Enter through the gift shop

No longer viewed as the retail afterthought tacked onto a museum, gift shops have become destination stores, with shoppers happy to pop in without necessarily visiting the museum displays that day.

The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York probably started all this and it certainly is the king of museum retail these days. It has a number of standalone design stores, including several in New York, Tokyo and Kyoto, with a turnover of around $44 million. MoMA’s first standalone store outside the US opened in 2017 in Tokyo’s upscale Omotesandō district on the third floor of the well-known Gyre building.

Now MoMA has moved into concession formats in a big way, launching its eighth design store within Japanese department store Loft in Tokyo’s Ginza district, which follows its success with a concession store in the Daimaru department store.

The Ginza concession was designed by London-based specialist museum and gallery design firm Lumsden, which has longstanding relationships with MoMA, London’s venerable Victoria and Albert, the Whitworth Gallery at the University of Manchester where “everything is for sale”, and the yet-to-be-opened M+ museum in Hong Kong.

The  Loft Ginza MoMA Design Store concession occupies 596 square feet in a high-traffic location at the bottom of Loft’s third-floor escalators. The design is clean-cut in keeping with MoMA’s minimalist aesthetic, with display furniture featuring blonde wood and a minimal black linear framework, enabling the products to better stand out. It features two L-shaped modular display fixtures augmented with MoMA design prints and a large central hanging design store sign visible from all angles.

Lumsden worked with MoMA’s merchandising team to plan a bespoke display layout. The merchandising plan led to the development of “tech tables”, adapted from the original furniture designed for the MoMA Daimaru Store. These display high-value items beneath clear acrylic cases with integrated lighting and concealed cabling to maintain the clean look.

The concession design was not without its challenges. Loft has restrictions in place governing wall hanging space and display units. So Lumsden designed a floating print display unit hanging from the ceiling, and extra height allowances were negotiated for rear display units which enable customers to see more merchandise without losing visibility across the greater store.

The Loft concession comes ahead of New York’s MoMA reopening in mid-October subsequent to an extensive overhaul, including its retail areas.

Elsewhere in the world

Beyond the latest MoMA design store, museum gift stores have been hugely improving their offerings in recent years.

The British Museum has not one but four stores onsite, including a bookshop, a family shop selling games and puzzles, a collections shop, and the upscale Grenville Room shop.

The V&A has two stores on site, the V&A shop and the apparel-specific V&A fashion shop located in its fashion galleries. It also has an architecture-focused store in the Sainsbury Gallery located nearby, and a standalone bookshop at the National Art Library.

A number of museum stores, such as the V&A and the British Museum in the UK, have also been selling online for a while.

The best museum retail serves to complement the museum’s narrative and the current exhibitions on display, reminding customers of what they’ve seen that day. They also tap into the local community and talent and provide a rich array of interactive and educational opportunities, as well as offer customers a multichannel experience, both on- and offline, before and after their day at the museum. 

Norrelle Goldring has 20 years’ experience in retail, category, channel and customer strategy, marketing and research, working with global retailers, manufacturers and consulting houses. Contact: 0411735190 or norrellegoldring@hotmail.com

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