MAY 22 1985
May 21, 1985
MUSEUM STORE ASSOCIATION
The MSA is a professional organization of museums, vendors and store managers
from the US, Canada and Great Britain.
There were 465 delegates from around the US and the UK including delegates from London
The accommodations and meetings were held at the Hyatt-Regency, Buffalo.
Concurrent sessions were scheduled so that several topics were being covered at any
one time. Therefore, it was necessary to choose the topics most important and relevant
to our needs. Th following coaments pertain to those sessions I attended :
Are Computers The Answer To Financial M'nagm~ent and Inenitory Control?
This was an introductory mini-course in computer terminology and the types of systems
that are currently in use in museum stores. The session was conducted by Dennis
Curtin, Columbia University, who has published works on the applications of computers
in various areas of museum work. His advice to museum store managers was KISS,
Keep It Simple,Stupid. His main objection to trying to use the computer for inventory
control is that, in his opinion, the software currently on the market is not flexible
enough or specialized enough to suit the needs of a museum store. In a small, one
outlet operation, he recommwds the PC bookkeeping programs such as LOTUS for daily
accounting and for keeping a running list of sales on particular types of inventory.
However, he does not reccmend coded price labels or scanning devices such as we see
in department stores. These systems are for use with multiple outlet facilities
who have need of large warehouses with thousands of items.
He also issued some caveats: 1. Be prepared to spend lots of time learning to use
.whatever system you choose 2. Teach your employees to use it 3. If you don't
have time to develop your own programs, hire a specialist; it will save money in
the long run. 4. Remember that if you choose software especially geared for
use in the retail operation, your computer is virtually tied to that program and
isn't available for use in other applications. 5. Make sure you can get service
in a hurry and have a back-up plan for a manual recording system in case of computer
Nuts and Bolts of Merchandising, Sam Greenburg, Snithsonian Museum Stores, Director
Mr. Greenburg's talk was organized on outlined charts which explained terminology
to beginning store managers. The key point in all of the charts was that turnover
is the most important variable in successful merchandising because: 1. too much
inventory on hand reduces your ability to buy seasonal items. 2. Aging stock is
unattractive 3. A small stockroom hasn't room for new additions if old stock is
hanging around 4. Lower inventory allows you to make fortuitous buys 5. Low
inventory and fast turnover is an indication of good management
How do you accomplish low inventory?
1. Carry a minimum number of units of each item
2. Time the deliveries so that you get the stock only when you really need it
3. Keep the selections lean ( not too many of the same type item in the same price range)
4. Make quick and effective mark-downs (start with 25% off and get rid of the turkey)
5. Keep careful control of special buys (i.e. items geared to a special exhibit)
6. Aim for 60 or 90 day billing
7. Plan ahead so that you know what will be on hand at the end of the year
8. Keep the number of price points low so that items don't compete with each other
Improve your mark-up by:
1. "Attacking" your vendors to get the best terms possible on freight, price, rebates,
2. Identifying profitable items for repeat purchases
3. Training all sales people and volunteers very carefully; they should KNOW the
4. Using attractive displays
5. Getting return privileges with vendors; if it doesn't move in a month, send it back.
How do you use your visual presentations to best advantage?
1. Use your space wisely
2. Know "A" real estate: the front counter is the A-1 location in the store for
3. create excitement with your displays
4. Anticipate customers' questions and be ready with positive answers
5. Get your vendors to print attractive labels for your merchandise; it looks more
6. Have eye-level shelving wherever possible
7. Have a sense of urgency: Got a good idea? Don't sit on it--do it!
8. Motivate employees with a strong sense of commitment to sales
Sales Begin With Salesmanship,Joan Terranova, Vice President, Laboratory Institute
of Merchandising, New York
This session followed very closely with tips on how to do the things suggested by
Sam Greenburg and dealt primarily with training personnel to sell more.
Ms Terranova cited the following points as being most important to successful sales:
Attitude: toward customers, merchandise, other duties (housekeeping)
Appearance: should be neat, clean, well-groomed (especially hands!)
Personality: hire "happy" people; make sure they are enthusiastic, smiling, extroverted,
courteous, diplomatic, patient and loyal to the organization (honest).
Speech: should be clear, well-modulated, spoken with correct usage and grammar, intelligent
Technical skills: personnel should be eager to learn, have a knowledge of the inventory,
should have good writing skills and the ability to count!
In training personnel, we should know the different ways to approach a customer:
The Service Approach: say "hello".( 'May I help you?" is a NO-NO)
The Personal Approach: you call the customer by name, keep a notebook of names and
addresses in order to notify local customers of special sales or new items, know what
they like to buy, remember their favorite items or past purchases
The Merchandise Approach: start talking about merchandise right away: "Have you seen
one of these before?" "'ou might be' interested in these books that came in today",
"Our new display is over there in the front window", etc.
Avoid qualitative adjectives such as "This is
scarf?" "Aren't these particularly lovely?"
"No, this isn't lovely at all; get away from
Offer information but not your opinion.
MY favorite", "Isn't this a beautiful
(The customer is likely to say or think
Ms. Terranova also gave examples of helping a customer to narrow a choice and close
the sale. Things to do:
1. listen to the customer's remarks about things ;look for positive comments
2. narrow the options to two or three
3. ask questions (Which one do you like best?)
4. let the customer handle or wear the merchandise; make them feel they already
5. treat the merchandise as you would a part of your museum collection; with care
6. know when to stop talking
7. offer incentives for the purchase; throw in a couple of post cards for expensive
items, offer to ship it home for them, gift wrap
8. Try to sell one more item at the close of the sale: suggest a complementary item
such as an accessory to match or pieces to complete a set (How many shoe salesmen
also try to sell the matching handbag?)
Eliminate the word "I" from your sales vocabulary; always use "you" or "yours"
"It's too expensive" use the layaway plan(for local customers), charge it,
If you know the customer, offer to put the purchase on their charge slip, hold the slip
for 24 hours while the customer takes the item home overnight. Call the next day for
'That's not what I want" : ask for a description of what the customer DOES want,
offer two or three alternatives
Outdoor Sites Seminar: Those attending included delegates from Williamsburg, Old
Salem, Mystic Seaport and nature museums and all had similar problems including
the old standby: Are we a museum or a tourist attraction? They all have to compete
with attractions that are riding the coattails of their particular site just as we
do at San Agustin Antiguo. The solutions seem to culminate in the store merchandise.
All of them carry T-shirts, film, candy, tobacco products and souvenirs but they
consider these items as ancillary to the educational purposes of the shop.
All of them suggested taking advantage of tourism campaigns conducted by chambers
of commerce or governmental departments of tourism. For instance, Old Salem is
promoted nationwide by the North Carolina Division of Tourism.
Other suggestions for increasing visitation and sales:
1. Offer adult programing in the off season (weekend in Cplonial St. Augustine and
craft classes or living history experience included in package.
2. Corporate Days: invited corporations around the State to bring families
and employees for a free day in the museum with food or special giveaway connected
with the Museum Store
3. Cooperate with a local college to conduct Elder Hostel programs in the summer
with special emphasis on colonial history and craft education sessions.
Sell the craft supplies in thea Mluseum Store.
4. Get the museum departments to think "SALES" all the time when planning programs
and special exhibits. Stay informed about the overall museum program.
5. Run advertising in local papers and get locals involved in the museum as volunteers,
buyers and teachers.
6. Development special reproduction items connected to your collection. Keep it
simple in the beginning to avoid being stuck with things you can't sell. See
7. Have special staff and volunteer sales at Christmas and end of the year.
8. Use museum buildings for private functions and keep the shop open for these events.
9. Hire high school juniors as summer clerks. They are usually good workers and
will come back for summer work during the college years. Once they are trained,
you have help for five summers.
Regional Meeting--Florida delegates:
There were twenty-nine delegates from Florida so we were the only state to have a
meeting room reserved for ourselves alone. All other regions were grouped according
to geographical areas of the U. S.
The state delegates suggested ideas for display materials, vendors to avoid and those
to deal with. They suggested inexpensive materials for hanging posters, containing
small toys and children's items and techniques for book displays. Books do well at
every museum store except Ringling. Suggestions were made on improving display.
The Florida MSA regional meeting will be held in October at Ringling. Delegates are
requested to bring their best and worst sales items for possible swaps. We are
also to bring brochures, advertising or other promotional material for the Museum
The extra-curricular events included trips to the Albright-Knox Museum, The Buffalo
Museum of Science, The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum (directed by Bill Alderson),
the George Eastman House and Museum of Early Photography,and Niagara Falls.
This was a most informative and successful meeting. It was worth the investment and
difficulty of arranging everything and I believe that we can develop an attractive
and lucrative business for the Foundation.
May 22, 1985 MAY 22 1985
MUSEUM STORE ASSOCIATION
The Trade Show
There were approximately 600 exhibitors at the Buffalo Convention Center.
These exhibitors are all Associate Members of the Museum Store Association
and, as such, enjoy the endorsement of the Association. Most of them carried
items best suited for art or science museums but many also had selections
that were appropriate for history museums as well.
There were quite a few import companies which specialize in Latin American
crafts, .clothing, decorative arts and toys. I also met a representative of
a company in England that reproduces wax document seals. One of the seals
he can provide is the King George III seal with an impression of the walled city
on one side and the likeness of George III on the other. It was used in
St. Augustine in 1764.
Another vendor had prints and maps among which were an early map of the St. Augustine
harbor (no cartographer signature) and a Harper's Magazine print of a view of
the St. John's River.
These were the only two vendors who had anything specifically related to St.
Augustine. If we want these types of items, we will have to produce them ourselves.
It was the general consensus of all participants and vendors that jewelry is the
#1 sales item in all museum stores. Jewelry vendors were in abundance and many
of them carried glass beads such as some we have in our collection.
Other items of interest were colonial games and toys, dolls, miniatures and
dollhouses, paper and notecards, souvenir items(custom work), art objects,
clothing, wall-hangings, and bric-a-brac.
Publishers were well-represented. Many books that would do well in a general
science or art museum would not be related to our subject. However, there are
several companies that carry books related to our museum interpretation and
others about Florida natural history, wildlife and Indians.
I estimated that I could have spent an extra $800 to $1000 on items that I saw
at the trade show. Several vendors offered to waive the minimum order and tried
very hard to get me to buy.
It seems that museum stores have very good credit reputations and many of the
standard operating rules for wholesale were waived at the trade show making it
much easier to buy small trial amounts. The vendors were more than willing to
allow delayed shipping, 60-day billing and waiver of credit references in order
to do business with the museum buyers.