Museum Bookshop Management: rules, opportunities and mistakes to be avoided

Museum Bookshop Management

Museum bookshops have broken into the Italian market, although they do not belong to our tradition.
This should not unnerve us, however. This is a great opportunity to start a new business, or steer an existing one along well-travelled paths and ways of working.

There are, in fact, inspiring examples that we can take as a model, especially from the Anglo-Saxon world and the American market. In fact it is possible to succeed, even without inventing anything new.

Although the very word bookshop clearly refers to books, this type of shop transcends ordinary printed paper and embraces a vast category of objects and novelty items.



Bookshop Management: there are two dangers we should avoid

• Firstly, ensuring that the museum management does not consider the bookshop a burden and remote from the cultural purposes of the museum.
• Secondly, making sure the shop does not go unnoticed.

Considering the finest museum bookshops, we need only look at the Tate Museum in London and the MoMa in New York; in fact, these are not just examples of aesthetic excellence and product quality, but also virtuous models of museum bookshop management. The case of the MoMa is emblematic. The turnover of the Bookshop is 90 million dollars, approaching 20% of the museum's total receipts. This is a world record for museum bookshop turnover.

But that’s not all, the results have been so exciting that the MoMa has opened other bookshops, offshoots of the main one, located on the museum site. The same principle has led to the launch of a thriving e-commerce website, where you can buy exclusive items, not available in physical shops.

The first objective of the museum bookshop is to convince the museum visitor to buy

This is not a simple operation, but nor is it impossible. Potential customers are not just passing by. They are people interested in the cultural heritage on display.
For this reason, they are already interested abstractedly in buying a product, as long as it is relevant to the exhibition and provides a memorable, fun or stimulating memento of the visit.

Given all this, the primary rule is to select a series of objects that refer directly to what is displayed in the museum. Don’t separate the bookshop from the context of the museum, otherwise the visitor would never buy from you, they would prefer any shop counter to yours. At most, insert some products related to the city or region of the museum, to cater for the needs of foreign visitors. Be interested in innovations that concern museum bookshop installations; for example, a good idea would be to follow the seasons, changing what you have to offer according to the months of the year.

Also strive to offer additional museum bookshop services, for example, provide information to the visitor, making the shop a real source of information. Why not insert a charging station? In that way, the dependence on smartphones and the need to recharge technological devices will persuade customers to linger in the bookshop.
Secondly, museum bookshops should sell items for all pockets.

Never employ prices that exclude visitors with less spending power, on the one hand, nor those who love luxury goods.
So offer a range, from the most commonplace products such as books, posters, novelty items and pencils, to more unusual ones, such as furniture accessories or clothing (scarves, hats, jerseys).

Finally, it is a fundamental rule that museum bookshop managers invest in their own knowledge. Nothing should be left to chance but don't worry, it's not rocket science!
We simply need to grasp two concepts of visual marketing. The shop should always be well ordered, however the layout of the products should be changed periodically, so as to attract the attention of returning visitors, that is those customers on the second or third visit, offering them a reason to enter the bookshop again.