In case you missed them, here are some of the most popular articles for nonprofit retailers from the past quarter:
What you must know about content writing for e-commerce sites
The content in your e-commerce site needs to be more than just a flock of words at various assigned spots on the website. The words need to breathe life. Here’s how.
7 ways to speak up smartly at the office
We know that advocating for yourself at the office is essential, but how you do it determines your success. Here are the seven keys to speaking up smartly.
There may be two Black Fridays this year
Never mind that we've barely bid farewell to swimsuit season. Retailers are already looking ahead to the all-important holiday shopping season. And this year, that means they’re looking ahead to..."Thanksgivingukkah"? That’s the made-up name some are giving to a very real and remarkable coincidence of the calendar—namely, the fact that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that normally starts close to Christmas, fall on the same date in 2013 (November 28, to be exact).
Opinion: Why I hate museums
With global tourism expanding at exponential rates and in innovative ways, what role can traditional institutions such as museums expect to play in contemporary travel itineraries? Can they still rely on the intrinsic value of their collections? Or do they need to start telling their stories with more force?
Are museums still relevant?
Ford W. Bell, president, American Alliance of Museums, answers questions for CNN about the roles of museums and their relevance today.
What were the hot topics for you this past quarter?
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The museum store mission statement is a concise declaration (no more than a short paragraph), written so that it can be understood by all, that defines the store in terms of the goals of the retail presence, its focus on the store’s customers and the means the store will use to meet its mission.
Although closely aligned with the museum’s mission statement, the store’s mission statement is a considerably different and separate document. The framework of the store mission statement can, after making adjustments in wording, be applied to e-commerce, wholesaling, product development and licensing.
MISSION STATEMENT GOALS
It is not too dramatic to say the store mission statement asserts the reasons for its existence. A store that operates without a mission statement runs the risk of developing into a “gift shop” instead of a museum store or museum shop. In conjunction with adherence to Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) requirements, the mission statement can help make certain the product selection reflects the museum and distinguishes the store from other museums and commercial retail operations. In other words, the mission statement can define the breadth of the product selection and establish limits.
What are some goals to be included in a mission statement?
Contribute to earned income. Why? Most museums could use the money! Equally important, however, is that by setting a goal of making a profit, not just generating gross revenue, the store will have to be managed in a business-like manner that is constantly evaluated by its customers through the quantity of their purchases and by museum management based on profitability.
Community outreach. Selling products made in your community with common characteristics is a worthy goal. The products can include, for example, jewelry made by local artists using indigenous materials, other original arts and crafts, jars of jams and jellies made from local fruits and vegetables, or products generally representative of cultures in the community.
The focus is usually on the store’s customers, including visitors, volunteers, members, staff and destination store customers. General descriptions like “visitors” and “guests” can be used, or the reference can include specific stakeholders like “members” or “school-aged children.” Where the store is not perceived as competitive with local commercial retail or the retail environment is so big the museum store does not really affect it, the focus can also be on destination store shoppers.
The means is typically the core of the mission statement and can include appropriate customized phrases that may include:
- Enhance knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment
- Extend the experience
- Continuing education
- Descriptions of types of products such as sustainable, American, locally made, indigenous, local artists, etc.
- References to the museum’s mission, collections and exhibits
If one of the goals is maximized profitability, it is sometimes difficult to balance a continuing education goal and the pursuit of profits. For example, books are a major contributor to continuing education, but most evaluations of the category’s contribution to profitability based on gross margin or dollars per square or linear foot would find books lagging behind other categories. Putting an emphasis on continuing education in the mission statement will help to support an appropriate amount of space being dedicated to books or other product categories as a mission statement means, even though the categories are typically not as strong a profit generator as others are.
Have you created a mission statement for your museum store? What additional tips can you share with others?
You can never have too many risers. They’re a display artist’s best friend. Available in a variety of sizes and finishes, risers are invaluable tools that add visual interest to a display.
Here are five reasons why they should be a part of your display arsenal:
- Change the level playing field. You will attract more attention to a display when items are not all on the same plane. Eyes will initially be drawn to the taller piece then move throughout the rest of the display.
- A high tide raises all ships. Place a group of products on stepped risers, creating a pyramid. This draws attention to a specific group of merchandise that is different from its surroundings.
- Wrap it up. Wrap cylinder or block risers with fabric or wall covering to enhance a product theme or seasonal look. Coordinating finishes on risers can unify unrelated items.
- Elevate a thought. Risers aren’t just for showcases. Large platform risers can help give a smaller but unique item a lift. Placing the item on a single tall riser (pedestal) and illuminating the piece from above will be sure to add intrigue and increase the perceived value of the product.
- Repurposing the ordinary. Look around you. Risers can be as simple as a few stacked books, a sturdy shoebox, a glass cake plate, or a metal pail turned upside down. Of course you can buy them in all sorts of shapes, sizes and finishes, but it’s always fun to find a clever way to reuse an existing something or other.
Available in a variety of price points, from affordable stock pieces to unique, custom risers, the sky is the limit as to what you can do.
How are you using risers in your museum store displays?
Have we lost you yet?
The idea of re-merchandising your store EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It's likely one that makes you want to cringe. After all, you’re busy. And we get that! But hear us out.
1. A little bit of something every day makes a big impact.
Take working out, for example. If you work out every day—even if just for a quick 15 minutes or half hour—you are more likely to see results, stay consistent at it and enjoy the benefits as well. Merchandising your store is actually very similar. If you consistently work at making your displays, store shelves, signage and total in-store experience a stronger experience for your customers through merchandising, you will reap the benefits of having an always-evolving store. Customers will appreciate the change in how your store looks, and for many local businesses, this provides a huge benefit. What may have been on a shelf one day may land on a center rack the next day, and suddenly sales of the item may shift. Change, plain and simple, creates impact, and that’s the goal.
2. Customers enjoy the experience of something new.
If your store remains too consistent in its displays and merchandising, customers take notice of it, or lack of it, depending on how you want to look at this. Keep your customers on their toes with their wallets ready by mixing things up. Make their experience in your store fun, engaging and inviting. While you may have a general area they can expect to find something—such as a back wall with your best-selling, staple items—how you merchandise the overall store and even specific areas should change daily. Now, we understand not everything needs to change daily, but if you change at least one area a day, within seven to 10 days your store should have a whole new feeling to it.
3. Your store responsibilities won’t feel so overwhelming.
Have you ever walked into your store and just felt overwhelmed with everything on your to-do list? We can’t promise that will go away, but we can suggest doing a little bit of merchandising every day will help alleviate that dreaded feeling of having to give your entire store a makeover. Naturally, you may still want to do a seasonal, holiday or special event overhaul every now and again, but for day-to-day sales, merchandising things differently a little every day can help you from feeling overwhelmed with having to do it all at once.
While keeping a store fresh and exciting goes well beyond just merchandising, how you merchandise it certainly makes an impact. Consider highlighting “just arrived” inventory in a special spot. Incorporate “locally produced items” in a key area. Identify unique products with special call-outs or signage. The ideas are endless to keep things engaging for your customers while also keeping you on your merchandising toes.
How do you keep things fresh in your museum store?
Why do people get involved as a volunteer in an organization? What is the motivation for people to take their time, money and talent to become involved? What does it take for volunteers to get involved and stay involved? The important question is...WHY?
Motivation is an inside job. People do things for their reasons, not yours, so our role is to create an organization culture that stimulates the inner motivation of each volunteer. What are the external stimuli we can use to arouse that inner motivation?
Most people respond to three levels of motivation.
Basic Level: Self-serving drive
Secondary Level: Relational drive
Highest Level: Belief drive
The basic level of recruiting is self-serving.
People often join an organization because it meets their needs. That need may be for business, for friendship, for belonging or many other self-serving needs. Most organizations offer an associate membership for business people who offer services for members. I have served on committees of professional organizations because I am able to meet with people who could use my services. Networking is an incredible opportunity and benefit of volunteering. When I volunteer, I get new business.
The wise recruiter looks for these kinds of volunteers because it is a win/win. The organization benefits from getting my expertise and high-energy enthusiasm (after all, if I am looking for clients, I’m not going to do a poor job). I benefit because I meet people who know people who are looking for speakers, trainers and consultants.
Political volunteers often are motivated by this basic level. They get involved with a campaign because they see the personal benefit to them—usually something financial like taxes. If I help elect this candidate, it is going to benefit my business or my taxable income. Again, this is self-serving; however, it is another win/win for everyone involved.
Interns provide another example of this type of volunteer. They want experience that they can use to get a job. Most of them are also looking for a mentor—and someone who can write a strong recommendation letter for them.
When we recruit at the basic level, we stress the personal benefits volunteers will receive when they work in our organization.
The second level is relational.
People also volunteer because of friendship. When a friend personally asks someone to volunteer, it is often hard to say no. If the friend is excited about a certain cause, he or she is the best person to do recruiting. Relational marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools. IIR (investing in relationships) is one of the strongest stimulators for our inner motivations.
Why do politicians shake hands and kiss babies? Harry Truman was a successful campaigner. He knew how to work a crowd. He knew how to shake hands with people. Harry Truman truly loved people and was so successful at campaigning. Bill Clinton was another great campaigner. During his first campaign for president, he was visited many college campuses. A TV network interviewed a group of college students after one of his town hall meetings on the campus, and they asked these students if they were going to vote for Clinton. Everyone said that they were excited about Clinton and wanted to get involved in his campaign. When the interviewer asked them what it was about Clinton’s policies that they supported, many of the students didn’t have a clue. They all were excited about the person, but they had no idea what he stood for. They had met the person and liked him as an individual.
Many people join an organization and work as volunteers because they were recruited by a friend. The advantage of having a recruiting team is that the synergy of brainstorming increases because we have just increased our sphere of influence. Two people only have so many contacts. However, a recruiting team of 10 people can produce hundreds of potential volunteers.
The third level is belief.
The level of belief is the strongest level of commitment. When people volunteer because of their passion for a cause—they actually believe in our cause—we have the strongest level of commitment. When people believe in the cause of the organization, even if that cause will cost them a great deal of personal sacrifice and pain, that is when the volunteer is highly motivated. This is true inner motivation that is on the level of Ghandi or Mother Teresa. People join and volunteer because they believe the cause is right. This is the highest level of motivation.
People often join an organization at level one (self-serving) or level two (because of a friend), but in time they become true believers and passionate about the cause. This is our goal with each member of our organization.
In our organizations we find recruits at all three levels, and we can use each kind of motivation to enlist volunteers.
What are some of the best ways you've found to recruit volunteers for your museum store?
Historically, point-of-sale (POS) systems have been very expensive, as well as time-consuming, when it comes to integrating into your museum store. Fortunately, modern technology has eliminated both the high cost and excessive time commitments, instead providing retailers with affordable and efficient POS options.
While this is good news, researching POS systems can be exhausting. There are many to consider and many to avoid, as well. Here are three tips on how to identify which POS system may be best for your unique museum store or specialty shop.
1. Hardware & Accessories
Back in the day, hardware meant heavy accessories that swiped credit cards, connected to your computer and collected data with a storage device attached. Nowadays, many POS options are cloud-based and often small in size. When considering a new POS device for your store, consider how mobile you want it to be. Do you want it to go from your cash wrap to your museum sidewalks? Consider the possibilities of getting something that can move around versus staying intact. iPad POS options, such as ShopKeep.com, are light in weight and easy to incorporate into any store space. Meanwhile, other options, such as Square, are even lighter and smaller in space and can be used on an iPhone. Consider what makes sense for your store and your employees.
2. Installation & Customer Care
You’re busy, that’s no secret. Consider how long installation of a new POS system will take, then consider what kind of customer care you will get along the way. Efficient POS systems do not have to take days to install. It should happen in less than an hour for many, while getting to know the system better and maximizing its features will take some training and time. One thing to really consider as well, is what kind of customer support you will get once you are up and running. There is bound to be a day when a new employee needs some help and you aren’t there to assist, or a little glitch takes place and you aren’t sure what to do. Working with a POS company that has an 800 number readily available is strongly suggested. Many do, while others do not. Another key thing to consider here: If your employees do not know how to use your POS and get frustrated, it does nothing to help your business. Think ease and customer care when picking your POS provider, as those two features truly impact your bottom line.
3. Accessing Data
Tracking sales and inventory data is a given, but having that information accessible whenever you want it will change your business. Traditional POS systems require reports to be run and aren’t always accessible when you are at home, traveling or anywhere other than your store. Many modern POS systems, such as Shopventory.com, ShopKeep.com or OneStepRetail.com, allow you to access data from anywhere, anytime. Additionally, most POS systems should offer you smartphone apps to truly make your life much, much easier.
Finally, the big question of “cost” is sure to be an issue. Our best advice? Read the fine print and look into the “extra” details that POS systems offer you. If signing up for free or super cheap seems ideal, consider the fine print involved. Hardware costs, service calls, warranty upsells and POS upgrades can add up fast. Plus, some POS vendors may mask subscription costs by forcing you to use a certain credit card processor. Transparent and no-nonsense pricing is key in our book. Take the time to identify this for your store.
Have you had any recent experience implementing a new POS system in your store?
Contributed by Lyn Falk, owner, educational speaker and designer at Retailworks Inc, an award-winning, nationally recognized design firm located in Mequon, Wis.
Your floorplan and style of service may need to (and most likely should) change depending on who is walking in your door during any given month. Are kids and tourists back in school, sports and work mode? Does that mean fewer families and more school groups are visiting your facility? Is your venue hosting a popular traveling exhibition that will attract a specific visitor type? Not all customers are created equal. Here are five types of museum patrons to be aware of and their very different shopping patterns.
- Families—Traveling with kids crossing a wide age range, families cover a lot of ground in your shop as they hit souvenirs, posters, toys, books and more. Creatively merchandised displays geared towards family activities will capture their interest. Be sure to post signs that inform them of services such as special orders, birthday discounts, gift wrapping, [free] shipping, etc.
- Seniors—With lots of time to spare, seniors are often lingerers. Make them feel welcome with a warm greeting and encourage them to stay awhile. The longer they are in your store, the better chance they will make a purchase. Be available to answer any questions or to assist them with their purchases. For those who are elderly, be patient, speak slow and clearly while looking directly at them, and be sure light levels are high and signs are easy to read. Make sure your aisles are wide enough to accommodate those in wheelchairs. Many seniors have money to spend so making them feel comfortable can be a profitable move!
- School Groups—Ensure your floorplan is as open as possible with postcards and low-price impulse items at “kid-height.” Teachers keep a tight schedule so make sure your sales assistants are on hand and moving students through the checkout process as smoothly as possible, because as soon as that school bus is ready to depart, your store will quickly be vacated. Providing a small free gift with your logo on it will most likely end up in the child’s home where parents will be reminded of the museum.
- Popular Traveling Exhibit Goers—Fresh from the excitement of an enriching experience, these patrons are more likely to make a purchase. Display exhibit mementos front and center in a variety of price points. Have crowd control measures on hand, whether it’s limiting the number of guests in the shop, or lining up patrons with ropes and stands to facilitate a seamless process. Post signs that inform them of special services you offer, and be sure to get them on a mailing list. Exhibit attendees are good candidates for becoming regular patrons.
- Solo guests—Thought-provoking displays will keep these customers engaged. If and when appropriate, ask these visitors a couple of questions. Did they come to visit anything in particular that day? Did they take a class at the museum? Are they a member? If so, remind them of member discounts or new items. Make sure they are on your mailing list to receive information about promotions and items of interest.
Not all people are created equal when it comes to shopping. How many different types of shoppers do you have coming through your shop? A little forethought and some added attention to the selling floor will help you capitalize on their differences at the cash register.
Mary Petillo handles advertising sales for MSA publications including Museum Store magazine.
The general public perceives museum store merchandise to be of better quality. How could museum stores offer anything less? After all, museums exist to preserve and protect valuable, unique and historic places and treasures. But how do vendors get their products onto the shelves? Advertising to museum stores is more like fly-fishing than net-fishing. It is more work, and there is also an art to it.
1. You cannot just put your advertising net in the water and sit back to watch it fill up. Purchasing one ad, one tradeshow booth or one direct mailer will not tell you if museum stores are interested in your product. Buying cycles and exhibit schedules will often delay the response to an ad or promotion. You need to be like the fly-fisher casting your line into gentle streams baited with just the right lure to hook your museum store target. Try casting your lure with this line of questions: “Did you see our ad in Museum Store magazine? Our popular/new ‘Product X’ was featured in the Buyer’s Guide. It matches an upcoming exhibit I saw on your website for next year. Which piece in your permanent collection does this traveling exhibit support? We also have ‘Product Y’ to complement your permanent collection.”
2. Marketing to museum stores is not a quick process. It takes hours to tie a fishing lure. Actually catching a fish often requires many casts before you get a bite. Patience is needed to successfully land a museum retail account, just as fly-fishers know that even with the best-tied lures and repeated casting, persistence is necessary. Developing a marketing plan is a long and evolving process.
3. Ad development is an ever-changing process. Fly-fishers will twitch their line, let it float and mend it to adjust how the lure is presented to their target fish. In this same stream of thought, ads need to be tweaked to catch the attention of museum stores.
But here’s one way that selling to museum stores is not like fly-fishing: While fisherman often practice “catch and release,” this is not the case with vendors who prefer to develop relationships with museum stores. Vendors are very proud of their museum store accounts and actively promote the connection. Many MSA vendors list the museum stores that carry their merchandise on their website and strive to maintain and nurture their museum store accounts. Likewise, museum store buyers prefer to establish vendor relationships that have proven reliable with products that match their institution’s collections or focus. Museum store buyers appreciate vendors who go the extra mile with good service—providing hangs tags or provenance cards with information about the item, artist or subject matter that will educate the museum store visitor as they shop. Museum store buyers also appreciate lower minimums and good return/exchange programs to help keep their sometimes-limited stock fresh and current for the changing museum exhibits.
Lure the attention of museum stores with your quality products and services. Provide for their specific and evolving needs to establish profitable wholesale accounts that you can brag about—just like those proud fly-fishers with their line-caught prize!
How will you capture the attention of museum store buyers?
Museum store managers face many challenges, including staffing challenges like being short-staffed or how to allocate duties between paid store staff and volunteers. Here are some ideas to help overcome these challenges while maintaining seamless store operations.
Skeleton floor crews
What do you do when you find your store short-staffed? Guidelines in this area depend on whether there will be a skeleton crew for an extended period of time (due to budget constraints) or short-term (i.e., a staff person didn’t show up). In both instances it’s helpful to establish priorities to be used by the staff you do have on duty.
At the top of the priority list is taking care of the customer and doing what needs to be done to operate the store properly. There may be orders to write and reports to run, but a customer in the store is the top priority. Staff should be instructed to drop whatever they are doing to pro-actively attend to the needs of the customer. This is especially important if the reason for the reduced staffing is budget oriented and every sale has special importance.
As part of dealing with the customer, do all you can to make the customer’s time in the store a pleasant shopping experience. This includes warm greetings, smiles, reasonable approaches and a sincere thank you. Be busy but available; straightening, dusting and generally sprucing up the displays and merchandising.
It’s also important staff know how to spread themselves around by handling more than one customer at a time. The key points to doing this include:
- While working with one customer, subtly acknowledge the presence of other customers.
- Flow from one customer to the next, suggesting things the first customer can do that will occupy their time while you’ve stepped away.
- Tell the first customer you'll be back with them in a moment.
- Set a pace that gives adequate and appropriate attention to each customer.
- When returning to a customer, thank them for waiting.
One of the reasons I like having a small work area behind the cash-wrap is so projects, which can be worked on between customers, are easily accessible without leaving the sales floor and cluttering the cash-wrap area or the top of jewelry counters.
Also high on the list of priorities is the daily need to open, close and operate the store properly. For example, regardless of staffing levels, the opening till should be counted carefully, the ambient music turned on and at the end of the day receipts, bank deposits and the securing of the store must be executed as per procedures.
Providing adequate floor coverage during breaks, lunch and required meetings, and enhanced coverage when the store is busy, is another important priority when working with a skeleton crew. Cross-training store staff and others in the museum administration, especially those who work close to the store, allows for flex coverage as demanded by circumstances. This incremental staff should know how to basically complete a transaction and should have a friendly demeanor to help mitigate not being as knowledgeable about the inventory and other aspects of the store as the regular staff.
Special considerations for scheduling volunteers
To lessen the number of times an absent volunteer leaves a hole in your coverage, establish the following procedures:
- Prepare a contact list of all volunteers qualified to work in the store.
- Distribute the list to all store volunteers.
- Require a volunteer who is going to miss their shift to contact X number of other volunteers to try to find a replacement before contacting store management.
When established, these procedures help to assure sufficient floor coverage, reduce management’s need to deal with scheduling issues and build team cooperation through the gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) pressure of the volunteers policing each other.
Paid versus volunteer staff duties
My core belief is that anything a paid staff person can do, the right volunteer can do equally well. However, there are some differences that deserve attention. It may be best to view the difference between paid and volunteer staff as “skilled” versus “differently skilled” with a resulting division of responsibilities.
The one area where the line seems to be most frequently and clearly drawn is the handling of cash. If the division of responsibility is because of the misperception that a volunteer can’t count or separate cash from checks as well as a paid staff person, the division seems misguided. However, there are chains of responsibility and legal ramifications that often make it necessary to have a paid person handle cash.The extreme end of this policy restricts volunteers from even operating the POS system while more reasonable restrictions generally apply to opening and closing cash-handling routines.
It’s also important to make sure paid employees don’t feel their jobs are in jeopardy of being taken over by unpaid volunteers. Such feelings can lead to acrimony and make teambuilding very difficult. Ideally, the volunteer should be presented and perceived as complementing, not challenging, the paid worker.
Building a cohesive mixed team also requires taking volunteers and their suggestions seriously. In this area it can be argued that volunteer opinions, provided without fear of losing their "job," are more unvarnished.
If the purpose of volunteers is to increase effectiveness, enhance visitor satisfaction and, in turn, grow revenue and profitability, one role may be of particular value. This role is that of a sales ambassador on the floor answering questions and helping to find products for visitors who, at the end of a museum visit, are often pressed for time.
Volunteers with long associations with the museum often bring special warmth to the process that is usually welcomed by the customer. This connection can be enhanced by having the volunteer wear a nametag that includes language like, “Associated with the Museum Since (Year).” This simple statement often triggers a “people buy people” relationship. If the volunteer has been with the museum a long time the conversation frequently includes shared “remember when” moments.
How do you manage staffing challenges in your store?
Through 21 years of consulting with museum stores, I have come to respect Capture Rate as one of the valuable tools for measuring the success of a retail presence. Capture Rate can provide a non-financial snapshot of the customer’s overall response to the store, encapsulating product selection, merchandising and display, retail pricing, location, customer service, and the overall ambiance of the store. Simply put, if more museum visitors make a purchase in the store, it generally translates into greater revenue.
To become a valuable tool it has to be calculated accurately and consistently. The most widely accepted definition of Capture Rate is the percentage of museum visitors who make a purchase in the store. The formula is:
This seemingly simple definition and calculation, however, is fraught with hazards that can affect accuracy.
What transaction count should be used? On the surface, this is simple since nearly every cash register and POS system provides a transaction count as part of the “Z” tape or daily closing report. The challenge is in making sure the count to be used only uses transactions that include a retail product and excludes transactions that are, for example, only for items such as admissions or opening the cash drawer to provide change.
What visitation number should be used? This is more challenging than the transaction count because this data is often maintained by entities other than the store. My preferred definition of visitation for this purpose is the number of people who come in close proximity to the store when it is open. I fully recognize, however, it is probably simpler, and thus easier to be consistent, if a broader visitor count, such as admissions, is used. This is a critical point because without an accurate visitation count, there can be no consistency and without consistency, the calculation can be worse than inaccurate by becoming misleading. (And please note that ”Visitation Count” is not the number of people crossing the threshold into the store.)
As the above highlights, controlling the calculation is difficult enough without trying to do intra-museum comparisons. As a result, I recommend that you maintain the calculation and build benchmarking data for your museum and not try to compare it to other institutions.
What are your favorite formulas for measuring store performance?