museums&MORE Summer 2011
Editor’s Letter: Role Reversal

While it would be nice if I could fly around the country and visit each and every store we feature in this magazine, unfortunately, that’s just not in the budget. But once in awhile I get the chance to see a store in person and experience it for myself, as was the case with Fiddle Sticks Toys in The Children’s Museum of Houston.

I was traveling to Houston on unrelated business and planned a visit to the museum – 90,000 square feet of interactive bilingual exhibits with a 1,000-square-foot gift shop filled with everything from puppets and puzzles to shirts and stuffed snakes. I took a few minutes to walk around before entering the museum itself and took note of the items I saw – a good mixture of product for both young and old.

With a step out the door and a turn to the right I was suddenly smack dab in the middle of hundreds of children exploring hundreds of things. I took off my adult “editor” glasses and decided to see things through the eyes of a child, spending the next hour exploring this self-described “Playground for your Mind.” I watched children build things, solve puzzles, run a Kidtropolis and star in their own interactive videos. I watched adults build things, solve puzzles and serve as customers in a Kidtropolis, all while taking pictures.
Needless to say, I had fun.

When I made my way back to the store, it was a rather eye-opening experience for me. The items that I saw now had a story that made them more than just a product on the shelf. That bus looked just like the bus at the school and that kit was similar to the one I had used to build my rocket (yes, I built a rocket.) Everything from shirts to pencils had more meaning once I had an experience to tie it to, a memory to attach.

The way the items directly tied into the experience I’d just had made the ordinary seem extraordinary, in it’s own simple way.

So my suggestion to you is to step out of your role as retailer and step into the role of a guest once in awhile. What do you feel when you enter the store? What catches your eye and piques your interest? Then go take a walk through your destination – be it a zoo, a museum or aquarium – and return to the store at the end. Do you want different things than you did at the start? Does the store have items that bring the whole experience together?

What you see as a retailer might not be what they see as a guest, which doesn’t make much retail sense. If you tap into the psyche of your shoppers, you tap into potential sales. You don’t have to transport yourself back to childhood, but quite honestly, it couldn’t hurt to remember some of that innocent whimsy you had as a child. Open up your mind to creative possibilities and unexpected opportunities and play a little bit every day.
It might just be an eye-opening experience.

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