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 ).

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