A Positive Experience
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, was founded in 1842 and opened its doors to visitors in 1844. This makes the Wadsworth the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country. Home to a collection of nearly 50,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years, the collections encompass European art from antiquity to contemporary and American art from the 1600s through today.
“You can experience masterpieces from every era at the Wadsworth and make connections to great works of art and each other through a dynamic lineup of special exhibitions and programs for all ages,” Stacey Stachow, manager of The Museum Shop at Wadsworth, stated.
She also shared that the museum’s mission is dedicated to “advancing knowledge and inspiring everyone to experience and appreciate excellence in art and culture.”
The Museum Shop is an important stop for visitors and is located right inside the main entrance. “You can’t miss us when you arrive through the Main Street doors,” Stachow emphasized. “Our retail space is about 1,250 square feet, all visible from the lobby through a series of windows which invite visitors in as they are coming and going.”
The store features a curated selection that is inspired by what is happening in the museum. “We introduce new product around special exhibitions and collection installations, programs and seasonally,” Stachow said. “There’s always something new to browse, even for our members who are regulars. Just like what you’ll find in the galleries, our goal is to create a shopping experience that is totally unique to the Wadsworth, something you can’t get anywhere else.”
Additionally, visitors will find a selection of art books, catalogues, artisan jewelry, custom stationery, children’s books and toys, games, apparel, accessories and more. “Our best sellers are always exhibition related. Exhibition catalogues are our number one seller in the museum and online,” she noted.
The Museum Shop sells custom products as well, such as custom prints, puzzles, notecards, postcards, mugs, magnets, t-shirts and totes. “I have also ordered custom throw blankets that sold well,” Stachow said. “Recently we’ve stocked the store with the same t-shirts the gallery attendants on staff wear in the museum because visitors love them so much; they’re currently sold out, but the tote is in stock!”
Impulse-buys and souvenirs are also popular inside the store. Stachow shared that souvenir items are very good sellers “because there is not a lot of retail in downtown Hartford, so people come to us looking for them.”
Creativity is part of the process for merchandising. “Our approach to displays varies, but we often create themed displays, and displays of products that complement each other, to make it visually exciting while maintaining an environment that’s easy for the a visitor to find what they’re interested in,” she described.
Customer service is important, and Stachow shared that The Museum Shop will work with customers who wish to create a gift with several products. “I enjoy working with customers who are interested in multiple items to put together a gift that’s just right for the person they’re shopping for. Sometimes it’s for themselves or someone else in their life,” she enthused. “Milestones, like baby showers or birthdays, are great opportunities for this and I especially like making these individualized recommendations.”
Stachow shared that the team there is friendly, informative and interacts with all visitors and positively impacts a visitor’s experience when shopping in the store — even if they don’t purchase or find what they are seeking. Staff will even place special orders for shoppers.
To curate the shop’s unique offerings, Stachow attends three to four trade shows each year. “I always go to NY NOW, the Museum Store Association conference, and occasionally I will go to Atlanta,” she detailed. “I buy on Faire and MSA Marketplace, and see local artisans, go to craft shows in the area, and might occasionally meet with a sales rep.”
Product display placements are also important inside the store. “I like to locate our special exhibition displays right at the front of the store so as soon as you walk in, you can peruse the items curated for the show,” Stachow emphasized. The frontof-store displays typically contain the newest merchandise and “keeps the store feeling visually fresh.”
“We make sure that there are a variety of products and price points for everyone’s budget in stock,” she shared.
Stachow also emphasized that social media posts have been successful for the store and can drive noticeable traffic to its online shop. Additionally, The Museum Shop has experienced success with its “Shop Sunday” theme on social media.
The gift shop’s team is dedicated to helping shoppers inside the store and beyond and often provides directions and information related to other local businesses. “We gladly give to support our community. It’s helpful to have a list of these recommendations on hand and to update it regularly,” Stachow shared.