Museum Retail: New Ventures, London
London museums and art galleries are rethinking the gift shop format in line with a growing opportunity to tap into culture fans.
According to a 2016 report by British Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, the UK currently has the highest number of arts and cultural venues per head – making museum retail a sizeable opportunity for investment. Fifty-two per cent of the adult population visited a museum or art gallery in 2015, and the number of visitors to cultural institutions across the UK increased by 3.2% from 2014 to 2015. London alone saw 65 million visitors to its museums and galleries.
A special emphasis is being placed on flexibility, experiential initiatives and zoning.
- Showcasing New Talent: London architecture studio AHMM has designed a new shop at the Barbican Arts Centre. Spanning 3,500 sq ft+, the space (opening October 2016) will house a pop-up showcasing the work of emerging artists/designers on a revolving, two-month basis – a key platform for spotlighting new talent. All furniture in the store will be modular, flexibly enabling the space to be rearranged for seasonal displays and events (see also Flexible Store Formats). The interior retains the aesthetics of the original building, featuring textured concrete and a lightly coloured metallic finish on the vitrines and shop counters that alludes to the building's ironmongery and stair handrails.
- Simplicity Focus: Ahead of its November 2016 relocation from Shad Thames to Kensington, the Design Museum has unveiled its new store, designed by acclaimed British architect John Pawson, who also orchestrated the museum's interiors. Combining stained oak, glass and terrazzo, the smoke grey, 820 sq ft store oozes simplicity. Its range of 'design classics', general design books and branded exhibition merchandise are displayed on shelving created by equally acclaimed German designer Dieter Rams.
- Flexible Zoning: The Tate Modern has collaborated with Dutch experience design agency UXUS on a gift shop in the gallery's newly opened extension. The 500 sq ft space is divided into three zones: the first is designed with book connoisseurs in mind; the second displays products related to current exhibitions; the third focuses on family engagement and features a children's play and seating area. Stackable wooden display furniture can be easily rearranged to match the gallery's changing exhibition schedule, making extra space for events.
- Lessons From the Museum: At London's 2016 Retail Design Expo, Paul Widgery, group retail manager at London's Science Museum, described the value of bringing the experiential, participatory aspect of the museum into its Christmas pop-ups at Bluewater Shopping Centre in 2014 and 2015. Features such as Show Times – where staff and museum curators were filmed demonstrating science experiments that were later fed back into the brand's e-commerce site and social media channels – were key to its success. The Victoria & Albert and Natural History Museums in London are now also planning pop-up stores. See also Active Flagships: Tapping the Experiential Economy.