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Ethics as an Everyday Practice

January 6, 2020

By Blue Anderson

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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2020 New Year’s Resolutions

December 9, 2019

By Raymond McKenzie

As the holidays race by in a rush of business and time with friends and family, it is also the time of year when people are looking at resolutions to improve their lives. Many will sign up for the gym, quit smoking, promise to eat better and commit to organizing their house. While it is great to set new goals in our personal lives, it is also an excellent time to set goals in our work lives.


After doing some research (i.e., Google), here are five common resolutions — and how I think they can and should be applied so that you can be your best store manager in 2020. These are all resolutions that you can tackle without making huge impacts on your already busy schedule.

1. Lose Weight – No, I’m not talking about your weight, I’m talking about inventory weight. Every store has excess inventory. Inventory that we can’t seem to give up on, or we’ve tried everything to sell without much success. We all make some mistakes in buying (it is part of the job!), but the real test as a manager is having an exit strategy for all buying decisions. Do you know your process for writing off dead inventory? This deadweight is not only tying up your stockroom and inventory dollars, but it is a detriment to your career since your CEOs and CFOs closely monitor inventory levels. Money tied up in dead inventory is money that doesn’t go to a program or a salary.

Start by reviewing your internal procedures for marking out inventory: What records does your finance department require? Is it budgeted in your P&L? Can you do a big sweep, or will they expect you to do incremental mark outs?

Once you know how to go about handling it and how much you need to mark out, then you can schedule it.

2. Get Organized – The need to get better organized applies to many aspects of our jobs. It is ensuring you make time to clean up that office, stockroom, shipping area, visual display and any other areas you have that never seem to get enough attention. Every manager’s office I’ve ever visited looks like 100 people are working at the same desk. The messy office is generally reflective of the 100 hats we wear each day. Clutter keeps us from being efficient, and it adds stress to our already hectic days. Set aside an hour a week for each task to clean up paper, do filing, organize pens and pencils, and other housekeeping needs. An hour a week is an excellent opportunity to delegate some organizational projects to team members, giving them a sense of ownership. Watch one of your associates after they’ve worked hours to reorganize your stockrooms. If they know they are the ones who will have to do it again, all staff may start cooperating on keeping it that way!

3. Learn A New Skill – Admit it, you know there are some things you need or want to learn that would make your job more productive and profitable. There is no time like today to start developing new skills. Maybe you need to learn about SEO terms to improve your e-commerce? How much time would it be worth spending if you could grow your online sales? Perhaps it is honing up your understanding of UBIT or other tax laws?

Taking an hour a week to learn a new skill can have a considerable impact on your career without having to disrupt weeks with off-site classes. There are online courses from MSA and commercial sites that provide skill-sharing seminars.

4. Travel More – It is essential to get out of your store! It is too easy to have our creativity stifled under a mountain of to-dos that never end. The surge in creativity at conferences or markets is evidence that we need to do this regularly. Ensure you go to markets even if that market is a local craft show or trade show. Conferences will leave you with 100 ideas and resources to take back to your store. Simply visiting other stores in your area to get inspiration should be something you do regularly.

Create a diary or photo album of inspirations on these visits so that when you are in need of a new idea, you can pull out this reference and get re-inspired. Encourage your staff to take photos of displays and products they see when they are out. Let them contribute to a valuable resource the whole team can use.

5. Spend More Time WithFamily and Friends – How much time do you spend with your staff? On average, we spend one-third of our day with our work colleagues. They are your work family, and, just like our home family, you can either spend quality time or just get through the day. How often do you take your staff to lunch one on one? Or have lunch with them in the staff area?

Spending time not talking about work will give you great insights into your team’s desires, goals and motivations. It also allows you to share your vision and goals in a more engaged and relaxed environment.

As you look forward to 2020 and all that it entails, I hope that you and your team will set some New Year’s resolutions for your store. Take the time to achieve your goals and create the most successful year ever!


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With over 20 years in retail, Raymond McKenzie is a professional dedicated to visitor experience, profitable buying and audience engagement. A Museum Store Association member since 2008, Raymond has served as a member of the Program Resource Group, Western Chapter President and Secretary of the National Board of Directors.

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Shining Together Across Five Continents

November 25, 2019

By Susan Tudor

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” This Mahatma Gandhi quote reminds me how Museum Store Sunday started — a small group of MSA volunteers committed to what they believed in.


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For the third year in a row, Museum Store Sunday will take place the way it began. However, there is a difference. That small body of determined spirits has grown. On Dec. 1, 2019, a much larger group has banded together to advocate for shopping in support of museums and other cultural institutions.

When MSA launched Museum Store Sunday in 2017, we knew it was an opportunity to showcase our stores with their unique, mission-related products and meaningful experiences, but we didn’t realize its reach. Here we are in year three with over 1,400 institutions united to celebrate nonprofit retail in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., 20 countries and five continents. Museum Store Sunday is educating consumers around the world about the importance of shopping in museum stores. With participating institutions across North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia, it’s thrilling to see our local, national and international cultural communities embrace this global day of museum store advocacy.

Museum Store Sunday has become the moment for our stores to shine in the eyes of the world. It is the one chance per year when all of us, on an international stage, get to say, “We’re here, and here’s why we matter!” Every participant, every employee, every vendor and every institution has a unique opportunity to be part of this. Don’t you think it’s truly amazing that on Dec. 1, over 1,400 museums throughout the world will be celebrating Museum Store Sunday? And by doing so, they will be connecting consumers to their institutions through shopping in their stores.

When I think of all the messages that Museum Store Sunday speaks to, what resonates most with me is purpose-driven shopping. I think it will always be our advantage in the marketplace. Purpose-driven shopping is about encouraging consumers and visitors to consciously contribute to the future sustainability and success of our cultural institutions. It’s about encouraging our visitors to be a patron and to support their local economy through shopping in their local museum stores. As Geoff Carroll, MSA Board Vendor Member Advisor, pointed out in his recent Museum Store magazine article, “We want and need the market for cultural commerce to grow. We want more families to wake up on Black Friday weekend and make a conscious decision to give their spending dollars to our community of museums.”

One of the major focus points of the MSA 2016–2019 Strategic Plan was to “develop a strategic program to communicate to the world the value and importance of nonprofit retail.” That our community has spread its reach literally around the globe with Museum Store Sunday dovetails perfectly with our intent and demonstrates the vitality, power and clarity of that intent. In three short and very focused years, we have made immediate and tangible progress toward one of our most significant goals of advocacy. Our MSA community should feel proud, indeed, of our “all shoulders to the wheel” attitude and our commitment to deliver on this goal!

It’s inspiring to see how this campaign has developed. To reference Gandhi’s quote again, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history,” MSA’s signature advocacy event is changing the course of retail history, especially that shopping period during the Thanksgiving weekend. I cannot wait to see where the next three years — and beyond — will take us.

As we shine together on Dec. 1, let’s remember that Museum Store Sunday is a continual opportunity to advocate for our stores, our institutions and our communities!


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Susan Tudor is the manager of visitor services and store buyer for the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida, and the current President of the MSA Board of Directors. Susan has chaired multiple MSA committees including the MSA Advocacy Committee responsible for the inaugural launch of the global initiative Museum Store Sunday.  

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MSA PRO-File: Lynne Francis-Lunn

November 11, 2019

By David Duddy

Until very recently, our colleague Lynne Francis-Lunn was the leader and creative force behind the extraordinary store at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. After a career at the museum for 33 years, she has retired from her position to pursue new endeavors and paths. We caught up with her for this PRO-File before she became completely enmeshed in her new plans.


Where did you grow up? Tell us a few basics: born, raised, training, education?KJK

I was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard, the lovely little island off the coast of Massachusetts. In high school, I became very interested in weaving, and I pursued my training at Southeastern Massachusetts University, hoping for a career in the fabric design industry.

What was your professional aim? Was it museums? In a retail capacity or another?

Well, a job in the fabric design world was not the easiest at the time — a lot of that work was leaving this country and moving offshore. I knew the director of the Essex Institute (later to join with the Peabody Museum to become the new Peabody Essex Museum), and I ran into her in a yarn shop. She needed someone to run their store for a few weeks while they searched for a new manager, and I took a three-week contract to do that. Three weeks became six, which became 12, and I thought “I could really do something here. Maybe this would be a great step for me.” I applied and was hired — and have been a part of the institution ever since.

What other types of jobs have you had?

I had a few other retail jobs and was very familiar with retail management, and I had also been teaching part time at Newbury College — some courses in textile technology.

No one imagines they will do something for 33 years when they start out. What kept you going?

I am not very good with the same sort of work over and over again. Every new exhibition created opportunities for learning — truly learning something new every day! When a new exhibition was proposed, I would dive into the details and begin the search for new merchandise or what new products could be developed to accompany it. Every exhibition brought a new challenge and a new chance to learn.

You witnessed a lot of growth at PEM. Were you a part of the expansion?

There were so many changes in my time at PEM — a 25-year expansion project after the two institutions had merged their collections and their strategic plans. I was involved in the design of the new store and had been asked by the director to select the proper consultant. After assessing two proposals, I did more research, and with the help of my MSA connections, I located a third choice, and we went with that.

How did your relationships with vendors, artists, curators and collectors affect the business? How was MSA part of your career in nonprofit retail?

Relationships have been absolutely key to the success of PEM’s business — through MSA and with all other business connections. Trust is essential to my work — to all of our work. You need to understand the abilities of the vendors to be a partner in a project. And they need to understand that a deadline is a deadline — that exhibition will open on the appointed day, and I must have the merchandise as promised. I can only work with partners who fully understand our needs. Trust will always provide the best possible result.

What was the biggest change you saw through those years? In the business? In the audience and clientele?

I think it must be the same for all of us: online business, Amazon — they represent the biggest change and challenge. But you have to move with those times and develop strategies for your own business.

What was your favorite moment in the course of your time at PEM?

There were many, but the thing of which I am the most proud is all of the terrific working relationships I developed with many colleagues and departments across the institution. We would collaborate on programming and events that wove the store into the exhibition in interesting and supportive ways. When we had our hat show at PEM, on loan from the Victoria and Albert in London, the store orchestrated a hat fashion show. The guest curator was Stephen Jones, one of the top milliners in the world (think hats at the races at Ascot). He allowed us to use hats from his personal collection, and it became a sold-out event. That required working with many others at the museum. During the course of the exhibition, we sold 3,500 hats. That was beyond anyone’s expectations at the time.

What was the craziest thing you experienced?

Not so much crazy as unexpected, but meeting and working with fashion icon Iris Apfel during the course of her exhibition at PEM. What started as meeting the donor became an incredible working relationship — and a friendship. She opens doors to many creative worlds but has the solid background of a business person. We would actually meet with Iris in New York and visit shows and showrooms. And, let me tell you, when you travel with Iris, you may meet a number of celebrities! It made me up my game wardrobe-wise, and she was an inspiration for that as well.

What was the biggest lesson from the years at PEM?

At the end of the day, people matter most. Over the course of my career, it is the people I met and worked with — colleagues, co-workers, vendors, customers, staff — people from every area of my life. I worked very hard at my job and truly sought success, but I really remember and cherish the people I knew (and know) the most.

What is next for you?

I am focusing on art making — now that I have actual time to do it! I have always worked on my art, but 10 p.m. is not really the best time for me to start a project, which had been when I could begin to create. Right now I am doing “30 art projects in 30 days” on Instagram. I have a piece in a Kentucky Museum as part of an exhibition organized by the National Basketry Association and another piece in the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Just the beginning — stay tuned for more!


Lynne Francis-Lunn is the former director of merchandising at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. She retired in October 2019 after 33 years. Lynne held the titles of museum shop manager, director of licensing and product development and director of merchandising at PEM. She was a former president of the New England Chapter of the Museum Store Association and presented a several national MSA conferences on licensing and product development. She also presented on museum store practices at the Cooperstown Graduate Program Symposium and at the American Associations of Museums. You can find Lynne on Instagram @Lynnefl.

 

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Museum Store Sunday: Seeing the Forest and the Trees

October 28, 2019

By Angela Colasanti

An international collaborative advocacy event

Pennsylvania is my home … it always has been. I adore the changing seasons, the variations in landscape from mountain to field to city. For much of the year it is green, except for the punctuated starkness of white in the winter and the warm orange hue of fall. Close to my home is Valley Forge National Historical Park, where we go to walk on the trails, picnic in the fields and reflect on the historical context embedded into this preserved landscape. My favorite place in the entire park is near Washington Memorial Chapel, where a massive plane tree lives. It is a true gem of nature, worthy of reverence and respect.


As I stand under the tree, reflecting on Museum Store Sunday, I envision that the soil is our community, the cities and places embodying our shared culture. The trunk is the institution, the building and the mission preserving that culture. The branches are the arms of the institution, the store, cafe, many other departments and the collections providing support to the mission. The leaves, catchers of light, as the employees, volunteers, community outreach, events and educational programming, giving the tree its energy and life force. And finally, the sun, the rain, the birds, the insects — they are the patrons. They have the honor of giving nourishment to the tree and receiving the fruits of its bounty. And they, in turn, carry the seeds and share them, starting the whole cycle anew.

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For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege to serve on the Museum Store Sunday Committee, watching a sapling grow strong under our collective tender care. It has been a professional honor to work with both institutional and vendor MSA members dedicated to the advocacy of museums and museum stores. In a very short time, we have collaborated to build an international event, with participation from over 1,200 stores, in all 50 states and 18 countries. The event has received international press attention, and we are on track to increase our participation by another 25% in our third year. This year, alongside my co-chairpersons, Stuart Hata of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Laura Murphy of The Preservation Society of Newport County, we have focused our efforts in three key areas: strategic partnerships and Advocacy, marketing and communications and engagement and recruitment. Our goal is to engage all parts of our tree and see continued growth throughout.

The Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy subcommittee, including Julie Steiner of the Barnes Foundation, Michael Guajardo of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Michael Higdon of the National Building Museum, David Graveen of Popcorn Custom Products, Kristen Daniels of Kamibashi and myself, has been specifically focusing on developing best practices for creating relationships within the cultural sector that advances Museum Store Sunday as a whole. We are actively engaging international, national and regional museum-affiliated associations and consumer arts organizations, as well as advocating directly to elected officials. Along with Susan Tudor, President of the MSA Board of Directors, of Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, letters and communications have been developed and sent to organizations and elected officials around the world, starting a broader dialogue on the benefits of Museum Store Sunday throughout the full breadth of the cultural sector.

Through our strategic partnership with the American Alliance of Museums, the diversity of institutions domestically participating in Museum Store Sunday has substantially increased. Laura L. Lott, President and CEO of the AAM, said, “Museum stores create wonderful opportunities for visitors to interact with, and take home, unique items inspired by their museums’ missions, while also supporting the local economy. The American Alliance of Museums is proud to be a supporter of Museum Store Sunday and hopes that this international day brings in new visitors who want to support museums’ vital work in an exciting way.”

Museum Store Sunday is an international collaborative advocacy event. The Strategic Partnerships and Advocacy Committee invites both institutional and vendor participants to contact their own local, state and federal elected officials on behalf of Museum Store Sunday. Tell them about this opportunity for their constituents to “Shop with Purpose” and “Be a Patron” of their local museum store. Using the advocacy letter templates available in the toolkit on the Museum Store Sunday website, you can easily insert your store’s information and send out your message to your own elected officials. We have created both printed and online submission versions, which you can customize to your specific needs. Be sure to invite your local representatives to attend your Museum Store Sunday events. Showcase celebrations or discounts you are offering, and take this opportunity to educate your legislators about the value museums and museum stores hold in our communities. For a listing of your legislators, click here for the American Alliance of Museum’s federal legislator search.

As I always do, I will once again visit that special tree at Valley Forge this winter. I will be reminded of the important work we do every day, and the strength and permanence embodied by the Museum Store Sunday event we have all cultivated. We, together, actively support institutions in the preservation of literature, history, nature, science, art and culture — for the benefit of all. Together we are a forest of trees, honored to share our work with patrons around the world. Museum Store Sunday is the celebration of all these relationships, and it creates unique opportunities for all of us to engage our communities directly through advocacy.


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Angela Colasanti is the founder of VIELÄ Jewelry, located in bucolic Chester County, Pennsylvania, just a short drive from Philadelphia. Surrounded by the beautiful woods and trails of Pennsylvania, and in close proximity to the New Jersey and Delaware beaches, there are abundant sources of inspiration for her jewelry designs. VIELÄ Jewelry partners with museum stores and cultural institutions nationwide, and Angela is proud to produce her line in the United States. She is a co-chairperson of the Museum Store Sunday Committee, a founding sponsor of Museum Store Sunday and has received a Service Award from MSA. Please reach out to Angela directly at acolasanti@vielajewelry.com, or contact the committee at info@museumstoresunday.org.

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Catch a Rising Star: ‘Museums and More’ 40 Under 40 Honorees

October 14, 2019

By Kate Botelho Sibya

Museums and More magazine recently released its list of the 40 people under 40 who are rising stars in our industry. We caught up with three of the honorees who have close connections to MSA: Lindsay Hagerman, co-founder and CFO of RainCaper; Jill DeDominicis, visitor experience manager at Mingei International Museum; and Sarah Schuetz, director of buyer services at International Market Centers. When we spoke with the honorees, we couldn’t help noticing one overarching theme to their responses: the value of networking.


Each of the winners stressed the benefits of reaching out, whether it’s within the MSA community or to other networks — and credits this interaction as important to their career growth. The sharing of ideas has been core to their success as museum institution members, vendor members and market representatives. It’s all about connection.

We asked each winner how they stand out in their organizations as young professionals and if they see their perspective as different.

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Lindsay Hagerman

Hagerman says, “I am constantly looking for new ways to improve RainCaper. I leverage many business networks, including the Museum Store Association and other focused entrepreneur groups, to help me make the right decisions for my business.”

DeDominicis’ perspective is informed by the unusual career path she took to her position. “Prior to this role, I worked as a magazine editor, mainly for the publication Ornament magazine, which focuses on artists, craft and wearable art. I also helped run a craft and furniture business for a short period of time, so I think I approach my work with an understanding of both the nonprofit, museum and retail side, but also with experience in the artist and crafter’s realm.”

Schuetz speaks of the power of serving others well. “Always follow through,” she says. “Ask yourself, how does the ‘other side’ benefit? Anticipate your manager’s needs. Proactively deliver before they even ask for it. Results speak for themselves.”

How did these young professionals achieve their positions, and what advice would they have given to their younger selves? Schuetz says to advocate on your own behalf. “You are more likely to receive that for which you respectfully ask,” she says. “Remember that hardly any decisions in life are forever. You have the privilege to make a different choice later, as your needs or desires change.”

Jill DeDominicis

Jill DeDominicis

DeDominicis agrees. “I would encourage my younger self to stick with what makes me feel inspired and excited and trust that it will all come together in the end,” she says. Also, to “spend way less time doubting myself; try to push myself even if it’s uncomfortable and scary.”

Hagerman believes that success is not achieved by working in a vacuum, “It is best achieved by networking, by hiring people who are smarter than you in their specialty area and by paying professionals for expert advice in their fields.”

When asked about their involvement with MSA, there was unanimous agreement in the power and value of our community. DeDominicis highlights ShopTalk as her go-to source for answers and inspiration. “It’s so encouraging to be able to talk with other colleagues in different museums and to hear about what they are working on, to have a sounding board to share ideas and to ask questions. It’s such a cool, supportive and helpful community,” she says.

Hagerman credits MSA with driving many product development decisions for her company. “In addition

Sarah Schuetz

Sarah Schuetz

to sales, we have also developed professional relationships through the last several years of MSA FORWARD — in particular, vendors helping vendors with our business,” she says.

Schuetz sees MSA as an “unbelievable resource … and proactively moving toward the future.” She adds, “Get involved, attend events, introduce yourself, actively participate. Network with talented retail experts to learn, grow, and prosper.”

Schuetz shared with us a list of questions she uses to “check in” with herself and make sure she’s keeping her priorities in focus:

  • What did you do this year of which you’re proud?
  • What are ways that you exercised self-care?
  • What are the most important things you learned?
  • What compliments did you receive that affected you?
  • What is the best advice you heard this year?

On behalf of MSA and MSA NEXT, we wish to congratulate the Museums & More Magazine 40 Under 40 Class of 2019!


msa-next-logoArticle provided by Kate Botelho Sibya of Newport Mansions on behalf of MSA NEXT.

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Museum Store Sunday … Is It on Your Radar?

September 30, 2019

By Laura Murphy

Museum Store Sunday, MSA’s global one-day initiative, will be celebrated on Dec. 1, 2019. Cap off your Thanksgiving weekend with this shopping event highlighting your store’s unique, curated merchandise and representing the best in creativity and culture. Everyone is invited to shop the incredible offers at museum stores on six continents and in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. Museum Store Sunday is for all nonprofit retailers from art museums, historic houses, presidential libraries, botanical gardens, zoos and more. It is a time for all nonprofit retailers to highlight their fantastic store merchandise.


The time is now to join the 1,200 museum stores who are planning for a successful day. We want you to take part in the third year of Museum Store Sunday success. Join the excitement and be part of this growing momentum. Our goal this year is to increase participation by 25%, and we are almost there! Let’s surpass that goal and increase our reach to 35%. Be a part of the excitement!

Do not stress. Yes, we can reach the goal together. The goal is to make your store a destination. It is to be part of your community. The benefit of registering for Museum Store Sunday is to gain international recognition for your institution and your contribution to it.

Let’s get engaged and put Museum Store Sunday on your holiday radar. You can do it in a few easy steps.

Visit the Museum Store Sunday website and click on the museum portal. Follow registration, and get your store name on the locator. After registering, you may then add the event you are hosting that day. Planning your event can range from working with one of your vendors to host a trunk show, developing a special product or asking them to show up with treats and talk up their products. Great signage, mugs, tote bags and pin-on buttons are available for purchase to promote the day. It is easy to participate, and 73% of participants saw an increase in sales that day just by being a part of the event.

Get your marketing department involved. Publish it on the museum’s website, Facebook and Instagram. Ask for assistance in writing copy to get the message out to the local media from print to radio. Be sure to get listed on local event calendars. Involve membership — emphasize it as a great shopping opportunity for the holidays and for members to support their favorite institution.

Check out the toolkit. Here you will find the branding guidelines for advertising, and purchase branded merchandise like signs, mugs and tote bags for in-store promotions.

Community outreach is another way to boost visitation. Involve other nonprofit stores in the area to become part of a program to increase store visits. How about passport programs listing all participating stores in your area and including their events and discounts being offered on that day? The message can be “support your local museum stores on Dec. 1, 2019.” Strength in numbers!

Support your local vendor. Reach out to them to assist you in making the day a success. Invite them to launch new products — products you have never offered. Make them a partner in your success.

Get your staff involved. Make them part of the excitement. Prepare by putting out the signs, having them wear the buttons and talking up the event to the visitors. Let people know this is a day not to be missed.

Now do you feel like you can make this day a success in a few easy steps by creating a store atmosphere to delight your patrons? If you have questions, please contact the Engagement and Recruitment Committee. We will be happy to walk you through any concerns, help you plan your day and give you even more reasons to join our international celebration.


Laura Murphy is the chair of the Engagement and Recruitment Committee for Museum Store Sunday. She can be reached at lmurphy@newportmansions.org.

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Big Ideas from AAM’s Annual Meeting (and How They Fit into Museum Retail Stores), Part 2: Embracing Change

September 16, 2019

By Julie Steiner

Part 2: Embracing Change

You’ve probably heard some of the statements attempting to summarize the scope of propulsive changes in our culture today:

  • More data has been recorded in the last two years than in all of prior history.
  • More immigrants have come to the United States since 1966 than in the entire time from 1776-1966.
  • Never before has the workplace accommodated four generations working side by side.
  • More than half the world’s population now live in urban areas.
  • Although over 90% of communication is nonverbal (tone, expression and body language), email, texting and social media have all caused verbal communication to decrease dramatically.

Simultaneous demographic, social, technological and economic changes are uprooting norms across all industry sectors. The program at AAM’s 2019 Annual Meeting made it apparent that today’s museum professionals wrestle with the ever-increasing speed of change in American culture. Advances in technology and rapid data accumulation change not only what we do, but how it is measured. Problems and solutions are increasingly global rather than local; generations are changing; centers of power shifting; individual stories are amplified and empowered just as “privacy” simultaneously becomes commodified; and on and on.

These are sweeping changes with far-reaching implications, not only in museums but everywhere in our lives. Never in history have humans had to reconcile so much evolutionary and social change so quickly. In addition, an individual organization’s reactions and efforts at adapting to cultural changes often happen on an international scale, at an ever-accelerating pace, and quite often (thanks to social media) directly in the public eye.

As an example of this, by now you are likely already familiar with the conversation about salary transparency that sprang from the AAM keynote address with Kimberly Drew, where Drew (an African-American woman) disclosed her salaries from previous jobs and compared one museum salary to that of her white male predecessor. This disclosure garnered many murmurs from the crowd, followed by even more tweets, Facebook posts and discussion on social media, which, within weeks, prompted another museum employee to launch a shared spreadsheet for museum workers to make similar disclosures anonymously.

This spreadsheet grew rapidly from a few entries to thousands. In this sequence of events beginning with a single AAM session, we see the kind of seismic shift happening in real time that illustrates so many of these converging simultaneous changes:

  • Workers demanding new levels of accountability from the organizations they serve
  • The speed of transmission of ideas our technology provides
  • Increasing demands for transparency in nonprofits
  • Changing values as younger generations become more influential
  • Lessening distinctions between personal, political and professional

How Does All this Apply to Retail?

No one is immune to cultural change. As nonprofit retailers, we can prepare ourselves by admitting that “business as usual” is not going to cut it in these times. Together, we can assess how some parts of this shifting landscape have extra implications in retail, as the changes affect not only our institutions, but essential retail business practices. Museums are under pressure to collect more visitor data, with higher needs for specialized skills of analysis and reporting. Processes that can be automated will increasingly be so, such as staffing levels determined by visitation algorithms, and the now-ubiquitous self-checkouts at so many discount stores and drug stores.

Complicating this further are expectations of our changing consumer marketplace. These pattern changes scale from large (like demanding sustainable manufacturing) down to individual transactions, like customers expecting smartphone-enabled payment options, or bringing their own shopping bags to reduce waste. Even our own buying patterns are shifting, as the wholesale trade shows fluctuate, merge and re-emerge.

As we face this barrage of changes across the landscape, let’s admit that change is inherently unsettling, even on a small scale. Humans intuitively resist change out of deep-seated fear of uncertainty that is part of our psychological evolution. However, change is also a necessary part of growth. Growing our businesses to accommodate these changes, addressing them head on to provide support for our employees and others who rely on us, and assisting our organizations’ larger transitions all show our own adaptive leadership.

Additionally, we can know that we are not alone. These are broad cultural shifts shared across institution types, sizes and locations. Tension and resistance are normal. The changes required in our institutions sometimes challenge long-held, comfortable practices. Fortunately for MSA members, in addition to AAM, our association community provides a localized and subject-specific platform for us to pose questions, embrace challenging discussions, and to scale these grand ideas down to the specific intersection of museum culture and consumer needs. Our localized conversations at MSA chapter meetings, in committees, at MSA FORWARD, in Shoptalk discussions and through direct networking should increasingly support our individual, professional and organizational development as we weather these changes together. I look forward to the shape these conversations will take on in our Museum Store Association.


headshotJulie Steiner (pronouns she/her/hers) is the director of retail operations for the Barnes Foundation and past president of MSA (2017-2018).

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How Museum Stores Support Their Institutions and the Community At-Large

August 19, 2019

Compiled by Stuart Hata

Throughout my 30 years as a museum retail professional, I have often had to explain to others how museum stores support their institutions and the public at-large. These conversations have occurred within professional circles, through my personal network of friends and family and with casual acquaintances and complete strangers. Many people were unaware of the facts and, once divulged, all expressed great appreciation for the roles and responsibilities museum stores and their staff deliver. I have also heard and received valuable explanations from fellow Museum Store Association colleagues, both institutions and vendor members alike.


As Museum Store Sunday, MSA’s signature advocacy initiative, takes root and expands in the consciousness of consumers and the general public with each passing year, I would like to offer the following compilation of views why our work in the museum retail industry is so important and vital to the cultural landscape. Please feel free to share these collective thoughts with your colleagues, institutions, customers and communities as we work to make every day a Museum Store Sunday day.

  1. Museums are a trusted resource for communities, and the products sold in museum stores reflect the mission, collections and programs of the museums and cultural institutions to which they belong.
  1. Museum stores perform integral and multifaceted work for their institutions, from earning income and extending mission-related programs, to visitor engagement and educational outreach through store products, programs and experiences.
  1. Dedicated directly to and an integral department of their institutions, museum stores operate as nonprofit retailers under section 501(c)3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code and are a key earned revenue department of the museum.
  1. Museum stores further the educational mission of their institutions through the offering of products, which allows the public to “take home” a part of the museum for their enjoyment and ongoing memory of their museum experience.
  1. Museums traditionally attract broad market bases, and those attending will range from school children to professionals, from college students to retirees and from families to single adults. Therefore, museum stores effectively service these diverse visitors by offering a wide variety of items and price points that help capture the interest of each of these various patrons.
  1. A museum store creates long-term patrons of the museum by specifically engaging children, teens and young adults in programming and events and with store products that are educational. This important demographic that can be reached through the museum store helps to create future audiences that can support and sustain the museum.
  1. Products found in museum stores are curated just like the works displayed in their respective institutions, with many items often developed exclusively by the museum, resulting in distinctive and unique offerings for consumers.
  1. A museum store and their products are one of the strongest marketing tools that a museum possesses. When a patron wears a piece of jewelry, looks at a print, reads a book or plays with a game purchased from the museum store, they are subtly communicating key marketing messaging and reinforcement of the institution.
  1. Museum stores are vital front-line ambassadors for their institutions, ensuring visitors receive welcoming and enhanced experiences and knowledgeable and meaningful engagement from their museum visit.
  1. Revenues generated by museum stores are deposited into the operating budgets of the parent organizations, providing economic sustainability for the museum and cultural engagement for the community.
  1. Museum stores extend the brand of their parent institutions, helping museums communicate, reinforce and amplify their unique offerings and experiences to the general public.
  1. Museums foster ongoing appreciation and knowledge of art, nature, culture, science and history. When consumers purchase a gift from the museum store, they help to sustain the museum’s service to the public.
  1. Museum stores help their institutions create a sense of pride and ownership from their members, visitors, local governments, communities and the general public.


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A veteran museum store retailer for over 30 years, Stuart Hata is the director of retail operations for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the de Young and Legion of Honor. He is responsible for driving a multimillion dollar retail business at two museum locations and oversees merchandising, store operations, warehousing, product development, retail marketing, licensing, wholesale and the online FAMSF store. Stuart also currently serves as a co-chair of the 2019 Museum Store Sunday Committee and is a past president of the MSA Board of Directors and MSA Western Chapter.

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Motivating Staff Members: Cash Is Not King

August 5, 2019

By Susan Saylor

Recently, MSA President Susan Tudor asked for suggestions from other MSA members on ShopTalk for ideas that would help motivate employees to convert visitors to members. I replied to Susan in a private message, and she appreciated the suggestions so much, she encouraged me to share the information in a blog post.


In a past life, I designed incentive programs for the corporate world. Some of the main “rewards” I provided were weekend family getaways (no timeshares involved). I worked with businesses to move big ticket items, like opening a $25,000 home equity line of credit for banks and credit unions or construction-related wholesalers like electrical, plumbing or HVAC dealers to incentivize customers (i.e., contractors) to spend a certain amount during a specific period of time (usually 90 days). These are just two examples of the businesses I worked with. I always advocated for including employees in the program and gave suggestions on how to incorporate incentives for them.

Businesses traditionally give cash incentives, especially in the sales world. However, usually the cash gets used to pay for everyday expenses like groceries or a dentist bill. Therefore, it just goes away with no memories attached to the reward.  A weekend getaway produces memories of a happy time together — usually with pictures and souvenirs from the destination, not to mention Facebook and Instagram posts. They also remember how they earned the reward!

With so much to see and do in your area, you could use things like dinner for two at a fine restaurant, tickets to a concert, theater, or sporting event of their choice or any number of wonderful experiences in the area. You could award individuals or put employees together in teams, which is an effective way for the team members to motivate each other. You know your own staff and what they would see as a delightful and motivating event.

To help your employees recruit, give them free passes to the museum, but create a special pass named “Get to Know the Museum” or some other title that sets it apart. It would give the visitor a choice of dropping in during normal hours or an option to book a special guided tour in advance with a docent so they can become acquainted with other services or events at the museum. Perhaps give those who tour a goody bag or maybe even a discount card good for purchases made on the next for Museum Store Sunday.

I wrote a white paper at the time, and I will highlight some of the statistics. If anyone wants a full copy which references the studies behind the statistics, I’m happy to share it:

  • Tangible incentives dramatically increase work performance by an average of 22%.
  • Incentive programs aimed at individuals increased performance a substantial 27%.
  • Moreover, programs aimed at teams increase performance a stunning 45%.
  • Incentive programs have an equal, positive impact on both quality and quantity goals.
  • Incentive programs structured with employee input work best; however, only 23% of incentive systems are selected with employee input.
  • Long-term incentives are more powerful than short-term incentives (44%gain for programs beyond a year versus a 20% gain for programs less than one month).

So, reward them with experiences — anything but cash. The concept parallels why we have museum gift stores. As Julie Steiner so aptly put it in her blog post “What Is a Museum Store?” on September 25, 2017, “The magic [is what] 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.”


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Susan Saylor is CEO of Scarves for the Arts, a division of National Promotions. Her career began in advertising and marketing and evolved to executive sales and marketing. Her lifelong interest in the arts and concern for on-going funding challenges for many arts and nonprofit organizations led her to create Scarves for the Arts in 2016. She became an MSA vendor member in 2017.