Anita Richardson, our Head of Retail and Front of House, gives an insight into the challenges, motivations and inspirations in retail at the Wallace Collection.
I have been at the Wallace Collection for almost eight years and it is an amazing Collection with a great team of very passionate people. I first got into retail through Saturday jobs in shops and I loved the interaction you get with the customers, along with the sense of achievement that comes from high sales. From there I became a graduate trainee at W.H. Smith’s where I worked my way up through the Book department. My first experience at working at a museum was when I moved to the Design Museum as a Retail Manager. I realised that the environment really suited me and this was where I wanted to stay.
The Wallace Collection is such a great inspiration and provides me with many product ideas. I also gain great satisfaction that any profits I make go back into supporting a collection of fabulous artwork for future generations.My favourite recent range that I have designed was inspired by the gold boxes and the gold box catalogue. Visually it looks beautiful, as something based on the gold boxes should, and everyone has been thrilled that it has sold so well. The umbrella and the glasses case in particular have been popular and I have bought them myself as gifts. There are also placemats and coasters which sell to our traditional customers and tourists.
Merchandising the shop with relevant products so that it appeals to the visitor is key. Last Christmas we went for a very Baroque, gold, almost traditional feel, which put our customers in the festive mood and primed for some shopping. They like to come to us for something a bit different, a slightly more relaxed atmosphere and it’s certainly a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. I find it really important to showcase the products in a manner which inspires the customer to recreate the look at home. Thankfully I have a great team who understand how to make attractive displays but which still allow the customer to be view, touch and purchase the items!
Our last major exhibition was The Male Nude, which enabled us to channel our very British ‘Carry On’ sense of humour! Since all the drawings were on loan and we did not own the copyright, I decided to look to our Collection for inspiration. We have some great bronzes and quite a few of them are male nudes. I picked some of the most appealing ones and designed products around them, including an apron and some coasters. Both of them went on to be bestsellers. However, as with any of the exhibitions it was the catalogue and postcards which were the number one sellers. But I still like to think it was the fun items that drew the customer in!
There are many challenges which face you in museum retail but the ones of most concern are how to convert museum visitors into customers and how to increase website sales. Customers in the shop do spend, so once we get them there they are happy. The trick is to attract them in. As every purchase goes towards the upkeep of the Collection it is crucial that we keep our revenue levels up.
Looking forward we are starting to plan for the opening of the Great Gallery in September. To celebrate this event we will refresh our product range. This will hopefully include some pearls inspired by the paintings in the Great Gallery, a new stationery range, and some products that appeal to our regular shoppers. We are also creating new products around some of our most iconic paintings. I know a few of our staff members are quite excited by a new umbrella depicting The Swing by Fragonard. For me, this vibrant green watch of The Swing is my favourite. All this will hopefully attract our visitors in.
Keep an eye on our website for our new products in the Shop and make sure you come and browse next time you visit the Wallace Collection