Museum Monday: What Does Your Museum Store Do for the Museum?
I know the public think a trip to the museum gift shop is a nice way to conclude a museum adventure. They pick up a cool tee-shirt for brother. Select a cute pin for sister. Choose a colorful picture book for a grandchild. Grab a handful of postcards to send to family and friends..."Having a Wonderful Time!" And maybe they even splurge on a piece of art for themselves.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. As museum store managers, you contribute directly to the museum in so many ways. This list is a little reminder. If you're doing three or more, give yourself a pat on the back...then think about other ways you can help.
And if you can think of more ways managers can contribute, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below.
Don't underestimate your ability to contribute to the bottom line. The Museum Store Association estimates that you contribute between 5% and 25%. But there's more to it than simply dollars. The revenue you bring in (unlike many grants and contributions) is free of strings and commitments. The museum has a free hand to spend the money as they best see fit, and that's important.
Through your gift store, you can function as a museum ambassador and build a community of friends and advocates for the museum. The museum may have a formal "Friends of" program; the gift shop can be more informal.
Through social media, you can create a space for friends who love the museum and the gift shop to swap stories, share experiences and enjoy friendships with people who share an interest.
The nice thing about social media is you can interact with your community. For example, you can invite customers to share photos of store purchases in use--displaying an item in their home, sporting a button or scarf at work, wearing a museum tee-shirt while biking or hiking...you get the idea.
You too can get the community excited as you share photos or a video new inventory or building a new display space. Again, it's nothing formal, so have fun with it.
And if you build an email list, you can alert people to new items in the gift shop, which may stimulate a trip to the museum. Your community of friends and fans of the museum store may encourage more sales and more visits.
Your online store is just one way to reach out and connect with people locally or globally. Your store has the potential to attract online visitors who find your store and then go on to learn more about the museum.
But there is more that you can do. You can reach out and get involved with the community. When there's a local charity drive or school fundraiser, get your museum store involved. Commit X% of purchases to go to the charity.
You can also involve artisans--both local and around the world--in supplying your store with unique gifts. It's good for you (helping to set you apart from the crowd) and great for the artisan. Your museum, of course, benefits from the good feelings and publicity. In fact, whenever you are planning an act of outreach, let the museum marketing department know. They may be able to issue a press release or more.
Extend the Experience
You do realize that you sell so much more than gifts and souvenirs. You sell mementos that trigger memories. You help keep people engaged and connected with their museum visit.
And you never know what latent interest you may stimulate--particularly in a child--when you give gifts of books, games, activity books, even toys and tee-shirts. You may spark the recipient of you gift to research, read and learn more...and maybe encourage her family to visit the museum in the future.
The right gift to the right child could spark a lifetime of interest and experiences.
Museum managers have noticed that visitors sometimes start their tour of a museum in the gift shop. Apparently, this can help them with their interpretation of exhibits. What people have discovered is that the most important items in the collection are often represented in the postcards, reproductions, books and even toys displayed in the museum shop.
So think of your gift shop as an informal docent helping to point visitors to significant exhibits and collections.
Build the Brand
Finally, always remember that you represent the museum. When you stand for quality in your gifts and souvenirs (and it doesn't have to be an expensive item), you are putting the museum's best foot forward.
So be thoughtful about your inventory. Look for educational value as well as the fun factor.
We know it's not always possible to get items made in the USA, but your visitors often look for American-made gifts. So consider having some handmade items--such as ornaments and ceramics--made by local crafts people and artisans.
So how did you do? Are you pulling your weight for the museum? Do you have ideas for other ways gift store managers can contribute? I hope you'll share them.
RosieCentral supplies museums with costumes, gifts, socks, posters, ornaments, Suffrage sashes and buttons and much more. We look forward to serving you.