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

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.


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.


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.


PRO-File – AmericasMart Atlanta

March 19, 2018

Name: George Kacic, Executive Vice President of Retail Services

Business Name: AmericasMart

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Why did you decide to participate in a partnership with MSA?

We realize the incredible potential for helping MSA members and buyers identify product sources for their nonprofit businesses. We have always had a commitment to small businesses and their place in a vibrant economy. Atlanta is filled with many museums and cultural organizations that give back to our extraordinary community – and we recognize that nonprofit retail helps those venues to thrive as ambassadors of cultural offerings to local citizens and tourists alike. Our home, gift and apparel product collection provides many juried sources for business such as those in MSA to create their own partnerships for success.

So you have a jury or selection process for the artisans and suppliers at AmericasMart?

We offer 35 categories of merchandise including juried selections. MSA buyers will find collections such as Fine Gifts, Tabletop, Made in America, Handmade, Luxe – with many vendors that can support the varied collections in institutions that are part of MSA.

Do you work with any other nonprofits?

We work with 25 different associations and buying groups. We are particularly proud of our long association with Gift For Life which is a partnership between the gift, home, and stationery industries to raise funds supporting HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and education. Our new LifeLine initiative, which supplies much-needed food and water in flood and fire crisis areas of the country, has raised nearly $50,000 to date.

Do you offer buyer training seminars or other educational programming? How are they sourced and targeted?

We have a top-notch events team that creates programming for our tradeshows. We provide programs with a number of high-profile thought leaders and tastemakers who attend our markets to identify and forecast trends for attendee buyers. Celebrities such as Trisha Yearwood and Sarah Jessica Parker are joined by influential designers, business leaders and more. We source our speakers from across the bgeorge-kacic-headshotusiness, design and lifestyle spectrum.

George Kacic directs AmericasMart’s retail services operations with a major focus on helping to sustain and expand domestic and international retailer and designer presence and enhance experience while attending their 14 annual markets and shows. His career spans more than 36 years within the home and gift community as a senior sales and business development leader and  long service to the gift and home industry through leadership of the Gift & Home Trade Association (GHTA) and other prominent trade organizations. 



Museum Shop Sunday – Success Across the Pond

December 18, 2017

By Joanne Whitworth

Here at the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE), we were delighted to work with the MSA and Museum Shops Association of Australia & New Zealand (MSAANZ) to help make the very first Museum Store Sunday (or Museum Shop Sunday as it’s known to us Brits!) a truly global event. We’re even more pleased to tell you that it was a huge success over here, not just in the UK but elsewhere in Europe too. Over 125 cultural venues in the UK, Ireland and even Hungary put on special events and promotions on the day, attracting new customers to enjoy shopping for unique and special Christmas gifts in the relaxing and inspiring surroundings of their local museum or gallery.

Our hashtag #museumshopsunday was trending on Twitter all day (alongside such events as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!) and there was some fantastic press coverage in high profile titles such as Metro, a free paper distributed nationwide, and The Londonist, an online title which has over 1.3m followers on Twitter, so it was fantastic to see Museum Shop Sunday featured in their ‘Top Things to Do This Week’ column.

Many venues saw a significant uplift in sales and footfall as a result of Museum Shop Sunday. Paul Griffiths, Head of Operations at the Mary Rose Museum, couldn’t have been happier with how the day went – “Our spend per visitor was up 81% on the average Sunday for the last two months, which is truly amazing. The retail team loved taking part as well!” At Yorkshire Museum sales were up by an incredible 185% and at Castle Museum, York, by 74%. Ginny Leadley, Buying & Merchandising Manager at York Museums Trust, said the numbers were amazing, adding, “This was the first weekend of Christmas activities so visitor numbers were high, however retail sales increased by significantly more.”

Museum Shop Sunday was a great opportunity to engage with new customers, and it was particularly pleasing to see the impact on smaller venues, many of whom seized the opportunity to draw in new visitors. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter gave away festive nibbles and offered a discount, resulting in a 30% increase in footfall and 38% increase in sales versus the same day last year. The Freud Museum in north London gave out free Freud cookies, which captured the imagination of the local press and public alike. Local paper Ham & High ran a feature, and the museum welcomed 55% more visitors than the same day last year. Shop Manager Iveta Rozlapa told us, “Museum Shop Sunday really helped us to connect with our local audience and spread the word about our gift shop. We had lots of smiles from visitors on the day!”

Museum Shop Sunday saw all sorts of events and activities, as well as tasty treats, festive fun and giveaways! Events included craft fairs, book signings, product launches and kids’ activities. The RAF Museum gave away their iconic pilot teddy bear with purchases over £30, while other venues treated their customers to mulled wine and mince pies. The Hungarian National Gallery Museum shop ran craft workshops in which customers were invited to create their own gifts relating to the museum’s collection. There was dinosaur story telling at the Natural History Museum, soap making at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and glass blowing at Ulster Museum. Catherine McGoldrick, Retail Manager at National Museums Northern Ireland, said it had been a really positive experience – “It was well worth doing and gives us something to build on for next year. All the visitors enjoyed the activities and learned a bit more about our makers.”

Browse our Photo Gallery to see some of the fun Museum Shop Sunday events from around the UK – from Freudian cookies to dinosaur story telling!

As you can tell, the enthusiasm for Museum Shop Sunday has been phenomenal, and our members are already thinking oheadshot_jo-whitworth-2f ways to make next year’s event on Sunday 25 November 2018 even bigger and better! It’s been a fantastic global collaboration and we are all looking forward to continuing to work together to introduce even more new customers to the amazing and unique world of cultural retail.

Joanne Whitworth is the Communications & Media Manager for the Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE). Promoting excellence in cultural trading is at the heart of the business of ACE. ACE is an association of Members and Associate members who are passionate about their work in the cultural and heritage sector. Follow ACE on Twitter @acenterprises



Museum Store Sunday: A Message from the MSA Board of Directors

December 11, 2017

By Ione Saroyan and the 2017-18 MSA Board of Directors

Museum Store Sunday. It is a reality. We did it – we all did it. I’m just going to put that right there and invite you all to bask in it for a moment. We announced it in late April at the MSA Forward 2017 in Pittsburgh. And in less than seven months, it launched in a spectacular way. This bright, creative, diligent, resourceful community of Museum Store Association members and partners succeeded in launching a global initiative. We succeeded in putting a spotlight on Museum Stores right smack in the middle of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Congratulations to all of us!

For me, Museum Store Sunday (MSS) existed on multiple plains. First and foremost, as one of the pillars of MSA’s strategic plan: advocacy. “To communicate to the world the value and importance of non-profit retail with its curated products and unique experiences.” Within my own institution, this was a struggle at times. For example, I had to persuade my museum’s brand guardians to allow my promotions to go forward without changing the color of the MSS brand. Second, as a volunteer on the MSS Outreach Committee – I wrote letters and made phone calls, and experienced the thrill of the success of my efforts each time the MSS store locator was updated. Finally, as a museum store retailer, I offered special discounts to museum members and the general public, a free gift with purchase, and raffled off prizes including a museum membership. I am delighted to say that we had a fantastic day, with a 212% increase over the previous Sunday, and a 334% increase over the Sunday of the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend. And it was so exciting to read and watch the great press that came in from all over!

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What Is A Museum Store?

September 25, 2017

By Julie Steiner 

One of the admonishments I heard when I was new to this field was that I should not refer to museum store products as “souvenirs.” Souvenirs, it was said, evoke cheap and poorly-made things, rather than the quality merchandise of world-class institutions. But there’s another way of thinking about that word, and that is as souvenir — simply the French word for “memory.” What better compliment to a product could there be, than to have it contain a person’s memories? Elizabeth Merritt, the head of the AAM’s “Center for the Future of Museums” pointed out at an MSA conference a few years ago that the human mind simply can’t store all the memories that we gather in our lives. And that’s the true purpose of museum store products: good products done right become externalized memory, souvenirs that hold our memories and recall our experiences.

One thing I know for sure (and that my work in museums reinforces every day) is that museum stores are an invaluable part of the experience and that retail products serve an important purpose and wield an incredible power: they carry our collections and exhibits out into the world beyond the walls of our institutions. Once the exhibits have traveled on, the educational programs are completed, and in those hours when even the galleries of our permanent collections are hushed and dark, visitors continue to savor their experiences at our institutions through the objects they purchased (or were given as gifts) from our stores.

Above all, a museum store is the place where guests select a suitable container to hold their memories of the day.

I believe souvenirs are a compliment: we only buy objects to hold those memories we most wish to reinforce. We buy to hold on to positive experiences. Shopping at an institution is a conscious effort on the part of the visitor to turn that specific positive experience into a long-term memory. Gifts for others selected at museum stores carry an additional purpose: they are physical evidence of having thought of a person while in that institution. It’s so much more than an object handed on: a museum store gift reflects a deep human need to share a meaningful experience with another person.

Creating and selecting the right products to represent our institutions and imprint the visitor experience in the mind of the visitor is our imperative. The visitor needs to connect their delight and wonder — their cherished day with family and friends – to the items we offer them. It means that quality of experience must match quality of product: no other memory will work. Our primary job as non-profit retailers is to provide the extension of that experience and help to carry that memory into the homes and lsteiner-julie-headshot-smives of our audiences.

Often, when I give tours of the museum store where I work, I gesture with a flourish and proclaim “This is where the magic happens!” I am half mocking, but behind the joke lies seriousness, because I do think that there’s great “magic” to wrapping up the intense experience of a museum visit in a concrete memento, and the magic that happens when a guest finds the perfect thing to carry out, just the right object for them that will connect their long-term memory back to this experience: this day that they have had in this museum, and this specific object that will help them maintain the emotions, thoughts, and connections created during their visit. Museum stores are where the magic of connection and memory happens.

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


When It Comes To MAP Pricing You Snooze You LOSE

September 18, 2017

By Mike Lovett

As a museum store operator, or as a merchandise maker or distributor, you know that the ease of online shopping is a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s convenient — but for business owners and operators, the underbelly of counterfeited products, price discrepancies, and showrooming can quickly replace the thrill of finding a sale with the disappointment of losing one. The main culprits are usually on Amazon or eBay, selling the same product that you are for less.

These retail giants hijack MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) pricing, leaving you with inventory that’s difficult to move because you’re selling at the actual price. Your overhead costs don’t allow cutting margins to compete. And if sales continue to decline, you’re less inclined to take buying risks that might differentiate you and pay off down the road.

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Taking it to the Cloud

July 31, 2017

By Bradley Platz

Attending the 2017 MSA conference in Pittsburgh was a genuinely rewarding experience for me. I found it so valuable to connect with other retailers, and to share strategies, while making important professional connections. Being recognized by MSA for Best Store Web Presence this year is an incredible honor and I wanted to share some insights from my experience with other members.

I love eCommerce. Learning how to effectively sell online has opened so many doors for me both in the museum community, as an artist, and as an independent business owner in San Francisco. In addition to my work at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, my wife and I run a commercial art gallery in the the city. We have been selling original artwork online since we opened our doors in 2010. The explosive growth of eCommerce in the last decade has led to all types of businesses re-evaluating their online strategies, and commercial art galleries, like Museum Stores, have had to adapt in order to survive. Selling art online is a lot like selling anything online. I believe quality pictures and good design speak more than words, and interesting and engaging content will always drive sales. My goal is to make buying art online easy, fun, and to create a personalized experience that keeps customers coming back for more.

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Ants and Elephants

Photo credit: Exit Through The Gift Shop: A Banksy Film

July 17, 2017

By Blue Anderson

When I was in “regular” retail, I had a boss who liked to divide problems into two groups: ant issues, which are those annoying little everyday things, and elephants – big, thunderous issues that can cause havoc if left to run amok. He said he only wanted to be given elephants, and the managers were there to handle the ants. I remember asking him – what do you do when there are so many ants that they become elephants? He said that was impossible, as they were two different creatures.

As leaders in our institutions, it is natural that we want to be given the elephants, especially the well-trained beasts that challenge our creative side. Those big projects that can be sexy, daring, even exhausting, but we love to birth those babies and watch them grow.

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Facing the Strange

June 19, 2017

By Katie Burke

Pomegranate will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. This is a little bit mind-blowing, even for those of us who have been in it for the long haul. On reflection, I’ve been pondering this question: how do we all maintain energy for our jobs without burning out or feeling like we’re continually pushing a Jeff Koons sculpture up a never-ending hill, a la Sisyphus and his rock? Even ardent passion for our profession can wear down against political, social, and economic issues, from within our own institutions to our local communities to the world at large.

The word that comes to mind is adaptability. Sticking to the tried and true can work beautifully—don’t fix it if it ain’t broke—but it can also become a rut. Change—in procedures, in vehicles of communication, in presentation, in content—can keep us engaged and nimble.

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