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Income Generation at the Royal Engineers Museum

Museum Name

Royal Engineers Museum, Library & Archive, Gillingham, Kent

Museum Contact

Amber Cottee


August - December 2013 (ongoing work currently being developed)

What were the Project aims?

Image credit: REMLA

  • Increase the currently low interest in and profit of the shop.
  • Find out what visitors expect and want from the museum shop.
  • Develop a brand for the shop that leaves a lasting impression on visitors of high quality merchandise that can only be purchased from the Royal Engineers museum shop.
  • Write a case to prove relevance of each stock line (as guided by the visitors) to the provider (RE Corps Enterprises Ltd).
  • Assistance in liaising with the manager of RE Corps Enterprises Ltd to demonstrate that relevance of shop stock could generate a higher profit by comparison to the stock carried by shops run by other military museums
  • Writing a bid to produce a specialised RE museum stock lines range commemorating the Battle of Waterloo and relating to other rare museum collections.
  • Better display/presentation of shop merchandise in an appealing and inviting manner in the limited space available. 

What was the impact of the project?

Image credit: REMLA

  • Members of staff have gained knowledge in the appropriateness and relevance of shop stock which should be stocked at museums/heritage attractions.
  • Museum staff are starting to put the knowledge they have gained into practice.
  • A dedicated Merchandising Volunteer has been designated to shop improvements and the future for the shop; this volunteer has a background in trading in a museum and heritage environment.
  • Managerial attitudes have changed towards the importance of an independent shop and café, since attending the ‘Income Generation for Museums’ training day.
  • Confidence is slowly beginning to be reinstalled in staff, as they feel more confident in re-displaying the shop.
  • The new re-display in its current form is more inviting, although improvements still need to be made which include a complete redesign of the area.
  • Visitors have commented that the shop area is more inviting, and they are more likely to walk into the area unlike before.
  • The new lines which have been introduced ‘Choc’s for Chaps’, ‘Salmon, Calendars & Diaries’ are proving popular with a second order being placed from ‘Choc’s for Chaps’.
  • Visitors have valued being able to voice their opinions about the shop and help guide what they would like to purchase.
  • The shop, re-display and introduction of lines has meant that visitors are having more of an enjoyable visit as they feel more comfortable in the shop area. There is still some way to go before visitors are using the shop with confidence and leaving content with taking a unique part of the museum away with them.
  • The overall aim is to make the shop and café a self-sustained entity, so that moneys raised can be invested into the museum itself. To do this the shop offering still needs drastic changes to come in line with the Museum’s collection and visitor profiles.

What went well and what didn’t go well?

Image credit: REMLA

  • Merchandise consultant Christine Walton presented a concise but detailed consultancy report.
  • Initially some museum staff (Museum Attendants) were reluctant to change although when they realised the potential in the shop attitudes have started to adapt.  
  • Curatorial staff were keen to share their ideas in terms of the merchandise on offer in the shop, which formed the bases of the questionnaire. 
  • Visitors welcomed being able to voice their opinions.
  • Through discussions with a particular visitor the idea came for a dedicated Merchandising Volunteer. 

Top Tips

When appropriate training opportunities arise (where possible) send all staff directly involved in that area on the training course as information is not always disseminated. 

What are your plans for the future?

The project is linked with a forward plan of making the shop and café a separate commercial venture with a starting aim of the commercial and front of house being self-sustaining to relieve pressure from the museum budgets, and the end aim is for the commercial side to be a revenue raiser for the museum.

Overall Cost of Project

£1,700 (£1,200 consultancy support, £500 product implementation to follow)

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