I wrote a piece for Arts Professional:
Three years ago Bristol’s museum and gallery shops were running without a plan and losing money, but now they are on track to increase revenue by 60%. Zak Mensah tells the story.
How Bristol Culture turned its retail operation around.
Thank you for your interest in wanting to sell your product(s) in one or more of our shops (including online). We run a successful profitable commercial business. We have over 1000 individual products but we’re always looking for new products to add to our range and the best way to get considered is outlined below. Please note that due to the high volume of enquiries we receive we will only respond if we wish to take the offer to the next stage of consideration. We aim to get in touch within 10 working days for suppliers we wish to consider further.
Please note that the decision for taking new products sits with the Retail Manager and any decision is final.
- Send a brief introductory email to firstname.lastname@example.org with product photos and descriptions including SKUs, cost prices, RRP, timescales for delivery and if these are firm sale or ‘Sale or Return’
- We will take an initial look and see if the margins, business terms and products meet any of our requirements.
- If we think the product(s) have potential we’ll be in touch within 10 working days. We read every email but if we don’t reply within 10 days unfortunately we don’t think your product(s) will be right for our retail operation and wish you all the best.
- Please don’t just turn up to a shop and do a sales pitch. We’re all very busy and need to set appointments. We only book appointments following steps 1-3. If you just turn up then the answer no matter how great the product will be a “no thanks”.
How do we choose products?
We review the following in our consideration:
- We’re a £500,000+ operation so every product should be able to sell in the dozens/hundreds and have an individual value of £400+ in annual sales to be considered
- Do the products have relevance to our collection and values?
- Do we have an existing product that is very similar ? – for example we only use 3-4 card suppliers for all our range. Whilst we’d love to have more unique cards the admin effort makes this not viable for us
- IS the product suitable all year around or is it seasonal, exhibition or event specific e.g. Valentine’s day or “Christmas”
- What’s the product story? for example one of our local suppliers, Emmeline Simpson, has a great story “Contemporary gifts celebrating British cities“
- Do any of our nearby competitors already stock the range? – we avoid selling identical products to competitors in 99% cases unless we were first!
- Is the profit margin within expectations – whilst this can vary we aim that across our range we have a 50% or greater margin. We will never stock a product with less than 45% margin sorry
- Can we get a very similar product from an existing suppler?
- Can the supplier demonstrate strong sales in a related shop ?
- Do all the products have barcodes as this is a requirement from 2018 unless there is a very good reason
- Can we store the product(s) effectively?
- Will the supplier regularly come into the shop, check the visual merchandising and ensuring the products work effectively?
- Will the supplier exchange slow sellers ?
- If the product sells quickly, how fast can the stock be replenished ?
- Is the product local or Made in the UK?
- Can we have square photos [100kb max file size) and product descriptions to sell online?
- Do you offer dropshipping?
I was waiting at the nearby DIY shop (i think I made the problem worse but I digress) and noticed that all the price labels offer a discount if you buy in bulk, 3 or more. They offered four or so tiers of discount the more you buy. an Interesting approach that I wonder could port well to museum shops. We already buy in bulk. We know what products sell well. Buy 3+ prints at a reduced rate for instance. I’ll see if we can experiment with this approach online. I’ll Let you know if we get anywhere.
UPDATE: Started with bulk discount on our Guide to the Art Collection