Summary of West of England Retail Day, Bath

Yesterday I spent the day in Bath with around 35 other people to focus on retail. In the morning we were hosted at the Holborne Museum and three of delivered 20min sessions on the state of play with us. my slides as ever are freely available. I spent my time explaining how in the blazes a nerd become responsible for overseeing Bristol Culture’s retail and what it’s like to have shops spread across the service. If I had to sum it up as an elevator pitch it would be: our shops needed root and branch overhaul, I Meddle a  lot, Retail thinking are fantastic, my team are along for the ride, I hate moving stock across the city, stock from 1983 is indicative of the scale of the problem and this year we’re back to making a profit!
I really enjoyed hearing Anna Bryant and Mari-Liis, the other speakers grappling with cross Christmas collaborative promotion and measuring success.
The question and answer session had me answering questions about shopify epos and giving suggestions for teaming up to share stock and resources. Two highlights stand out, firstly one of the audience is now disappointed we have improved the shop as they have spent years coming up and photographing our shockingly bad dead stock to make them feel better about their own shop! I think I may be reselling this story for years to come. The second comment was a “challenge” that very small museums don’t have the money to even entertain the cost of shopify which although affordable, is still out of the reach of many volunteer run teams. Point taken. However I responded that perhaps several of them could club together to spread the cost (I hope the small print of the terms of use permit this for voluntary organisations?!). Furthermore Shopify can run from any iPhone/android mobile as well as an iPad and nearly everybody has access to at least one of these. If you don’t have much stock then paper and pen are just as good because ultimately epos like shopify are just a tool that work for retail at scale. If you want to better understand your sales you need to find a way. If I had no money and little time I’d personally use a google spreadsheet and paper.
The questions were a welcome reminder that despite me wishing we were further along with our retail journey,  14 months later since me grabbing the wheel, we have made a leap.
After this session we had a two hour mission to visit 5-6 nearby museums and grab lunch. I was joined by Emma who was v cool to hang out with, chop it up and share our respective experiences. Each shop was well displayed. I did my usual of asking the retail assistants if they knew their own bestsellers  but they never do – worryingly I think we’d fail too. I purchased a tea towel, mug, greetings cards and guidebook from the various shops. Until today I was perplexed at how any small shop turned a profit as the turnover is usually modest. The answer is that retail assistants are normally volunteers which was my “a-ha” moment. This is the same as a self employed person running a stall in effect who doesn’t get paid by the hour regardless of sales.
I made an offer to the room that I’m happy to extend to others:
We’ll provide a small museum or arts shop with our bespoke range on a sale or return basis as I completely understand buying power is very restricted for you. I’d also consider the rest of our range too if you were looking at trying new lines like toys/homeware etc and use our products to test the water. I think that would give you a fair shake of the dice.
We ended the day with a session at the museum of working life on using a retail consultant and sharing between groups what we discovered on our missions.
I came away from the day full of ideas and hope for 2016-17. I met some great people and look forward to visiting them soon.
Thanks for the invite :Liz.
Now where is my pricing gun… (Awkward moment when one of the group said none of the stuff she saw recently had prices on at our museum aargh ).

Reading list 2016

Below are a list of books I’ve read in 2016. For the first time ever I have a commute so it will be interesting to know if I get much more reading done as i’m mostly on a looong bus ride. You can see my 2015 Reading list or 2014 reading list2013 reading list and 2012 reading list.

  1. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! finished 4th Jan paperback. A very enjoyable collection of stories and worth a read.
  2. Ecommerce Bootcamp by Kurt Elster and Paul Reda finished 6th Jan ebook. A book about getting started with the Shopify retail platform. A few gems in here but not much for me.
  3. Fatale Books 1-5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, finished 17 Jan graphic novel. A series about “Jo” who can’t help but  hypnotise men who are all after her and therein lies many deaths and heartbreak.
  4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott finished 3 Feb paperback. A great read for non-writers/writers
  5. Poke the Box by Seth Godin finished 7 Feb hardback. This is a re-read for me. A short rant on starting and finishing.
  6. War with the Newts by Karel Čapek finished 2 Mar paperback. This book came recommended by a secondhand book seller and it was very well written. This could really happen…
  7. A Room of One’s Own by Virgina woolf finished 28 March paperback. A very different style of writing (or maybe the small typesetting made me read it differently) that kept me gripped. I will now be seeking out more of her work.
  8. When you Dead, You Dead by Guy Martin. A brief insight into the  year of Guy’s life as a truck fitter, TV presenter doing crazy challenges and a motorcycle racer.
  9. What to do when it’s your turn: and it’s always your turn by Seth Godin. Finished april 2016
  10. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. May 2016 hardback in New Zealand
  11. The E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber paperback isbn 0887307280. Finished 27 May 2016. A great read about how to think of a business as a “system” using an example of a pie shop and McDonalds
  12. the dip: The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick) by Seth Godin. Paperback  ISBN 9780749928308. Finished 1 June 2016. A short book about quitting.
  13. Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla. ISBN 978-000756506-1 finished 19 June 2016. A funny story about life with the internets and family.
  14. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Finished 4th August paperback.
Museums, technology

Get your museum digital skills started in 3 steps

As we rapidly approach 2016 i’m still amazed at how many people (organisations are people right?) say they are still yet to get started with “digital”. I’m also still reeling over a comment from a chatting with strangers at the Making Digital Work conference back in October in which I was told “it’s alright for you Zak, you are a senior manager so you can do what you like and make it happen”. That comment hurt me, not personally but my sense of championing “digital” for everybody. I wasn’t always a “boss – who lets not forget has a boss who has a boss and so on”. But I disgress. YOU, yes YOU can do digital. You simply start. You don’t need permission from anybody in your organisation. Pssst people actually like it when their colleagues get stuff done for them.

Here is how I would start to do digital today (1hr to 1 week):

Step 1:Google your organisation

Log out of your google account and search the name of your organisation. What results came back? For me it is our website, followed by a Wikipedia entry about us and then trip advisor.
Both Wikipedia and trip advisor WANT you to use them. Setup an account, review their guidelines and start to review entries. When you spot an error fix it or in the case of trip advisor write a reply to any comments that have 2 stars or less.

There is a good reason that Wikipedia and trip advisor show so highly in the Google results and that is because so many people use them. And you also using it will get your work in front of the many people looking at those websites. You’ll immediately be improving your organisations customer service by keeping an eye on these two website and the wonderful thing is you just did it without a committee. If you don’t feel empowered to even do this then I suggest you leave your employer and I’m not kidding.

Done that? You have just earned your first digital badge and it took less than one hour.

Step two: Simple – copy what others are doing

Organisations like mine recruit people with lots of experience and/or potential. As at this stage I assume the digital team is YOU you probably don’t have others to bounce ideas off. I look at it as an opportunity as there is nobody to tell you no. Instead of giving up, copy what others are doing, that’s how I started. Watch and copy how they respond to tweets, negative comments on Facebook or trip advisor etc. This approach lets you piggyback off much more experienced people and only costs you a bit of time. If you can I also suggest you attend as many of the free evening meet ups that nerds like me speak at throughout the country. You rock up to a pub, buy a drink and listen to a variety of people who love digital so much they want to spread the word or share a problem. I know rocking up to an event on your own is difficult but that tingle of fear is only in your head. You don’t even have to talk to anybody if you don’t want to, just smile and politely clap after the talk.

Step three: Read the GDS service manual

The Government Service Design Manual is the blueprint about how to start and scale a digital service. The brightest minds in the land of digital have produced this resource for YOU to learn on the shoulders of giants.


How Can I Help?

In my old role as Head of Digital, when I was asked what I did it was easy “I help people to use technology”. My latest role is a mixed bag of things and I’ve spent the first *gulp* 11 months stumbling around with awkward answers to concisely say what I do. My new remit is far reaching and covers nearly all of the service even if I don’t directly hold responsibility. It is much more than being the money guy who prefers to DO rather than talk about strategy. However as the months have flown by I’ve started to feel that ” How can I help?” is a pretty accurate and easy to say sentence.

so if you want Bristol museums, arts and events, film office and more to help you – don’t be a stranger … how can I help?

Museums, Retail

Wrestling with retail

One of the biggest opportunities for us to earn income and support the service is through retail.

We have two shops that in effect are starting from scratch.

Add a higher than ever achieved income target.

Install an affordable EPOS till system – which i’m told won’t work and i’ll fall on my face.

Watch people shop. Watch them some more.

Talk about retail to anybody who will listen.

Help turn the shops around.

DO the work.