Ask any retailer what’s their largest expense and they’ll have a quick answer: inventory. It’s an ongoing struggle. Too much inventory results in an overloaded stock room, crowded shelves, reduced cash flow and profitability. Too little stock on hand appears that you have limited items to sell and cripples sales. If you’re a museum store buyer, even more pressure is added as they act as stewards of the organization’s funds and, in turn, must act responsibly and have more accountability.
A museum store plays a large part of the whole visitor experience. Typically located at the entrance and/or exit of the museum, the employees make best use of their product offering, retail display and messaging throughout the store. While the store’s financial outcome is vital to the retail operation, even more is customer experience.
I remember a trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The building is massive taking up an entire city block. The museum interactively takes you on a journey through Lincoln’s boyhood years through his White House presidency. The galleries immerse you through the most dramatic moments in Lincoln’s life using the latest in technology to bring 19th century history to life. It’s engaging, educating and inspirational. You simply feel you are living part of Lincoln’s story. At the end, you are invited to walk into the museum store. The store is welcoming, impressive and genuinely reflects the museum exhibits you have walked through.
If you read my last blog, you know I’m a mug collector – so my goal was to purchase a Sunset Hill Stoneware mug from the museum store. The SHS mugs were not hard to find – the artisan-quality pieces were on display in many locations throughout the store. I found a mug to purchase, but noticed the displays were a bit in disarray – so I resourcefully spent some of my time straightening out the mugs so their brands all stood front and center, while my husband shook his head and acted like he didn’t know me. Soon one of the employees came over and I introduced myself. She was glad to meet me – and for the help in straightening the shelves.
The way stores display their goods never mattered much to me, until I began working for a mug company. Now I notice. Always.
Sometimes at our Neenah retail store, I’ll ask our team on-site for some display photos. They kindly send them to me and I sometimes shake my head at the current display. I know we can do better than what I see. We all know that presentation is everything and you have one chance to make a good impression – even if you’re a mug on a shelf.
Many of our customers share their displays – with us. We are so proud to be part of their story and of their ‘made in America’ offering.
Meet the Makers
We also work with The Local Store in Eau Clair, Wisconsin. They offer an authentic shopping experience with an impressive array of unique gifts, books, apparel, kids gear, decor, food, etc. I love what they do. All of their merchandize evokes a sense of place – whether it’s the Chippewa Valley or Wisconsin in general. To reinforce their brand messaging online and throughout their retail and online stores, they not only feature Wisconsin-made products – they tell the artisan stories of the item. They call it Meet the Makers. Want to buy a Wisconsin state-shaped skillet for your overnight guests? What about a wooden Chippewaddlers duck toy? Or is a sweet, ginger-infused root farmer's beverage called Switchel in honor of the haymakers who drank it during the 19th-century. The Local Store puts together beautiful store displays while educating visitors and building a sense of community.
Buyers know their stores can’t sell what they don’t have in inventory, so keeping stock on their shelf is important to their retail business. They also know that not turning inventory can be disastrous to their bottom line. It’s a constant balance of getting the right product on the shelf at the right time – and keeping those displays looking good.
Many retailers try to:
1. Align their store principles with affordable American-made products
2. Display their products with personality
3. Keep displays visually appealing and tidy
4. Educate staff so they can share their mission with visitors
The next time you visit a retail store, appreciate the thought and work put into keeping stock on the shelf. And for me – if you see a SHS mug out of place, please take time to straighten out those mugs a bit so the brand stands out front and center.
Keeping watch. Pat