Unmasking sales: How an Atlanta museum store is adapting and connecting to customers safely By Jess Schmidt

{Sponsored} After months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta is ready to safely invite visitors back into the museum. Masks are required for anyone 3 and older, and reserved ticket times mean the overall traffic volume at the museum is tightly controlled.

To ensure the retail experience is also safe, the museum store hours are a bit shorter than prior to the shutdown — they’re open noon to 5 — and the number of guests in the store at once is limited. With only 10 patrons allowed to shop at Merchandise at The High in Atlantaonce, there is space for a line outside the entrance, and register shields round out their safety precautions. They plan to keep these safety measures in place indefinitely.

Most patrons have been happy to wear masks, too. “Our visitors are very appreciative that we are providing a safe, controlled environment to view our amazing permanent collections and special exhibitions. Everyone is complying with the request to wear a mask when visiting the museum,” said Sylvia Roberts, manager of retail operators at “The High.”

To accommodate demand, the shop also has added masks to their product offerings, becoming a best-selling item. Efi Designs, run by two Atlanta women, is a vendor Roberts discovered in the Wild Rumpus Room showroom at AmericasMart in Fall 2019 — and their masks are the most popular designs The High shops carry. Rain Caper is another favorite, as their designs carry classic art, which is perfectly in line with the museum’s mission. To round out the mask Masks for sale at The High in Atlantacollection, a local Atlanta maker, Besida, supplies the store with masks in African designs.

Rain Caper is one of over 200 vendors that Roberts and Sampson shop at Atlanta Market. They spend time at Atlanta Market searching for merchandise related to their permanent collection artists as well as special exhibitions. Some of those artists include Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Fahamu Pecou, Jaime Hayon, Joseph Stella, Mattie Lou O’Kelley and Gordon Parks. Often, the two find new products in the Temporaries, which is one of their go-to sections of the show.

A big part of their strategy is to arrive at Atlanta Market with appointments already made with key reps and then allow time to search for new vendors if possible. For Patricia A. Sampson, manager of museum shops and visual merchandising at The High, a big draw to Atlanta Market is the personal connections she can make with vendor representatives. Plus, Sampson loves “Getting out of the office for a few days to see what’s happening in the marketplace.”

Books for sale at The High in AtlantaAs things continue to evolve during this unusual time, and as trade shows adjust to the safety needs of their retail buyers, Sampson appreciates what shows like Atlanta Market have been able to do.

“In the past months, we’ve been forced to look at how we conduct business and reach our target audience,” Sampson said. “As wholesalers continue to develop new ways to connect with retailers, the traditional tradeshow format will be enhanced with more virtual options.”


Atlanta Market was the first industry show to reopen its doors in August, and will welcome retailers again this January with proper health and safety protocols in place. As a complement to physical markets, digital tools are available to keep commerce flowing. The new AtlantaMarket.com website — launching in November — will feature an enhanced Exhibitor Directory with product-level detail and a link to Catalog ConneXion, where you can browse exhibitor catalogs online and immediately place requests for more information.

© 2020 AmericasMart Atlanta

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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