There’s a lot to love about AIM National Conference each year. From the informal networking opportunities to the unique and exciting social events and the chance to hear from colleagues across the independent sector: AIM Conference may be small, but it packs a punch!
But one of the most cited reasons for attending conference – according to AIM feedback surveys – is our exhibition hall. The AIM National Conference exhibition allows delegates to find out about new museum products and services that could benefit their organisation in a relaxed and friendly setting.
For 2019, you will find some familiar faces on the trade stands along with many new. One of those exhibiting for the first time this coming June is Edward MacWhirter, Managing Director of Museum Shops Ltd.
Based in Manchester and launched earlier this month, Museum Shops is an online marketplace dedicated to supporting the work of Museums by building a dedicated low-cost ecommerce platform. As a virtual high street Museum Shops delivers a streamlined browsing experience to customers and an attractive environment for any organisation setting up or expanding an online shop.
We sat down with Edward to find out more about Museum Shops – and how it can support AIM member museums of all sizes.
AIM: Hi Edward – what is Museum Shops and what does it deliver?
EM: Museum Shops is a marketplace website, a platform for museums to set up an online shop or to broaden sales opportunities for those with an existing online presence. Our goal is to help our partners exceed the current UK average of 18% of total sales made online.
AIM: Why a marketplace format?
EM: Like any market, retail works best when the customer has the widest range of choice concentrated in one place. Museum Shops focuses on this to deliver a more joined up user experience, building a virtual high street for cultural retail and streamlining the customer’s browsing experience.
AIM: Is Museum Shops for Museums only?
EM: Not at all! We’re open to Galleries (non-commercial), Arts Centres, Theatres, Churches, Historic Houses, Libraries, Gardens & Science Centres.
AIM: What fees does Museum Shops charge?
EM: No listing or ongoing monthly fees, full stop. Our vendors pay the Stripe payment processing fee and a 10% commission on the value of products sold. There’s no tie-in period and our no sale-no fee policy makes the success of our partners our priority too.
AIM: If someone joins Museum Shops – what do they get?
EM: A unique fully self-contained shopfront homepage (here’s an example) on the website, customisable to match your branding. Your products will also be Indexed on the wider site, attracting browsing customers drawn by our marketing campaigns to your offering. Back-office systems include a range of Stock Management & Analysis tools, including features such as Vendor Vacation mode to close your shop temporarily during stock take or staff illness. You can also set up offers for membership schemes and special Sales unique to your products, delivering a fully functional autonomous online shop within the wider Museum Shops website.
AIM: It all sounds great! So, who handles fulfilment?
EM: At Museum Shops every Vendor controls their own shop, setting the pricing and handling dispatch.
AIM: If AIM members already have an online shop, how is Museum Shops relevant to them?
EM: In physical retail a shop with good products and high sales expands their business by opening another one. This isn’t usually an option for museums, but it certainly is online. Your products are a valuable resource, exploit them!
AIM: How about our smallest AIM member museums – is online retail for them?
EM: Creating an ecommerce outlet can be costly and time consuming, particularly at the start, and with limited financial and personnel resources the cost/benefits might be hard to justify for small organisations. Museum Shops solves these problems by providing the lowest cost and easiest entry platform available. In addition, Museum Shops will provide tailored advice and work with you to maintain and grow your online shop.
AIM: Do Museum Shop’s retailers have a restriction on the amount they can display in their storefront?
EM: No, but to stand out in the crowded online world it’s best to stick to items that feature branding or imagery unique to you.
AIM: What about public bodies? Does Museum Shops meet public procurement requirements?
EM: Yes, Museum Shops charges only when sales are made, our commission-based payment structure thus remaining below local and national procurement thresholds. Museum Shops can also provide alternative arrangements to facilitate payment processing when this is not in place via Stripe.
To find out more about Museum Shops please visit the website at: