Museums and Heritage Awards 2014 – Award winners review: Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

Developing the Gift Shop and Cafe - Winner in the Trading and Enterprises category

The Museum of Brands is a small independent museum and registered charity funded by admissions, venue hire, gift shop and café. An AIM grant allowed the museum to improve the functionality, capacity, visibility and attractiveness of the gift shop and café.

The overall objective of the project was to improve the visitor experience in order to increase the museum’s income generation to further develop the education provision and overall sustainability. There was also a desire to make the Museum of Brands a more enjoyable place to visit overall by providing an exceptional gift shop and atmospheric café.

The strategy was driven by the types of groups that visit the museum. In 2012 the two largest groups were adults aged 25-60 years and students. The smallest groups were retired visitors and families. Having interviewed individual and group visitors to understand what would improve their experience, the range of products on offer in the shop and café were improved. Investment was made in new displays to hold new stock, a new coffee machine, signage and improved lighting. The project also enabled the museum to change the card machine making service quicker and more reliable.

The new shop displays allowed for a greater range of products, all linked with the collection, which have been very well received. As well as catering for existing audiences there was a desire to attract more retirees and families as the collection is a particular inspiration for intergenerational conversation. The café has now been expanded with more seating provided which has helped to improve services and increased the number of group bookings.

The outcomes have been very rewarding. The shop and café have increased profit by 61% year on year. Visitor numbers have increased by 28% overall, with senior groups up by 26% and families by 75%.

The Museum of Brands is a small museum with a large and popular collection. Thinking creatively was an essential factor in terms of making use of the small floor space available for the gift shop and café. Both need to be entirely portable for the venue team who use the space for events, which meant sourcing light and easily movable furniture. With a focus on branding, stock has been sourced which reflects the collection as well as the visitors’ requirements. As there is lots of Bovril on display throughout the museum, this is now served in the café – an option that lots of people take up! A ticket price which includes tea and biscuits for senior groups is also proving to be very popular. The new coffee machine and fresh baked cookies has led the museum to target local people resulting in an entirely new audience who go to drink in the tea room as well as buy cards and gifts from the shop.