Collections Books - Museums & Cultural Attractions


"Do you have a book(s) on the collection of your institution?"

This is usually my questions after i have been in a Museum's shop after 15 minutes and i can not find the institutions collections book, and what is the most common answer to my question: " It is back here in with the other collections books". "Why do you have it hidden back here?, is my usual reply. "We always try to rotate our displays and we have had this book(s) for a long time."

While i have yet to find a cultural attractions with a repeat customer base greater than 70%: the benchmark for a repeat customer is that they visit your institution/shop 4 or more times in one year. These Core Products: guide books, over views of the institution/museum, collection guides, Special Exhibition, etc, are usually have really great margins and are an easy sale. Most visitors will spend the money on a book that will reinforce the memory of their trip. So why do we make it so hard to find in our shops?

When i am ask to review a cultural institution retail operations, this is one of the first things i look at: Core Product Sales. I want to see where it ranks in the sales over the last 5 plus years, when the last edition came out and where it lived in the shop over the last few years. What i most often uncover is that the sales usually drop do to the shops staff intervention and not the product itself.

During my time with the shop i am working with i ask that the book(s) to be moved to a better location in the shop and to the surprise of the staff the sales increase within the first day, and the sales ranking continue to increases over the coming weeks. Overtime these products are a staple in the top 100 sales report. In all my years in speciality retailing i have always had these products in my top 50 sales report of the year, due to i gave them a proper display space in my stores. I am not asking these products be on permanent display at your key display table/space but they should be somewhere near the front of the shop or very near the register. They are an easy sale and will increase your turns.

Here are the numbers from few of my locations i have worked at:

Ellis Island - Guide book (all languages) $250,000.00 per year (avg) @ $7.95ea that is 32,500 units, Coffee Table book $145,000.00 per year (avg) @ $19.95ea that is 7,250 units both with a 28% cost of sales.

El Museo del Barrio - Collections slipcase book - in the first year by placing them near the register, avg monthly sale before 3 per month, after the move to 25 per month. For the next 3 years this product was in the top 25 sales for the year.

What are your Core Products? What are their percent of your yearly sales?

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