museums&MORE Winter 2020
MSA FORWARD 2020: Retail Rock Stars By Jess Schmidt

{Sponsored} In 2020, MSA FORWARD is going to be different. As always, it will be the place for nonprofit retailers to learn from each other and expert speakers, work with vendors and get reinvigorated as retail leaders. The event, put on by the Museum Store Association (MSA) annually, is happening April 23-27, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio.

But this year, the Retail Rock Stars theme is raising the stakes. “Museum stores are not ‘cover bands’ — we are unique in our own sound. Each of our stores have a ‘vibe’ of their own and we want to celebrate that,” said Blue Anderson, co-chair of the event and retail manager at Columbia River Maritime Museum. “We want MSA-FORWARD2019-connectingto make some noise and not be confined or defined by a formula.”

The Retail Rock Stars name is the brainchild of Geoff Carroll, co-chair of the MSA FORWARD 2020 Conference Committee and owner of Original Source, a gift wholesaler. To Carroll, MSA FORWARD symbolizes the success of nonprofit retail in a very challenging business environment.

Rock & Roll epitomizes a spirit of rebellion against “The Establishment.” And contrary to all odds, “Our Retail Rock Stars are successfully ‘rebelling’ against tremendous pressure from today’s mainstream retail establishment and they are thriving” Carroll said.

“So, let’s celebrate that spirit of confidence and commitment in Cleveland. Let’s pause and recognize that our museum stores are flourishing — true rebels in a demanding time.”

MSA-FORWARD2019-Do-Business-LearnThe breakout sessions are amped up this year, and Anderson said every single institution will have at least three takeaways that can be applied immediately upon return home. The breadth of topics will be a game-changer for every participating MSA Member. “I have seen a few snippets of the upcoming sessions — and I can enthusiastically confirm that they will be rewarding and memorable,” Carroll said.

For the first time, MSA is hosting a small cohort of CEOs, CFOs and other leadership of member institutions to attend MSA FORWARD. This pilot program is designed to help institution members share the value that MSA provides to their nonprofit retail staff and operations. This advocacy to institutional leadership is also part of MSA’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

This year, over 75 new MSA vendors will be represented at the event, and the Buyer Vendor Hub will present a place for buyers and vendors alike to MSA-FORWARD2019-Do-Businesscongregate, rest their feet and get refreshed. It sits in the middle of the floor and allows everyone to find refreshment, which in previous years was only available outside of the trade show floor.

Excursions will feature museums, architecture and the renaissance that Carroll said Cleveland has experienced. “Our members are going to love the excursions, which take us through this thriving city,” Carroll said.

“There’s always a chance to learn something new,” said Chris Michel, past co-chair of the MSA FORWARD Conference Committee and senior director of retail and parking services, The National WWII Museum. Michel is looking forward to learning through the speakers, the sessions or chance meetings with other nonprofit retail managers. “You might be sitting in a hotel lobby and chatting with a colleague who uses the same P.O.S., and learn a new trick that will save you time,” Michel said. He’s made lifelong friends and retail compatriots while on a bus to an excursion and appreciates that his fellow nonprofit retailers are only a phone call away.

To learn more about how you can join fellow nonprofit retail professionals at MSA FORWARD 2020 in Cleveland to connect, learn, and do business, or to register for this event, visit

© 2020 Museum Store Association

Jess Schmidt

Jess brings a creative writing degree and over 16 years of professional writing experience to her role as content marketer for the Great American Media Services and SmartSolutions teams. With her additional background in the design world, she works with clients to make their brand stories stand out. Her specialties are thought leadership, compelling descriptive language and marketing strategy. She moonlights as a contributing writer with Gift Shop Plus from time to time.

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