Updated Retail Success Guide now available

Author of AIM’s latest Success Guide, Peter Holloway, shares top tips for successful retailing for smaller museums.   

These days almost all museums have a shop of some kind. Indeed the shop is often a key attraction for museum visitors and, like a good café, a good shop has increasingly become an expectation for visitors and an integral part of their visit. If managed well, and with an attractive and interesting selection of merchandise, a shop can enhance the visit and reflect the museum’s core mission and its collection. It can also, and absolutely should, be profitable and not simply run as a service.   

Whatever the size of your museum it is important for your shop to be profitable and managed in a professional way. The new AIM guide is designed to help with this, whether reviewing and improving an existing shop or establishing a new shop at a small museum.  

Top tips for museum shops   

  1. Make sure your aims are clear. The fundamental aim should be for the shop to generate a profit!  
  2. Have a retail plan and review it regularly. 
  3. Choose the right person to manage the shop and do the buying. Support and train them.  
  4. Give the shop the best location you can and fit it out to provide an effective platform for retail display. 
  5. Buy stock well: plan the buying and decide what will fit the visitor profile and reflect the museum and its collection.  
  6. Set selling prices to achieve target gross margin. 
  7. Take action to clear slow selling lines. If an item isn’t earning its keep after 6 months it’s doubtful it ever will.  
  8. Display and ticket the merchandise to the highest standard. 
  9. Measure performance and review it regularly. Control operating costs. 
  10. Be obsessive about best sellers! Know what they are and ensure they are always in stock.  
  11. Give a warm welcome and superb service to every customer. Buying in your shop should be a memorable experience…for all the right reasons!  
  12. Always see the shop as an integral part of the museum and the visitor experience. 


Remember the retail mantra “Retail is Detail”! This will be more important than ever in the months and years following the Covid 19 epidemic lockdown and its impact on the sector.   

Read the Success Guide here>>

About the author   

Peter Holloway has worked with a broad range of clients in the museums and heritage sectors and advised on many retail issues. Peter trained in the John Lewis Partnership and was a Buyer and Assistant to the General Manager in an independent department store before joining National Trust Enterprises. He was responsible for the management and profitability of the National Trust’s shops in Wales before establishing the Retail Thinking consultancy in 2002.