA blog posts as examples. https://museumstoreassociation.org/category/all/

Here is a link for tips on writing a great blog post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-morrow/7-tips-for-writing-that-g_b_10724558.html

We hope that you will find this an exciting prospect and will contribute an MSA blog in the near future. The MSA Marketing Committee has taken on the solicitation, submissions, and editing of these blog entries. We look forward to reading your submissions – start typing now!

 

Marketing and Communications Committee (MARCOM)

Stuart Hata/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco = Chair

Susan Tudor/Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

David Duddy/de Cordova Sculpture Park & Museum

Maria Kwong/Japanese American National Museum

Melody Caban-Naidoo/Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Kate Botelho/The Preservation Society of Newport County

Paul Stewart-Stand/Stewart/Stand

Bill Miller/Galison Mudpuppy

Steven Scott/Galison Mudpuppy

Angela Colasanti/VIELÄ Ltd.

 

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MSA FORWARD 2018 – So much to learn!

May 21, 2018

By Barbara Liesenbein

This year I had the pleasure of attending my first MSA conference, and, as a relative newcomer to retail, the conference didn’t just meet my expectations — but far exceeded them!  I attended MSA Boot Camp —  where I learned not only many of the important metrics related to retail, but useful advice on store layout, negotiating with consignors, offering superior customer service,  using signage as a selling tool, and creating compelling displays. As a result of this information-packed program offered by MSA at the Conference in Washington, I was able to bring back ideas that we are likely to implement in the near future. We especially liked the idea of displaying our top ten best-sellers, or staff favorites throughout the store with descriptive information encased in frames. It is such a quick, easy, and effective way to point out our most popular items. The Ritz-Carlton session inspired me not only to think of simple ways to improve customer service in general, but to implement small ways of providing exceptional service to individual patrons. Their focus on the quality of the customer’s experience can be brought to all levels of service for our institutions – and their training was truly inspiring.

All of the sessions were highly informative, and there was ample opportunity for networking with colleagues, which was especially important to me as a newcomer. Business meetings, cocktail hours, the gala party with the Silent Auction – so many new people to meet and talk to! I was warmly welcomed by the North Atlantic chapter and was quite impressed with the rapport its members had established with each other. Their enthusiasm for their work and for MSA was contagious!

Another thing that impressed me was the vendor-buyer forum, in which vendors work together with buyers to improve the process for both. I had not expected this level of cooperation and was very pleasantly surprised that the relationship really aims to balance both parties’ needs.

The depth of vendors was impressive–there seemed to be something to appeal to every type of museum and the vendors were quite helpful. The quantity of vendors was just right—not so overwhelming!

I am still processing everything that I learned at the conference and suspect that I will be doing so for quite some time. As a part-time newbie to the world of museum retail, I am grateful that my institution had the confidence in me and foresight to make the investment to send me to this conference. I would barbara-l-photo-resizedencourage others to consider sending your part-timers as well. Your investment may reap multiple rewards.

Retired after a thirty- year career in academic librarianship, Barbara moved to New Hampshire where she became a docent for the Zimmerman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home owned by the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.

Looking for a change of pace, she was hired as a part-time clerk in the museum shop, where she enjoys uniting customers with the perfect selection and interacting with people from around the world. She also serves as a part-time security officer at the museum, and recently became a museum docent as well.

 

 

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Reflecting on MSA Forward 2018

May 14, 2018

By Nancy Dunitz

I just returned from the Museum Store Association‘s annual meeting and expo in Washington DC.  It was the first time Dunitz & Company has attended and I have several colleagues to thank for that. For years I have interacted (and sold to) museum buyers at larger trade shows such as NY NOW.  In recent times, both customers and vendor colleagues told me it was time to participate in MSA FORWARD. Those encouraging my attendance include Ione Saroyan (New-York Historical Society), Stuart Hata (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), Debra Reiff (Origin Jewelry) and Susan Davis (Grandmother’s Buttons.) If it wasn’t for these friends, I might not have jumped on the bandwagon. nancy-dunitz_image-1

What’s different about seeing museum buyers (and vendor colleagues) at a MSA conference?  One word. OK, two. “The Atmosphere.”  At larger gift shows, everyone is in total business mode.  At the MSA conference, we were as well. But there was also a sense of family, camaraderie, community and supportive-ness you don’t typically sense in other business settings. Seriously. Have you ever seen buyers and vendors taking Ellen DeGeneres type selfies together at a gift show? nancy-dunitz_image-2

My adventures with the MSA Conference started with Terry Tarnow (Dennos Museum Center) inviting me to be her roommate at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel. Terry and I have worked together several times before. We had never before broken bread. Our glue? We both were raised in Detroit and had previously discovered people and places we love in common.  Now I can say Terry is a true friend and an easy roommate. We’ve even discussed returning to Washington DC (without a conference) to focus on the many museums and their gift shops. nancy-dunitz_image-3

Ari Lowenstein of Emergent Workshop (and MSA Board Vendor Member Advisor) gave me some terrific advice before attending MSA FORWARD. And, I’m sharing it here with you.  He said if you are taking the time to participate in this conference, make sure to join in on the educational tours and seminars. Make a point of meeting other attendees. This was sage advice.  I, along with a bus-full of others, enjoyed a tour to Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens and Tudor Place and their gift shops! Whenever I could, I introduced myself to those I didn’t know.  I attended seminars when I could. At luncheons I consciously sat with people I didn’t know.  I joined the Western Chapter for their group pizza dinner.  Sometimes it’s tough to mingle with people you’re not acquainted with. It may seem awkward. Do your best and try it, always with a smile.  (Turns out many of those people I met stopped by my expo booth. And some wrote orders. I’m certain had I not dined with them, this might not have happened.)

On Saturday night, MSA staged their Gala. There was a fabulous band. Many of us danced for hours. (I can’t think of the last time I danced so much. That was sooooo much fun!) Staged concurrently with the party was a Silent Auction with a host of terrific products donated by vendors and museum gift shops. The goal: to raise lots of money for scholarships for deserving buyers to attend future conferences. Dunitz & Company donated two necklace/earring sets.  One, beaded; the other, fused glass. I wanted anyone seeing our donation to know that Dunitz & Company wholesales two very different fair trade collections.  I was nervous that no one would bid on our donation. I was thrilled to see by the end of the evening a bidding war had ensued.  The winner, Ryan Oswald (Vizcaya Museum & Gardens) had bid three times to make sure his wife would be wearing our pretties. Now that put a big smile on my face. nancy-dunitz_image-4

I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to set up my booth starting Friday morning, and not after dinner as many others.  Even using most of Friday for creating my attractive display (which I absentmindedly forgot to photograph), I was able to attend a couple of seminars.  I really had no idea what to expect when I attended Neal Cohen and Jeremy Richardson’s session “Year in Review, Your Annual Business Check Up.”  These guys are smart and they’re very savvy when it comes to issues of product safety, copyright and trademarks.  Some of these very BIG issues can actually have an impact on small businesses like ours. My view? Even if most of what is said doesn’t apply to you, if you take away one valuable point at a seminar, it was worth being there. I am better off for having attended their presentation. nancy-dunitz_image-5

And finally! Yes, the main clincher for why I attended MSA Forward.  I wanted Dunitz & Company to be seen at the Expo.  As my colleagues had promised, the Expo was a terrific way to get our jewelry in front of the faces of many museum buyers I’d never previously met. And do you remember my mentioning all those people I nervously sat with at lunches?  Several came by my booth. Some ordered. Many left their business cards for follow up. And yes, I did see several buyers I already knew, which accounted for reorders. Yeah! nancy-dunitz_image-6

Other feedback from me? Order the lights for your booth. I was told that the ballroom and exhibition spaces were well lit and extra lighting was not needed. My booth was dark. Thankfully most everyone’s booth was dark. With a small show and a captive audience, it seemed most buyers looked everywhere. My gut is if I’d had a few spotlights, my booth would have garnered a few more pauses.

The jury is no longer out.  Attending MSA FORWARD 2018 was a success for so many reasons. I enjoyed DC. I made new friends. I wrote business and I was able to pitch our fair trade jewelry line to those who didn’t previously know of Dunitz & Company.  And guess what? Next year MSA will be hosting its annual event in San Diego. (And may the hotel there have food as edible/delicious as the Renaissance Downtown DC.) I can even drive to San Diego!  Will you attend?nancy-dunitz_head-shot

Nancy Dunitz, owner of Dunitz & Company views herself as an artist and an explorer. These two character traits catapulted her from corporate America to the highlands of Guatemala in 1989. For more than 25 years, Nancy has been working and collaborating with the same community of women (and a few men) to successfully bring fashion forward beaded and fused glass jewelry to appreciative customers.  Dunitz & Company recently launched a customizable laser cut earring collection perfect for museums.  And, Dunitz is a proud member of MSA and Fair Trade Federation.

 www.dunitz.com

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Rewarding (and Awarding) the Spirit of MSA

May 9, 2018

From April 26 – 30, over  600 MSA members—museum store professionals and vendors alike—had the opportunity to come together to learn, buy, sell, network and explore at MSA FORWARD 2018: Mastering Non-Profit Retail, the 63rd annual Retail Conference & Expo, in Washington, DC.

Our time in DC was incredible! We took part in a wide variety of relevant learning sessions designed for all our MSA members. We made new connections during our many capital city excursions and networking events. At our top-notch expo, we discovered extraordinary products surely destined to be top-sellers in our stores.

In addition, during the Membership Meeting and again at the Gala, we recognized and celebrated several of our MSA leaders for their creativity, passion, hard work and dedication that make the MSA community so special and so vibrant. As non-profit retail professionals, we constantly challenge ourselves to create new products, stunning displays, and innovative processes for the businesses we oversee. We tackle each challenge with energy and verve – and we always know there is a colleague at the other end of that phone line when we need some sage advice.

We are thrilled to recognize the 2018 winners for the MSA Buyer’s Choice Awards, the MSA Recognition Awards and the MSA Board Awards for outstanding service to our association.

MSA Buyer’s Choice Awards

Each year at MSA FORWARD, buyers select their favorite new items in the categories of Books and Multimedia, Custom Design, Eco-Friendly, Education and Games, Fashion, and Paper Products. This year with over 20 products on the ballot, buyers were faced with hard decisions across all categories — but six creative, eye-catching and forward-thinking products ended up taking home the coveted awards.

  • Books and Multimedia:

“Jazz in Available Light: Illuminating the Jazz Greats from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s Stories & Photographs” from Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. Through both personal stories and stunning photographs captured behind the scenes, this book allows you to lose yourself in this bygone era of jazz that celebrates dozens of the most recognized and formidable jazz artists.

  • Custom Design:

African Art Earrings by Kinzoku Customs. Inspired by the patterns found in the Barnes Foundation’s renowned African Art Collection, these custom enamel earrings represent a modern take on ancient rhythms.

  • Eco-Friendly:

BAMBOO Jewelry by California Pacific Designs. Inspired by endangered wildlife and crafted by kiln-firing glass onto recycled silver, then packaged in eco-friendly bamboo gift boxes, BAMBOO Jewelry is one of the greenest jewelry lines produced.

  • Education and Games:

“It’s Hard to Get a Handle on Modern Art” Cup from Unemployed Philosophers Guild. UPG’s porcelain teacup, made in the style of a traditional Japanese yunomi, is debossed with original portraits depicting 65 great modern artists – from Courbet to Warhol.

  • Fashion:

Bespoke Project from STEWART/STAND®. This is a custom project developed in partnership with museums that offers reproduction quality printed accessories inspired by an institution’s work of art, architectural detail, or brand identity.

  • Paper Products:

ZentangleSphere® by Wizheads. This art based on the Zentangle method lets anyone draw patterns on flat pieces of pre-cut cardstock and then later assemble them into a sphere that reduces stress while promoting creativity.

MSA Recognition Awards

These annual awards acknowledge the essential role that nonprofit retail professionals and museum store vendors play in the success of cultural institutions. New for 2018 – two Museum Store Sunday awards!

Product Development:

  • Winner: National Mall and Memorial Parks – Eastern National

A customized  virtual reality headset to enhance their Timelooper app that shows the changing landscape of Washington DC or interprets moments in history, such as Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at the Lincoln Memorial.

  • Finalist: de Young – Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which created Stanley Mouse “Summer of Love” Limited Edition Silkscreen Poster .
  • Finalist: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which created a trouser sock using the artwork of Nova Scotia Folk Artist Maud Lewis.

Vendor of the Year:

Winner: MP Barcelona — recognized for their high quality and unique products, great customer service, and ongoing partnerships with MSA buyers as well as sponsorships of MSA initiatives. . Their products are recognized, both nationally and internationally, for their devotion to design and excellence in execution.

Visual Merchandising:

  • Winner: Filoli Historic House and Garden —Designed to celebrate the Autumn change in bird populations and activities at Filoli, their display combined books on birds, bird themed home décor, and custom product utilizing Audobon images of bird species found on their property.
  • Finalist: Mint Museum of Art for its creation of a spring garden setting for an exhibition on the designs of Oscar de la Renta, who drew inspiration from the beauty found in nature.

Web Presence:

  • Winner: The Preservation Society of Newport County —for their website with lifestyle branding elements and social media that builds brand support across demographic groups and is geared to reach an audience outside of their local region.
  • Finalist: Japanese American National Museum for their store’s website presence that connects with all facets’ of their museum’s website.

Pop-Up Store or Store Special Event:

  • Winner: Asia Society — for its “SINGAPORE DESIGN NOW”, a retail showcase presenting a collaboration between Asia Store and a select group of Singapore designers, celebrating their artistic visions and providing a glimpse into the vibrancy and multiculturalism of Singapore.
  • Finalist: Columbia River Maritime Museum for its “Survival Store”  that displayed everything you could possibly want or need to survive the elements or help you get rescued in an emergency .
  • Finalist: New- York Historical Society which created “The Eloise at the Museum Shop” as an immersive retail experience for visitors exiting their Eloise at the Museum exhibition.

Museum Store Sunday Event (Institution):

  • Winner: Preservation Society of Newport County —who worked with Applewood Books to create the content for a personalized souvenir book for The Breakers visitor on Museum Store Sunday. Using the Applewood Book Party Van, all MSS visitors could have their photo taken and used as the cover of their own personalized souvenir book of their visit.
  • Finalist: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, whose MSS event included special offers to both members and non-members as well as two artisan trunk shows.

Museum Store Sunday Event (Vendor):

  • Winner: DONA Scarves — who created a Florida souvenir scarf using the MSA logo to emulate a road map of Florida’s museums. The scarf was specifically made to debut on the launch of Museum Store Sunday and to generate support of the MSA Florida Chapter scholarship fund.

MSA Board Awards

Each year, MSA’s Board of Directors has the opportunity to recognize individuals within the Museum Store Association who exemplify the MSA spirit—leaving a lasting impact on MSA and paving the way for the association’s future. This year, these awards took four forms: the MSA Service Award, MSA Merit Award, MSA Next Award and M Award.

MSA Service Award:

This award is given in recognition of outstanding service or a contribution to the association by a member or non-member. This year the MSA Board of Directors chose to recognize three individuals:

  • Angela Colasanti is the President and Designer of VIELÄ Jewelry and MSA member, volunteering on both the MSA Advocacy Committee and the MSA Marketing & Communications Committee. Last year, Angela led the design and construction of the Museum Store Sunday website. She diligently worked to create the site’s visual aesthetic, architecture, and content- incorporating the new MSS brand identity, integrating a museum store locator, and building a participant database. An extraordinary success, the MSS site had over 36,000 visits in the two months it was available before Museum Store Sunday.
  • Kristen Daniels is the President of Kamibashi and an MSA member. Last year Kristen sent a proposal to the MSA Board, outlining her idea for a forum that would allow buyers and vendors to talk openly about merchandise and business without the formality of Shop Talk — and volunteering to  take the helm.  And the Buyer Vendor Friendly Forum was born!  Kristen spends every week posting topics, answering questions, and being a champion of both the BVFF and the MSA.
  • Joanne Whitworth is the Communications & Media Manager for the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE) headquartered in the United Kingdom. She is also a member of the MSA Advocacy Committee and a main contributor to the Museum Store Sunday initiative on the global front. Jo was the lead on Museum Shop Sunday (as the Brits like to say), singlehandedly making a great success of year one by pulling in over 125 cultural venues in the UK, Ireland, and even Hungary.

MSA Merit Award:

In order to honor those who have significantly contributed to the improvement of MSA, the Merit Award can be given to those who are current members or sponsors for five years or more, have volunteered at the annual meeting, served on a committee or task force, and have been involved with MSA at the chapter level. This year the MSA Board of Directors chose to recognize two individuals:

  • David Graveen/Popcorn Custom Products — At conferences, in MSA’s magazines, blog posts, and various MSA initiatives, David has been an MSA presence for many years — giving both financial and in-kind support to innumerable MSA activities. He has a tremendous ability to articulate the importance of MSA and the uniqueness of our community and industry as seen in his continuing volunteerism and two year service as Vendor advisor to the MSA board of directors. He continually demonstrates how, through small and large gestures, always selfless, we can have a meaningful impact.
  • Mary Christensen/Museum of Flight —Mary’s commitment to MSA has informed her work at the Chapter level as well as service on the National Board as a Director at Large. Her input on the Board Development Committee has been invaluable in helping to identify and shape the next leaders of MSA. Her involvement with MSA is a huge benefit to all who meet her – connecting old and new friends and colleagues in our association – and forging networks of information so valuable to us all.

MSA NEXT Award:

This award was created to honor a young and/or emerging professional whose efforts inspire future museum retail professional leaders through unique contributions that benefit all MSA members.

  • Aubrey Herr/The Walters Art Museum — Aubrey Herr is a millennial on a mission, using her non-profit retail skills to advance rapidly at the Walters Art museum to Assistant Manager of Retail Operations. Currently serving as the Mid-Atlantic Chapter Vice President, Aubrey is also the co-chair of MSA NEXT.

MSA “M” Award:

Not every year does the Board decide to bestow the coveted “M” award- the highest award given in MSA.  To receive the “M” award the recipient must have shown outstanding dedication and loyalty to the association through creativity, effectiveness and the spirit of volunteerism and support.

Stuart Hata/de Young and Legion of  Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco — Throughout his many years with MSA, Stuart has been the exemplar of making a career in non-profit retail. His longtime dedication to our community, both as an industry expert in publications and helpful guru, are legendary. His service on the board in recent years solidified his investment in our association, as he spearheaded the 2016-19 strategic plan, refocusing the association on MSA’s core mission and member value. As past president, he continues to dedicate many hours of volunteer service to MSA through active committee work, spearheading our marketing and communications initiatives, among many other things. His dedication and commitment to this organization continue to set an example for leadership.

Congratulations to the award recipients and finalists! And sincere thanks to everyone in our community who makes contributions toward the success and future of the Museum Store Association.

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“MSA Forward Starts in One Week – Four Reasons I am Excited to Attend!”

April 16, 2018

By Julie Steiner

MSA FORWARD in Washington DC marks my 9th MSA conference, and I’m looking forward to it more than any previous one. Why? Because, beyond my involvement in the process as a volunteer, and all of the great changes to our conference model that the association is proud to launch—putting all of that aside, I’m excited because of the support and information I gain by connecting with MSA members in person.

Retail is changing. Museums are changing. Our culture is changing, and with it, all the ways that we do business. With all of these changes, the best way to think about my business differently and adapt my business is to tap into the knowledge of peers in my industry. Collectively, we share ideas and experiences about what works, what doesn’t work, and what might work if we approach it differently. Museum peers are the single most valuable resource to me in professional development and ongoing education. I learn from each of you, and I rely on your knowledge to constantly reassess the way I do business.

As I look around at our changing industry, I see several consistent themes, and MSA FORWARD offers me tools to navigate each of them:

More and more, business today is collaborative. Corporations and non-profits alike are building partnerships to enhance their brands and bring nuance to their value proposition. MSA FORWARD gives me a chance to build relationships that inspire me to think about future collaborations.

Business is more globalized. The world is shrinking, and trends quickly become international. This year, MSA FORWARD offers opportunities to think about our business in a broader, more global context: MSA’s collaboration with international museums through Museum Store Sunday is a particular highlight, and the conference brings us together to think creatively about this year’s Museum Store Sunday around the world.

Business is innovative, and museums are flexing to become innovators. Museums are reaching for broader audiences, undertaking new community engagement and digital initiatives, and our retail stores are adapting to take advantage of these innovations. MSA FORWARD gives us a chance to hear directly from the people behind these innovations and to share stories, data, and real-life practical case studies we can use in our own innovations.

Consumer behavior is becoming more ethics-driven, as shoppers seek to use buying power as a way of demonstrating their values and beliefs. I often say that museum stores are uniquely positioned to capture this cultural trend, and MSA FORWARD gives us the platform to think differently about the ways that our stores support and reinforce and can capture these changing consumer needs. This event provides us with both a forum and an audience for open discussion about how our non-profit missions can best be supported, even advanced, in our retail stores.

In our MSA Strategic Plan, the leaders of this organization envisioned MSA FORWARD as a reorganized event that would inspire, delight, and connect our stakeholders. I believe it does exactly that, ajsteiner-2018-msa-smnd I look forward to being inspired, delighted, and to connecting with each of you next week in Washington DC.

Julie Steiner is the Director of Retail Operations for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA and the 2017-18 President of the Museum Store Association Board of Directors.