100% growth in retail

The 22nd March 2019 officially marks the day our retail business  revenue hit 100%  growth since 2014-15 which you can see in the performance spreadsheet. A proud moment for the service. I want to kick-off by thanking the retail team who have worked their socks off and have been up for the challenge since day 1 in 2015. Also none of our success would be possible without the support of the other teams who contribute to the effort including Retail Thinking, user research, design & marketing, digital, documentation, programming and operations. Retail is a living breathing example of our team-of-teams approach to solving problems. Why try to do everything yourself when you have some of the best talent in other parts of the service willing to rolling their sleeves up. 
Transformation is not easy but our goal has been to grow the business year on year using the four retail pillars of Buying, Staff skills, Visual merchandising (VM) and Performance.  The Culture team need to make or save £436,000 between 2017-2021 as part of the wider Council savings programme. Retail is a core player in this growth. 
A quick recap of the marathon to date:
2015-16

  • understand the retail business and begin to destroy and rebuild from the ground up (discovered we were running at a loss) 
  • Returned to the simple principle that “we should sell what people buy”  
  • 2016-17 – return to profitability and aim to maximise existing resources
  • 2017-18 – build the case for long-term investment including roadmap for shop refits at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed and further staff roles (starting with a Buyer)
  • 2018-19 Ship projects that deliver against our objectives – bring the annual roadmap to life instead of it just being a paper exercise. 
  • 2019-20 increase the pace and profitability hi

We expect our services to be the best they can possibly be in our sector. Not just better than before or better than our nearest comparable museums. We should be as good as the best of the best anywhere on the planet. 
We have made over 300 changes to the retail business. We have made every mistake possible and will make more mistakes in the future. 
In no particular order I present a number of key changes:

2015

  • Spent lots of time watching how customers used the shop and listening to the retail teams views on everything
  • Hired the services of an expert – Retail Thinking are a a consultancy who specialise in heritage retail and have been key to accelerating our growth. I have engaged Retail Thinking to help me learn the business of retail and act essentially as a head of retail. Money well spent
  • Visit dozens of retail businesses all over the world and understand what works and doesn’t – I cannot stress enough how important it is to just watch other retail in action 
  • Ask for help – I have contacted and had help from many many amazing people in the sector. A special hat tip to Genevieve, Lycia, John and Alex 
  • 04/05/2015 rolled out Shopify POS as until now the staff EPOS didn’t collect product sales history or have any useful reporting – choose Shopify as it is affordable, great 24/7 support and has scalability 
  • Introduce Performance as a key strand Collect, Share, Use – Collect data , share it widely and especially publicly and make an effort to use that data. Sharing our performance data has led to invaluable collections. Performance is one of the four key pillars of retail. The others are Buying, staff skills and visual merchandising. Thinking of everything we do through these four strands helps keep us organised 
  • Removed the £5 minimum limit on card payments which immediately boosted sales 
  • Instead of calling the retail manager or me to get permission every time a customer had a non standard enquiry  I told all staff that if the decision has a value of £100 or less they are free to make the decision – rapidly speeds things up and improves customer service. Typically the customer wants to do a deal on bulk orders 
  • 28/09/2015 started using user researcher 
  • Completed team review
  • 9/10/2015 launched first bespoke range using La Belle Dame Sans Merci
  • 04/11/2015 completed a partial shop refit at Bristol Museum & Art gallery as a small investment with Shop Services
  • 04/11/2015 had first online order 

2016 

  • Discovering the Association for Cultural Enterprises who are a bunch of super talented people who are super happy to help us improve 
  • Focused on increasing awareness of the shops including putting glass cabinets in high traffic parts of the museums 
  • Worked on reducing the number of products and keeping our top 100 products in stock at all times 
  • Introduced exhibition inspired products which until now had been too weak 
  • Sales grew 20% compared to the previous year

2017

  • Focused on improving the online shop by handing the responsibility to the digital team – thanks Fay!
  • Experimented with pop up shops over holiday periods
  • 31 August Launched Guide to The Art Collection
  • 8th July Accidentally turned off the ice cream freezer and lost all the products …whoops 
  • Used spare fittings to give Blaise at least  
  • Installed a number of lit glass cabinets at M Shed to raise awareness of the offer at the opposite end of the museum 
  • Started (and continue) to work with Jane Le Bon for key visual merchandising dates 

2018

  • Banksygate – sorry ! 
  • 30/06/2018 Refit Bristol Museum & Art gallery which included removing the stockroom to enable 20% more selling floor space – funded by Bristol Museum Development Trust [sales ended 52% up on previous year] and refit by ARJ-CRE8 
  • Introduced the new role of Buyer which has been a fantastic decision and the benefits are already showing
  • Experiments with pricing including bulk discounts for buying The Guide to the Art Collection
  • Sales 100% increase compared to 2014/15 for 2018/19 

2019 (current year to do)

  • 28/03/2019 launched M Shed Souvenir Guide which is the second print publication of its type. The original wasn’t popular largely due to a weak cover 
  • Refit at M Shed due in July
  • 1/04/2019 Introduced new retail at Red Lodge and The Georgian House
  • M Shed underperforms when you consider our visit figure so will be a focus for the year
  • Publish a souvenir guide book to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
  • Consider refit at Blaise Castle Museum for 2020
  • Let’s ship more projects and make a ruckus

Do email me if you have any further questions, advice or want to come and visit at zak dot mensah at bristol dot gov uk

PS At the time of finalising these notes Nipsey Hussle on 31 March died. I am a big hip-hop fan and listened to Victory Lap lots throughout 2018/19 and find business tips/books/ideas from rap. RIP.

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