Παρασκευή 11 Απριλίου 2014

From Marks & Spencer to museum shops: retail tips for the heritage sector

πηγή http://www.theguardian.com/

Retail success for a museum relies on the same things as any high street store: intelligent data applied to product development

• 16 tips for making the most of your museum shop
Woman using chip & pin machine
It’s essential to establish a simple data infrastructure to understand who your customers are. Photograph: Libby Welch / Alamy/Alamy
Last month, Oxford Aspire hosted its second annual What's in Store conference, focused on improving income in museum and heritage shops. This free session sold out immediately with a large waiting list, which aside from being great for the conference also revealed the appetite of smaller museum and heritage shops to share experiences and gain knowledge. With cuts across the sector board, commercial activities have become increasingly important for arts, culture and heritage.
As delegates arrived, the lively chatter of retailers filled the lecture theatre. It's a sound that always warms my heart, and isn't always what you hear when you're talking hard business in the heritage sector. If retail is in your blood, making an income is a consequence of doing your job properly – it's what you do. (Soft) selling is part of a service; it's about creating sustainable and ethical businesses that enhance the visitor experience.
So I took to the stand to talk about some of the tools that can be used to generate more income and increase the professional profile of smaller museum shops. But who am I?
My career started 30 years ago with the Marks & Spencer graduate scheme, which provided a strict regime of understanding numbers, retail spaces, products and customer service. At the time it seemed like boot camp, but it provided a lifelong understanding of how retail worked. I then moved to Burton group's buying and merchandising departments, working in ladies' knitwear and men's accessories (did you know men's boxer shorts came into existence only in the 80s?) before a move into supply, product design and development.
I've travelled extensively throughout the Far East in the early days of manufacturing and spent time in the US and Europe with some of the key designers who would influence the current markets. But how has this background helped me in my current role, where the numbers are much smaller yet the stakes more important?
First, I believe it's essential to establish a simple infrastructure to understand the numbers. By using demographic data about your visitors – and most smaller institutions don't have this data on their retail customers – your current and historical sales can tell you everything about your consumers that you need to know: average transaction values, best sellers, price points, colours and designs. The numbers also highlight the gaps and provide solutions and formulas for filling them.
The two museum shops I manage have very different spaces, turnovers and customer profiles. For each shop, in order to understand their individual trading patterns, we utilise the analysis tools that larger retail organisations use. This includes WSSI (weekly sales stock and intake), a system used to plan and monitor sales and stock on a weekly basis; OTB (open to buy), a method of planning and controlling retail inventory; and range planning documents. You can download a sample of these documents from our resources page.
The numbers then give you hard evidence to talk to stakeholders; you've created an easy-to-understand language that shows how your business is performing financially, and provides the figures for buying and budget presentation.
Armed with your figures, the next key stage is how you apply this strategy to product development. This, for me, has to be the second most essential factor. My time with designers and high street stores confirmed that this is the only way to keep any retail business fresh and sustainable. All of our venues are unique: they themselves are their own brands, their own unique selling points; they sit in the very objects and nature of their collections.
The public visits heritage sites more than any other time in this century. We can and should capitalise on this. It used to be that you could develop own-brand lines only if you could place volume quantities, but with digital technology and greater supplier flexibility you can now buy 50 or 100 of most types of product or test lines, then back them up quickly when they work.
The Oxford University Museum of Natural History reopened to the public on 15 February this year, and 40,000 visitors walked through the doors in the first 10 days. Visitor numbers, sales numbers and income broke all records. How did we plan? We used the numbers to forecast, and now the real development starts.
Professional retailing in the heritage sector is still young in most of the smaller sites. But by applying just a few of the fundamentals, you can evaluate where you are now and develop a vision for not only maximising income potential but also enhancing the unique ethos of your venue.
Yvonne Cawkwell is retail manager at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum – follow Oxford Aspire on Twitter @OxfordASPIRE

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