Non-Profit Administration & Governance

Exit Through the Giftshop | Revenue Options for Small Museums

 September 14, 2021
Part of BCMA’s Financial Sustainability Learning Week

This learning week will investigate how your organization can take steps towards financial sustainability with earned income, facility use, food service, e-commerce, travel programs, and philanthropy.

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Exiting through the gift shop has become an expected, and for many unmissable, part of the museum-going experience. Gift shops allow visitors an opportunity to reflect on their visit and explore the moments that resonated with them. A visitor may pick up a pair of Van Gogh socks – planning to wear their favorite painting as an expression of self or a visitor may pick up a replicate dinosaur tooth for their desk as a way to present their interests to colleagues.

Visitors might even shop at museum stores without ever visiting the museum – the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) design shop in New York routinely pops up on online ‘Top 10’ lists for holiday shopping. The Design Shop carries MoMa exclusives as well as clothing, housewares, holiday cards, books, toys and more – a shop in its own right and no longer tied to the museum experience.

For our Financial Sustainability Week the BCMA spoke with the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Center about their giftshop. While their giftshop makes up less than 5% of their annual revenue the shop provides an opportunity to cater to a niche audience of people who are interested in Japanese Canadian History. Having the giftshop provides an opportunity to connect back to the museum and to the guest experience with books, Japanese pottery and fabric items being best sellers. Many of the items sold in the shop are purchased from Japan and they noted that even Japanese residents buy their pottery from their shop.

Nikkei has an online shop but even throughout covid say a steady flow of customers and much higher in person sales than online sales. One thing that have noted has been very successful in drawing customers is using their online social media platforms to promote and highlight the items they have in their shop. Noting that after an online post they see a small flood of orders.

The shop is run by just one staff member and the items stocked have become quite intuitive – filling the shelves with a range of hand-picked items from local and international artists and craftspeople, including pottery, clothing, children’s toys, origami and small gift items. They also carry the largest selection of Nikkei books in Western Canada, including history, fiction and children’s books. If you are interested in exploring their online shop, click here.


Museum Best Practices: Why Exit Through the Gift Shop?

As a museum retail professional, when you encourage visitors to exit through the gift shop you’re inviting them to take the final steps in the seamless experience you work so hard to create. By the time they reach your museum store, you’ve given them a number of opportunities to see your offerings so they’ll arrive looking forward to browsing and shopping.

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