How to be considered for stocking your products in our shops

Dear XXX

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.

  1. Send a brief introductory email to with product photos and descriptions including SKUs, cost prices, RRP, timescales for delivery and if these are firm sale or ‘Sale or Return’
  2. We will take an initial look and see if the margins, business terms and products meet any of our requirements.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Bulk pricing for museum retail?

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

Building a better museum shop 2018

What’s the project?

An exciting project i’ll ship this year is to extend the size of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery shop (by removing the stockroom to gain 20%), introducing new fittings (better flexible bays) and align the ‘feel’  to our brand. The constraints are that it must happen in-between exhibitions, cost no more than £30,000 (thanks BMDT for the funding) and address the issues that removing 20% of stockroom entails! Here are a bunch of photos of the current shop for reference.

When does it ship?

We’re currently reviewing tender submissions but it MUST happen before the summer holidays. Once we’ve awarded the contract I’ll be more loose-lipped I promise. I can promise the team that we’ll be burning the candle at both ends to get all the stock back into the shop and get it looking sweet.

Who is responsible for shipping it?

I take responsibility for the delivery of this project. It won’t be possible however without the support of the retail team – Sue, Julie, Helen, Jane and the great extended “casual pool”, Retail Thinking consultancy, Darren, James, Rowan and David. I’ll be roping in more people  throughout the project so apologises if I haven’t named you here.

What are you afraid of?

  • Unforeseen delays to the schedule. The period in-between exhibitions is fleeting and a delay can result in the project being kicked into touch by up to 16 weeks at a time YIKES!
  • Removing the stockroom is bold but also scary. The new design must ensure that the stockroom lose isn’t negative to the team workflow
  • How will we fill the new space as our existing product range isn’t enough
  • What if the new shop is Meh?
  • What if the contractor doesn’t treat this project like its life and death?
  • I lead lots of areas so what happens if I’m pulled from pillar to post on those other priorities? I take my eye off a critical detail on this project?

What else (the truth this time)?

We predict that we’ll make an additional £30,000 in sales per year…what if I botched my calculations and we don’t boost sales significantly?

Why are you afraid?

Failing potentially means losing staff in the future. I need to find more and more money to maintain our resourcing at the level it is at now… £30,000 is the equivalent of ‘whole’ member of staff.

Pick some edges

If I need to compromise then I guess its best to determine what fittings and fixtures will give me the best return for 2018. For example I want to remove the ceiling to reveal the architecture but I can’t afford it and its a ‘nice to have’. I’d rather have fewer but durable components that will least ten years or more. I need to ensure I have storage. I can add less expensive components at a later date but it’s best to ensure the core of the new design is complete. I’m happy to use cutting edge techniques that aren’t yet proven. It should be done as fast as possible but no faster.

Who is your customer?

I am trying to please members of the public who may come once in their lifetime or who visit 5+ a year.  If you walk into the shop we should have something for you and the occasion you need to buy for.

Who are the key influencers, gatekeepers and authorities?

The public, the wider retail team, Operations and the retail community through the Association of Cultural Enterprises.

Does anyone else matter?

[Redacted]. Nope.

Questions and ideas for the devil’s advocate (things to say to slow things down, average things out or create panic or malaise):

  • It’s too soon
  • It’s too late
  • It’s technically risky
  • It’s boring
  • It will offend retailers
  • There are significant legal issues
  • The plant is too backed up to produce this
  • It will take too much training to support
  • The Media won’t get it
  • Our industry is too regulated
  • The home office won’t approve
  • There’s no room in this year’s budget, let’s review in a few months
  • It might fail
  • Our big competitor will steal it
  • It’s been done before
  • It’s never been done before
  • People will laugh at us

If you hear any of these, underline them. If you find yourself saying them, stop yourself.

Who can stop this project?

Nobody. Well maybe [redacted].

Who else can stop this project?

Really, nobody.

Who is essential to our success?

  • Association for Cultural Enterprises
  • Becky Peters
  • BMDT
  • Collections team
  • David M
  • Helen and Co
  • Mark and Steve
  • Peter Holloway from Retail Thinking
  • Simon Fenn

What does perfect look like?

All boundary walls fitted with bays that are flexible. Well lit. Solution for all storage needs. Two till points that ease congestion. New ceiling or no ceiling. Additional floor units for merchandising that are movable and encourage pick-up lust. Removal of 1990s wood effect look. Movable till area.

What does good enough look like?

All boundary walls fitted with bays that are flexible. Well lit. Solution for all storage needs. Two till points that ease congestion. Removal of most of the 1990s wood effect look. Scope to add components at a later date.

List every task and event that needs to happen, by whom, and by when.

  1. Review and moderate tender submissions – ZM and DM by 31st Jan
  2. Seek CPG approval to award – ZM by 8th Feb
  3. Award tender – ZM by 8th Feb
  4. Standstill period – PS by 19th Feb
  5. Engage contractor – ZM from 20th Feb
  6. Agree approach – ZM/Contractor
  7. Finalise design  – ZM/Contractor
  8. Build off-site – Contractor
  9. Agree VM plan – HL/PH/ZM
  10. Agree post install merchandising team – HL
  11. Installation – Contractor
  12. Restock – everybody!
  13. Open

Who becomes your competition?

Nearby high street retailers. Bring it on.

What does failure look like?

  • Due to unforeseen issues with the structure the project has to grind to a halt due to lack of reserve funding.
  • Sales decrease
  • New fittings confuse our VM plan
  • The sector don’t like the resulting shop extension and pan it

Plus it!

List up to ten things you could add that would radically or subtly improve your project:

  1. Ensure we have a full range plan ahead of the build with all locations for new stock
  2. Ensure feedback from the retail team is integrated into the finer detail of the till area
  3. Somebody gives me an extra £20,000 to really finish the project – remove the ceiling, introduce exhibition retail unit area, building proper pop-up shop units, fit out the remaining original bays
  4. Understand what types of product will make customers talk about the shop to their friends
  5. Build a prototype of each new component to test assumptions
  6. Enlist Jane le Bon at design and stocking stage to turn the visual merchandising from good to brilliant.
  7. Reduce install time
  8. Promotion at launch in all the Bristol media
  9. Contractor already uses Basecamp for managing projects
  10. Launch with a killer product that everybody thinks they need but can’t put down

Minus it!

List up to ten things you could subtract that would radically or subtly improve your project or get it out the door.

  1. Remove boring services that are on two perimeter boundary walls and impede the design
  2. Not have any evening events that week which hinder having a pop-up shop
  3. Meetings with people who aren’t domain experts


List every element of the project that needs to be settled, designed or approved before you can ship.

  • A solid project plan
  • Contractor to advise, design and build the extension – moderation 30th Jan
  • CPG approval to award
  • Lock in dates that don’t mess with the exhibition space next door
  • Conceive a new product range plan for the launch
  • Enlist a team to decamp all the shop contents ahead of the works and then put it all back at the end of the build phase
  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks
  • Agree what can be swapped out if the budget hits the max limiter e.g. wall bays are a bigger priority than floor units
  • Agree with Operations what approach we can take to hiding all the services but ensuring they are accessible when required
  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be
  • Regarding the initial eye view from outside the shop – agree what type of product will entice passersby

Gated Thrashing

Take the items on the list above and force them into one of four categories, with as many as possible in the first two.

First: before you start design and production

  • A solid project plan
  • Contractor to advise, design and build the extension – moderation 30th Jan
  • CPG approval to award
  • Lock in dates that don’t mess with the exhibition space next door
  • Conceive a new product range plan for the launch
  • Enlist a team to decamp all the shop contents ahead of the works and then put it all back at the end of the build phase
  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks
  • Agree what can be swapped out if the budget hits the max limiter e.g. wall bays are a bigger priority than floor units
  • Agree with Operations what approach we can take to hiding all the services but ensuring they are accessible when required
  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be

During: while you’re working

  • Regarding the initial eye view from outside the shop – agree what type of product will entice passersby


  • Design a suitable till area that works for the team and the new workflow which includes being paperless for all BUYING tasks


  • Need to settle how big the kids range should be


Don’t worry if you don’t think what you ship is good enough. It is. The scarce part is the shipping.

This post uses the SHIPIT project checklist which is a handy PDF.

Being at the edge

When I was learning my advanced motorcycle skills my instructor said the only way to know when you are on the the limit is to pass it. It’s why in practice in all sports you see them seemingly make mistakes, miss, wobble or crash. The fact is they simply need to find the very edge as that’s where the fear lies and the opportunity. If you won’t go to the edge someone else will. I’d prefer to wobble rather than crash but if the edge is the place to be then so be it.

PS I thought about this as I was riding my motorcycle last week and tried a new line through a roundabout and lost the front for a microsecond before regaining control.

Reading list 2018

Starting off the year with a book I tried to finish at the top of the year but didn’t quite pull off. According to my Reading List 2017 I managed to read 10 books which isn’t bad going considering the packed year and lack of public transport time. I love to buy new books faster than I can read them like a true book fiend. I hope to continue finding new homes once I’ve finished them too. Books are meant to be read.

  1. Originals by Adam Grant finished 5th January . Paperback ISBN 9780753556993. A look at how you can think and/or let others let loose their originality.
  2. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin finished 27th February. Hardback ISBN 9781250183866. A nice blend of military accounts and leadership principles that focus on owning mistakes and failures. Get Some!
  3. The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck finished 24th April. Paperback ISBN 9781846041075. Not my usual style of book and I struggled with it passed the first third. Oh well.
  4. the four by Scott Galloway finished 16 May 2018. Hardback ISBN 9780593077894. An insightful and witty take on four of the largest businesses on the planet. Lots of bits made me chuckle but there is a serious thread about the lack of control and tiny employment these guys generate directly. Def worth a read.
  5. Digital transformation at scale: why the strategy is delivery by Andrew Greenway, Ben Terrett, Mike Bracken and Tom Loosemore finished 28 May 2018. Paperback ISBN 9781907994784. A great recap of hundreds of people’s efforts in the past 6 years to drive digital change, for government but also to support folks like me in local government. The book does a good job of acting as part potted history and part guidance for getting things done. A message throughout is that it isn’t complicated, it’s just hard. A must read not only for those who are believers but also for folks who disregard or shrug off digital as something that can be ignored. Thank you to the GDS folks and everybody fighting the good fight.
  6. Hunting the Nazi Bomb by Damien Lewis finished 16 June 2018. Paperback ISBN 9781786482105. A story based on true events in and around Norway during the war to stop Germany gaining the ability to produce an atom bomb.
  7. It doesn’t have to be crazy at work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson finished 8 Oct 2018. Paperback ISBN 9780008323448. A welcome reminder that doing the hours you’re paid to do is fine and that you should find every way to focus and leave work at the office.

Sharing scales

If you need a tool, process or reference material then please do share that widely. Tell a colleague, speak at a staff meeting, write about it on the web. There is a very good chance someone else can benefit. Sharing what we do, why “that” choice and “how” we do something allows others to benefit. Your own  way  not  even  be  the best. Low cost for you but scalable for the sector.
How can I help?

Its hard to Zag when you already Zig

Once I learn a particular way of doing something it’s hard to see any other path. The other evening for example I was messing around with Shopify and found a handy feature that was right before my very own eyes. Until today if I wanted to know how well a product has sold I exported the month or year to date (YTD) sales and then searched. However Shopify has a handy “Orders” feature that lets you search sales history. Bingo a super quick way to get the same result in a fraction of the time. I has previously written that feature off. I find it difficult to override this urge to follow the path well known. I know this applies to most tasks including driving routes. I’m trying to force myself to ask “is there another way?”.

Shipping web features for winter 2017

Until you ship a product or feature its just a trello card with a wish. Shipping “things” is the aim of the game.

Performance dashboard

According to the trello card of the request dashboards have been brewing since 17 June 2016. This month the team have finally been able to launch an initial performance dashboard at  We aim to publicly share our performance data so that anybody can see how we’re doing. We want to share our successes and show where there is an opportunity to do better. So far for 2017-18 we’re tracking 14% up from last year with a target of 1 million or more visits across our 5 museums and our Archive.

Exhibitions online

Since I started at Bristol Culture about 4.5 years ago using the web to display our exhibitions has been a recurring dream. Thanks to Mike, Fay, Mark and Lacey this dream has come true at the point of this project was to highlight some of the key aspects of past, current and forthcoming exhibitions. We regularly get asked about past projects so this seemed a good starting point to figure out how we can tell stories in long form format. With an average reading time of 2 minutes its important to be clear and concise.  During its inception originally we were comparing this style of website as being like a weekend supplement of a magazine rather than a full autobiography.

Public timeline

Internally we’ve started to attempt to improve how we visualise some of our most used data. An obvious element is “What’s on” which isn’t always easy to understand from huge spreadsheets or our standard web section so we’ve introduced a timeline feature to hopefully make it easier for people to look at on any device.  Internally the timeline also includes things like room booking, install and de-rig periods and can map our KPI data over it. Nobody likes or uses data spreadsheets so i’m hopeful this is the beginning of a journey to make our data more usable for all. Hello

This work has been made possible in the large part by our own digital team who do a fantastic job under the hood of the museum and out in the galleries. Onwards.

My first website domain

I purchased my first website domain in a basement in Wolverhampton in 2002. A family friend, Tony, let me use his card.

The computer screen was glowing in the dark space which had a shoebox sized window with natural light. It felt like magic. Little ole me joining the online space.

I went on to design, build and consult on over 100 web projects with that website domain. Today it sits gathering dust. I fire it up every now and again to remind myself of previous goals met, mistakes I made and to remind me that there is plenty more to be done.

That small action and guidance from Tony was a huge step towards who I am today. Open bracket, HTML, close bracket.

How can I help?

I learned a long time ago that what makes me happiest at work is helping others. Hence a stint for about seven years working nationally in staff development with a focus on using technology to get stuff done. Most of my profile straplines end with “How can I help?”. I really mean it. If you’ve got a burning question about how I’ve done something then please don’t be a stranger. In the past 6 months I’ve had email exchanges and Skype calls with people in the USA and across Europe. you can tweet me, email me or leave a comment on the blog.

PS I get lots out of these exchanges too. I get to hear  about common problems, frustrations or even better solutions that I have used myself.