Profitable Times Newsletter

Non-Economic Responsibilities and Opportunities
Associated with a Cultural Commerce Store

It's probably prudent to start this article by acknowledging that practically everything done in in a store eventually has a financial impact. But, just like the phrase "retail is detail" acknowledges the importance of a broad range of activities including some that are less obvious, there are some responsibilities and opportunities that have economic impacts that are less evident than others.

Store salespersons typically have the most interaction with visitors.

Visitors usually spend more time interacting with store salespersons than any other personnel. Yes, each visitor may interact with admissions or other frontline personnel but this interaction is almost always limited in duration and narrowly focused on the mechanics of the visit. Docents often spend more time with visitors, but only a small percentage of those on a docent tour get the chance for meaningful interaction.

Once in the store, however, visitors will often connect with the staff on issues of personal preference such as their favorite exhibit or piece of art and discuss products that relate to these favorites. The interaction also may broaden to other things such as what to do in town, where to eat and how to get places.

As a result, time and energy, primarily in the form of training programs, should be spent on pro-active selling and affecting the customer experience. The personnel in the store, whether they are paid or volunteers, must be responsive to the visitor / customer, proactive in their application of selling techniques, and knowledgeable about the institution in general, the merchandise in particular and ancillary topics.

The store as the best source of hands-on continuing education material.

Yes, I know about the Internet and the vast sources of information and products available, but there continues to be the strong probability of a warm tactile connection between the visitor and the store and staff, especially at the end of a visit. While books are often listed as a product category where sales are routinely lost to the Internet, the perceptible beginnings of a comeback for independent booksellers is a sign this phenomenon may be waning. To deepen the 'best source' feeling it is helpful to note through signage and verbal interaction, the money generated in the store stays with and benefits the institution.

The store is part of the last and lasting impression made on visitors.

If sited in the most advantageous location within the institution, where it may be described as the last exhibit and is the collective focus of the visitor's full experience, the store has an outsized impact on the last and lasting impression of the entire experience. A poor retail experience, which is affected by aspects of product selection, service and ambiance, will not negate a positive experience within the institution, but it will affect the last, and what is often a lasting, impression of the visit.

Cutting to the chase, how the customer feels in the store greatly affects how much they will spend. A great looking retail presence, that is well maintained and has an attentive staff armed with product knowledge and versed in key customer service skills, is going to sell more and leave the visitor with a positive impression of the institution and store. And let's make sure we understand a customer buying more it is a direct reflection of their total experience.

Some other, perhaps less impactful, factors to consider include:

Cater to and facilitate children.

Children are important store customers because they represent three distinct consumer groups. They are:

  1. Primary buyers spending their own money.
  2. Agents of influence who greatly affect how much money is spent on them.
  3. Future adult customers who will tend to repeat activities they enjoyed as a child, including buying in the store.

Will having children in the store result in refolding more t-shirts, rebuilding displays, straightening merchandise frequently and increased shrinkage and breakage? Probably, but it is also a very rewarding melding of mission, sales and future growth.


Too much store signage is not a good thing, but some is necessary and can further educate the visitor and subtly affect many other aspects of a visit including spending. Signs should:

  1. Attract Attention
    The appeal of a sign comes first then the message. It's important to remember that signs communicate more than what is written on them. The eye is quick to see, evaluate and then continue with or ignore what comes next. A sign may have great information, but if it's poorly written, shabbily produced, dirty or ineffectively placed, it will be ignored.
  2. Engage the Customer
    A professional looking sign that is clear, brief and consistent with other graphics simply has a much better chance of being read.
  3. Inform
    Now that the customer has decided to give a sign some time, you have the opportunity to disseminate information about everything from the provenance of a product to hours of operation, return policy and much more.
  4. Motivate
    This goal is the most direct link to the revenue generating value of signage.

See the complete list of Profitable Times™ Newsletters.


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