September 11, 2001, is a day most of us can recall in detail, and on each anniversary of that attack we honor all those that lost a life or suffered from those tragic events. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s mission is “to remember those who were lost and honor those who came to rescue and help with the recovery efforts.”
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum fulfills its mission on a daily basis. Gennady Zaritsky, vice president of retail and café services for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Store, explained that it also remembers and honors those who died in the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing “as well as those who risked their lives to save others and all who demonstrated extraordinary compassion in the aftermath of the attacks,” not just on the anniversary.
The 9/11 Memorial & Museum store has an important function — all proceeds generated sustain the museum and its mission. Zaritsky shared that all its merchandise has a story that ties it to the 9/11 events and “are displayed in a way that speaks to these moving and inspiring stories.”
The merchandise is curated to reflect special exhibits. “We work closely with our exhibitions team to get an understanding of what the special exhibition will be, and then we go to work on determining the best product assortment. Not everything will always translate into merchandise, so we need to get very creative,” Zaritsky said.
PANDEMIC RETAIL CHALLENGES
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack and it’s also a year in which the pandemic has shifted retail and museum experiences dramatically. Faced with declining revenue this past year, the store developed a creative way to boost sales and assist pandemic first responders. “The 9/11 Memorial & Museum faced financial challenges from lack of admissions revenue,” Zaritsky explained. Through the store’s online “Buy One, Give One” mask initiative people were able to support the Memorial & Museum’s mission while donating a mask to frontline workers.”
The shop offers an assortment of merchandise, but its best-sellers are its core products: t-shirts, totes, bracelets, keychains and magnets.
“We truly love our vendors who produce these products for us,” he emphasized. All the t-shirts and hoodies are sourced from NY Popular; totes and shopping bags and custom boxes from PrimeLine Packaging; magnets, keychains, prints and postcards are from Museum Store Products; metal keepsakes from Souvenir Avanti; and mugs, pens and many other items, are from Impact Photographics.
“Never Forget” and “20 Years Later” are key phrases that will be used for commemorative merchandise for this year. “The 20th anniversary is very important, just like every other year. This year we will be combining a few different ideas, helped by our frontline staff who truly listen to the customers and shared ideas with us,” he said. “Our merchandise this year will focus on imagery of the American flag, the New York City skyline — prominently featuring the Twin Towers.”
The anniversary often prompts in-person visitors, but the Memorial & Museum offers other special events for visitors to learn about the events and the exhibits and encourages people to browse and purchase in the retail store. Zaritsky noted that it hosts special retail events during its annual 9/11 Memorial & Museum 5K, in Major League Baseball stadiums and at other sporting events, and even has hosted book signing events to draw visitors.
Although the store does not typically offer custom merchandise in the gift shop, Zaritsky shared that it will provide custom offerings for internal initiatives, such as a board of trustees meeting or its annual 5K. “We work with teams across our institution and handle the custom merchandise process from design to ordering,” he said.
When asked if there was ever a successful product that surprised him, he shared: “I think the biggest surprise continues to be our silicone bracelets. We started off with two styles many years ago and now we have several designs including the logos of the Memorial & Museum, FDNY, NYPD, and Love Is Stronger Than Hate.”
When it comes to stocking the shelves, Zaritsky said he works with amazing vendors that truly understand their specific needs. “Since we don’t have a warehouse, or much retail storage space in the museum, we work with them in a few ways,” he said. The method he developed breaks down his orders with yearly, monthly and as-needed projections.
Under the yearly projections model, Zaritsky notifies vendors what he thinks the store will sell within a year. The vendors will produce the merchandise and allow the items to be picked up on a monthly basis.
For monthly projections, Zaritsky emphasized that he maintains a two to three month advance notice “so the vendor has enough time to produce” and then the store will continue with a monthly pick-up schedule.
As-needed ordering is Zaritsky’s favorite. “Some of our vendors are able to produce things on a more frequent or as-needed basis, which also allows us to test products in small quantities before we determine if we want to place larger orders.”
Sourcing is also completed through some shows: NY NOW, MSA Forward and the Las Vegas Gift Souvenir & Resort Gift Show.
The displays at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Gift Shop are rotated approximately three to four times per year. On occasion, displays will be changed more frequently to accommodate new merchandise that needs to be in the spotlight.
The organization’s mission is also reflected in the merchandise displays. “We do our part to carry out that mission by educating our guests and sharing these inspiring stories. This is our goal and our inspiration when working on our displays, as each mug, t-shirt, keychain, book or keepsake has a story related to the events of 9/11, the Memorial & Museum, or the city of New York,” he detailed.