Profitable Times Newsletter

SWOT and Personnel Issues & Management

If Boot Camp at the Annual Museum Store Association Meeting were a full day (instead of a half), the following topics, touched on during Boot Camp, would be developed in more depth.



Mostly because museum store resources are limited, SWOT issues are usually not addressed fully as part of store planning as they could be. Product mix and development, merchandising, retail pricing, quickly processing transactions and creating displays have a tendency to crowd out other considerations.

Strengths are characteristics that enhance a store's advantages. Strong visitation helps of course, but other than becoming a destination store there is little retail can do to drive independent visitation. Within the museum, however, location, location, location can be a planned strength. Cultivating buying and help from museum members and volunteers can be a sustaining strength as is an experienced paid and volunteer store team. Looking to the future, good data collection provides the base upon which sound future business decisions can be made.

Weaknesses are characteristics that create a disadvantage relative to commercial retail, other museum stores or within the museum. Not enough space to service normal higher levels of visitation is a clear disadvantage because it dampens the opportunity to maximize revenue during peak visitation periods. A poor location within the museum constantly interferes with progress and insufficient marketing and product development funding stifles upside potential.

Opportunities are elements that can be used to exploit advantages. Some opportunities include being able to market to population expansion, especially if it's moving toward the museum or surrounding it in high-rises, a strong collection of images for product development and the potential to represent artists and craft persons exclusively. Each of these is an opportunity with potentially strong returns on the investment of time and money.

Threats are situations that could or do cause problems. In the past year we have evaluated a changed foot-traffic pattern that drew visitors away from the store, a very dated looking store that did not compete well with surrounding retail and non-retail activities in a store that took too much time and attention away from selling and customer service.

Personnel Issues and Management

Another expansion of Boot Camp could be in the area of management and personnel issues. These are often subjective in nature and take more time to address. This discussion could focus on retail manager or overall management team responsibilities regardless of to whom they are assigned. The discussion could start by focusing on a core list of manager responsibilities. From my perspective, the manager should have:

  • Full responsibility for all aspects of retail.
  • Proportionate authority to fulfill the responsibilities.
  • Clear lines of supervision and reporting.
  • Required scheduled time on the sales floor.
  • Minimal, and insulation from, interference and over-collaboration by other segments of the museum. It's often said a camel is a horse designed by committee. In my experience a store run by committee often results in product selection analysis paralysis and an out of focus product selection.

Additional personnel and management issues could include:

  • Identifying store staff with distinctive attire or a special nametag. The now closed Liberace Museum was an excellent example of distinctive attire.
  • Consideration of using volunteers as full salespersons or as floor 'ambassadors' with limited access to the POS. We once had the experience of working with an elderly volunteer with incredible knowledge of the book selection, especially for children, and an equally great fear of the POS. She would work with visitors on the floor and then walk them to the POS where she smoothly turned them over to another staff person to finalize the transaction.
  • Addressing sales staff effectiveness versus expense. Some of our clients track the number of Transactions per Hour as a way to monitor effectiveness and help plan personnel overage.

Financial and other areas that could be addressed in an expanded Boot Camp include:

  • Travel expense. Too often travel is simply assumed to be too expensive without giving sufficient consideration to the advantages of finding unique products at trade shows, networking with others who do exactly what you do, attending seminars and workshops and touring museum and commercial retail stores.
  • Not having the time to read is no excuse, especially if the travel budget is limited, so evaluating subscriptions to magazines (and which ones) would be part of the presentation.
  • The value of an impartial eye can be significant. Consultants and secret shoppers can provide insights that those who are (too) close to the situation may not identify.
  • Marketing and advertising should be investments not just expenses. Exploring those activities that delver the biggest return for what is typically a limited budget may result in the best return on time and resources used.
  • Many current customers will be the best future customers. Making sure current customers are engaged and encouraged to shop again can build a solid base upon which to focus marketing and advertising to build broader awareness and revenue. Often, so much effort is expended on finding new customers the relatively easily harvested incremental sales from existing customers are under-developed.

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