Museum Retail Intervention

MOSS BUREAU offers museums a new retail paradigm, one that looks beyond fiduciary responsibility and positions museum retail as a full partner with other departments. This requires a bespoke approach to both merchandise and presentation, and renders the long ubiquitous generic museum shop obsolete. The post-generic museum store has a unique branded identity and is a platform for extending the museum's mission.  

Museums live now in the world of the blockbuster, competing with each other for exhibitions and talent as well as for audiences, and competing with all other forms of entertainment for their customers’ attention, dollars and time. It has become essential that every department, including retail, provide maximum value to the enterprise that modern museums have become. Declining attendance, donor fatigue, siloed operations and dated technology complete the context for urgency of change in the museum world.  

A museum’s retail department must represent its parent museum’s philosophy, its mission, its collections, its expertise and knowledge, its architecture and its history – in short, the museum’s DNA. A museum store must present a unique environment and offering because it is an extension of the museum’s unique brand, which was itself established by the museum’s unique collection, architecture and curatorial vision.   

Until now museum shops have been encouraged to follow the well-known dictum from the Hippocratic oath, “First, do no harm”. In this context, the meaning is basically “break even, sell the catalogs and don’t let anyone slip and die in the store”. Not the most ambitious agenda, perhaps, but good enough to get by. 

Retail is generally a low priority,  and shops are often small, run by staff without retail experience, without support, and with low budgets. Not surprisingly, most museum shops do not make money, and it’s the rare exception that is anything but generic in its merchandise offering and display. 

This is a tremendous lost opportunity, and we believe we can help make a change in your retail operation that will result in reaching the following goals:

  • increased revenue

  • lowered overhead, leading to increased margins

  • more effective connection to the museum’s branding, leading to enhanced customer experience

  • establishing the shop as a local destination

  • making the shop a portal to the museum

MOSS BUREAU offers a specialized service that addresses all aspects of your retail operation, including how it fits into the larger set of programs and initiatives of the museum, and recommends a program that will first and foremost bring you increased sales revenue and higher margins, and which aligns retail with your museum’s brand. By addressing the physical store, the online store and, most importantly, all the products being offered, we offer a uniquely bespoke service. Unlike that of other consultancies, our approach is both analytic and highly curatorial, focusing narrowly and deeply on the attributes of, and opportunities provided by, your museum.  We work with the museum director and relevant board members to reach agreement on goals, and process. We advise and supervise the store team in executing the program.