Profitable Times Newsletter

Keys to a Successful Museum Store Design

There are hundreds of decisions made during the museum store design process. Most sequentially from preceding decisions. A few critical first links in this chain of decisions that lead to a successful museum store design are described below.

First, however, it's important to define three words.

Success, as applied to a museum store, includes enhancing the image of the museum, increasing visitor satisfaction and contributing to the maximization of earned revenue.

Merchandising is where product is placed in the store and from which customers make their selections. The vast majority of store fixtures are dedicated to merchandising.

Displays are vignettes that incorporate multiple products with a common theme that tell a story and visually suggest add-on purchases. Stores should include strategically placed areas and fixtures for building displays. Display windows and the tops of shorter fixtures are two examples of display areas.

Data Collection

Who Are Visitors?

This is the first and most important question to answer. It includes projections of visitor for new stores, understanding the current visitors for stores being remodeled and similarly understanding the characteristics of customers who may use the store as a destination retail presence.

What type of customer is expected? Primarily adults? What about children? What percentage of the children will be visiting with their families versus in school groups? What's the balance between females and males? What have? What will be the socio-economic breakdown of the visitors?

How Many Visitors/Customers?

As far as the store is concerned, the core of the question is how many people will come in close proximity to the store when it is open? In addition to raw visitation numbers it's important to know how many adults, children, school groups, tourists arriving by bus, attendees to special events, etc., there will be. Another factor, is projecting how many customers will use the store as a destination retail presence?

What Products Will Be Sold?

What are the product categories that will be merchandised in the store? Will any categories, such as jewelry or posters, require special fixturing? How big a presence will books demand? Will any products be unusually large? Which product categories will require the greatest customer service? Which categories may be most vulnerable to shoplifting?

Schematic Design

Where Should The Store Be Located?

Assuming all other factors are equal, the best location for the store is on the right as visitors exit towards car parking, bus loading zones and public transportation. Location, location, location location for commercial retail.

What Size Store Is Needed?

The primary factor affecting the size of the store is visitation when the store is open plus the customers who will use the store as a destination. The size of the building, number of galleries, pieces in the collection or the operations budget are of little importance in determining the proper size of the store. Other factors include accommodating visitation ebbs and flows (especially flows), available space and unusual fixture and product size considerations.

What Size Storage and Office Space Is Required?

There should be office and at least some storage space immediately adjacent to, and directly accessible from, the store. As a general rule of thumb, the total office and storage space should be around thirty-five percent of the selling space. This percentage, however, is greatly affected by the storage capacity built into the store fixtures and by the bulk buying patterns and book and catalog printing programs of the museum.

Is The Product Secure From Receiving To Sale?

Products must be in a secure environment from the time they are delivered to the museum until they come under the control of store personnel. This may start with secure temporary storage cages near loading docks and include a retail space that can be closed and locked when not open for business.

Design Development

What's The Relative Value Of The Product Categories?

The answer to this question will help allocate a finite amount of space so each product generates as much revenue and profit as possible for the space used. For each product category, revenue, profit margin, turnover and space required for merchandising should be compared to the other product categories in the store, not to other stores or industry standards.

The goal for this comparison is to determine if the product categories that best support store are given sufficient space and the space devoted to less important categories is kept in balance. Books is to the same comparative standards.

Will The Layout and Design Help To Increase Incremental Sales?

Perhaps the most critical, and in some respects the easiest, way to increase revenue is to people to buy more... Now! This is especially important for museum stores because so many visitors are infrequent or one-time customers. Granted, the best way to do this is through great customer service and proactive selling, but the layout and design, especially providing attractive display areas, should augment those efforts.

Does The Design Encourage Customers To Linger and Move Throughout The Store?

The more time a customer spends in the store, even if customer service is not what it could be, the better chance there is they will find something to buy. Simply asked, is the store a place where customers will want to spend time? Is the merchandising space off to the sides and towards the back of the space attractive enough to draw foot-traffic to these areas? In addition to the product selection, will the combination of general ambiance including lighting, flooring and music, compelling merchandising and displays of product extend the time the customer spends in the store?

Do The Fixtures Enhance The Overall Image Of The Store?

Every aspect of fixturing should support the pricing and value of the products in the store. If the museum is a more sophisticated institution with a higher-priced product selection, the fixtures must help to create an ambiance that enhances the perceived value. Stores selling lower-priced, less sophisticated products can have simpler fixturing.

What's The Greatest Design Gift To A Museum Store?

Because of product selection responses to periodic exhibit rotation and traveling and exhibits, the most beneficial feature that can be designed into a store is fixture flexibility. Jewelry and posters, for example, need dedicated fixtures, but most of the remainder of the store will benefit from casters under freestanding fixtures so the store can be rearranged more easily; adjustable shelves so taller and shorter products can be accommodated and a vertical merchandising system that helps to make efficient use of the area above each square foot of merchandisable space.

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