All posts by Zak Mensah

About Zak Mensah

I'm Head of Transformation for Bristol Culture, the best Bristol City Council Service. We welcome over 1 Million visitors each year. My job is to help the service and you make connections and DO the work that needs doing.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery refit ChangeLog

Photo of newly refit shop at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

After much planning, preparation and excitement the week of 25-29th June 2018 was the building of our shop refit at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery. The first time in our history that we’re commissioned a specialist cultural heritage shop fitting firm, ARJ CRE8. It is the end of the week and many people have worked very long hours to smash out the out shop fittings and build us a shop that we can be proud of…and most importantly increase profit.

The shop is complete and ready for customers on Saturday. We have a small snagging list and need to visual merchandise properly but this is scheduled for early next week. For now we just need to ensure 100% of products are available and nothing is missing /left in storage.

Today is a proud moment

Thank you to everybody who encouraged us throughout the week and/or lent a hand.  A special thanks also to Bristol Museums Development Trust who agreed to significantly contribute to the cost of the project. I can’t thank Andy, Jon and the team from ARJ CRE8 enough for their professionalism, problem solving ability and relentless cheerfulness!

Now let’s go out and prove you don’t need a stockroom…..hehe

ChangeLog

29th June 2018
  • 07:20-10:00  GO! GO! Go! Moved as much products as possible from storage to the shop and our holding space. Big thank you to the staff who volunteered some time to make stuff around
  • 07:45 – 17:00 Finished up adding doors to bays, shelving, lighting adjustments and painting
  • 11:00 accessories arrive from courier to enable visual merchandising of the shop
  • 12:00-16:30 a few of our international volunteers came to the rescue and helped us prepare shelving and get products out on the shelves.
  • 15:00-17:00 move the pop-up shop fittings back into the shop and setup the tills and digital signage
  • 15:30 sold to our first customer despite being technically closed! A visitor really wanted our Millerds Map so I showed him our new bay and we made the sale!
  • 17:00-18:30 vacuum, clean and move out any non-critical products and accessories
  • 18:31 Shop is ready to open Saturday morning
28th June 2018
  • 07:30-10:00 move stock from deep storage
  • 10:00-13:00 move bay units into position
  • 13:00-18:30 wire and light each bay, reconnect air-handling which appears to have been out of action for years, finish cutting ceiling tiles
  • 17:00-18:30 move products to outside shop ready for restocking Friday morning
27th June 2018
  • Build bay bases and measure out precise bay locations
  • Wire perimeter
  • Ordered accessories for displaying products
  • Wire networking to shop
  • Empty final waste to skip
26th June 2018
  • 07:30 Ceiling fitter arrives onsite to fit ceiling tiles on existing tracks. Quickly discovers that all the track is obsolete and needs to replace entire track
  • 08:00 Zak tears shirt moving pallet full of ceiling tiles
  • 08:30-10:00 set up pop up shop in front hall. Shop takes £496.35 gross during day
  • 08:30-11:00 Replace obsolete circuit board
  • 08:00-21:00 Continue work to perimeter walls. Edge of ceiling complete and 50% of ceiling track fitted
25th June 2018
  • 06:30 Skip arrives…in wrong location…… 2hr wait for move
  • 8am Contractors arrives and unloads tools
  • 08:30 Contractor begins to gut existing shop walls and ceiling
  • 10:00 Retail team begin to review products for pop-up shop which will run 26-29th June
  • 09:00 Sparks begins to review wiring and remove old…discover circuit board is ancient so we get in Carters to assess and agree to replace on 26th
  • 10:00 Waste for skip removed to front of building and loaded into waiting skip
  • 14:05 [redacted!]
  • 14:15 Building Practice team called to assess wall
  • 15:00 Large lorry of 38 shop bays arrives and is unloaded
  • 16:00 Stone mason’s make wall safe by carefully taking wall pillar apart without further damage to each stone which is then stored
  • 17:00 Second large van arrives to deliver central bay units and small fittings which is unloaded
  • 17:45 Remaining waste loaded into van
  • 17:45 to 18:15 Clean up of route
  • 19:30 Evening private hire event starts
24th June
  • Team of 6 empty all shop products and move to holding location
  • Old fittings e.g shelving removed to storage or for recycling

Photo of shop the day before refit all emptied and readyThe shop just hours before the refit to rip out the stockroom, install new bays and maximise the space

Preparing to refit Bristol Museum & Art Gallery shop

Between 25-29th June 2018 we’ll be closing our shop to gut the space and build a new and improved customer offer. I thought I’d take the time to explain the details of the project just ahead of the actual build.

The shop was last refit in the early 1990s and in the past 18-24 months it has been a daily struggle to grow the business within those dated constraints which are primarily:

  • Space isn’t used effectively both behind the scenes (stockroom) or in the public area of the shop and cannot be optimised further
  • the fittings are very dated and the super wood effect weakens our brand
  • a partial  2016 refit saw improvements to sales by introducing LED lighting, dedicated nesting tables and a bookshelf area which increased sales by over 100% for those categories
  • although the ceiling lighting has dramatically improved the general vibe, the majority of products are still not lit well which doesn’t show products in the best way
  • the bays are all slatwall which constraints our options for displaying products, limits the visual merchandising and has poor space/density

We went out to tender and successfully secured the expertise for design as build of ARJ-CRe8. Originally we hoped to complete the project earlier this year but we missed the narrow window. As the exhibition exits through the shop we can only do the work between exhibitions so a June date was set.

We had a reasonable budget, a contractor and a GO date. As with all my collaborative projects we use Basecamp to communicate with all the project team and to keep other interested parties in the loop. I love tools like this as they cut down on meetings and keep a full history of questions and decisions that we can refer back to. It means when we do meet face to face it is super productive. Between February and April we worked together on the design, staff feedback and drawings. In total we’ve had five evolutions of the original design. Each iteration is an incremental improvement to the previous direction and catching missed constraints.

I was keen to completely remove the traditional  “till” area as I believe this isn’t a productive use of space and the future of retail will be till free. However we’re not quite into the future so my colleagues successfully convinced me that being an early adopter isn’t always best. We will test a till free approach in the near future!

Now that the design is in the final build phase we know that the refit will:

  • remove the stockroom to give us 20% more shopfloor space and 31 total bays with under unit storage
  • allow us to provide a better customer experience with a shop designed and built for a heritage customer
  • use the removal of the stockroom to properly implement an effective buying and stockholding procedure – hold less stock to keep as much cash free as possible and not own risky products
  • increase serving from one cashier to up to two at the same time which has long been an issue
  • improve category management by having clearly defined zones
  • allow us to introduce improved security measures [redacted]
  • introduce a shop that is aligned to our brand with new colour ways and point of sale
  • improve flow from the exhibition area and give a better connected interaction of the exhibition and its related products
  • increased high price  point products with lockable units
  • allow us to study what we can maximise in this space to inform Project Alfred, our project which seeks to redevelop the building eg should we move the shop in that project or leave it by the exhibition space

We have been busy with lots of small but important detail such as moving key infrastructure, planning how to run a pop up shop in the front hall during the work and how to work with the exhibition team who will be in derig mode.

We expect a significant increase in sales and the hard work begins once the build is complete. We’ll have transformed the space which are in effect is our foundations and we can now set about building a very successful retail offer from these strong beginnings.

Ill let you know how we get on….onwards

 

 

 

 

 

New locker alert

Photo showing grey lockers

Adding additional lockers to our museums is a top 5 request from the public and staff alike. On Wednesday the 20th September we installed new lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed.

Until this week we only had 8 lockers at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery which is not exactly lots when you have 400,000 plus visits. At both museums the lockers have been finished in a suitable RAL colour way. We’ve introduced a £1 non-refundable fee which will initially re-pay the cost of lockers then be used to support our work. Slow money but sure money.

The main considerations for lockers are:

  • Custom brand colours
  • Coin retention lockers
  • The number of doors per locker – 2, 3 or 4 (more lockers more money but less useful if size is important)
  • installation
  • Location in the building
  • Disclaimers and cost messaging

The install didn’t quite go to plan. I asked for lockers. I got lockers. However I also needed the following which I hadn’t specified:

  • Numbered lockers – inserts so that the public can remember which locker they used
  • Numbered key fobs – the public need to know which key they have
  • Nuts and bolts – to connect each locker together and to the wall to eliminate the chance for the locker to tip over

I purposely located a bank of lockers in the corridor so that they’ll be in the sightline of visitors to the front hall. Previously the lockers were tucked away and a constant frustration for visitors. Regular readers will know one of my favourite quotes “Address the user need and the business need will be clear”.

Retail will be responsible for collecting the income with this new welcome income stream.

I was chuffed when one of our Visitor Assistants said “I’ve been here over 10 years and never thought I’d see the day we added extra lockers”.

If you remember to address the bullet points above you’ll have a smooth installation. Good luck.

Results of running a shop in the front hall

Photo of our front hall shop

Just before summer started I wrote about taking the plunge having an additional small shop in the front hall at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery throughout the summer. Summer is over and so is our shop, for now. This post is a summary of performance. In short, the shop was worth doing with the following results:

  • 10% of total sales for the month or £5,300 net sales
  • 939 orders
  • 2% conversion (confirmed it was additional sales not just taking sales from main shop)
  • Same ATV as main shop despite selling far fewer products
  • Staffing costs were covered by moving the second retail assistant from the main shop
  • £400 on a whacking huge shop sign (pictured) and a few units to supplement existing available units
  • Answered countless public enquiries

I would have been kicking myself if we hadn’t tried to push the retail needle and i’m glad we did. We had our most successful month on record and met our income target. The front hall shop helped us over the line in this respect. We started on day 1 of the school summer holiday without much of a plan other than a hunch the products should be suitable for kids and tourists. Over the course of the project we chopped and changed the products as the teams powers of observation dictated.

Staffing

Finding staff at short notice proved to be a challenge with a few moments but fortunately the team including our brilliant casual pool came to the rescue. I asked the team for feedback throughout the project. Everyone on the front hall shop said they enjoyed the shifts and kept busy in the quiet periods by pricing and preparing products. As expected they also answered lots of public enquiries and raised awareness of our retail offer. The main shop coped with having one person instead of two but this made their work full-on and its much appreciated. We will use the feedback to see how we can better ease the load in the coming year, especially dealing with deliveries.

Product selection

We used the existing products from our range and started with best sellers with a Bristol theme. We thought this would appeal to the tourists. However the Bristol theme didn’t really push the needle so we switched to more ‘kids’ and ‘home’ which proved successful.  I really wanted to try a selection of jewellery but the hall is used frequently for evening events so we decided this could wait until a future project.

Positive fringe benefits

We don’t have staff permanently in our front hall anymore so having staff here was good for the public enquiries. The hall is large and having visitors milling around the shop gave a nice vibe to the space. Staff received lots of positive comments about the offer and many said they’d be back for Christmas shopping. Some visitors completely miss the fact we have a shop so this made sure 100% knew we had an offer.

Next time

I have decided that the front hall shop should come back at high visitor times so October half-term and then from late November until the end of the school holidays. We need to plan the range further in advance and be very mindful that December is peak evening event season so everything must be easily movable. We did indeed push the needle.

Onwards!

Pushing the needle: a shop in our fron thall

Photo of front hall shop on day 1

Each year until at least 2022 we need to grow our retail revenue and profitability by 10% or greater. At Bristol Museum & Art Gallery our retail is typical of the sector in converting about 10% of visitors into shoppers. For us, this will not be enough to do what we need to do. But we must hit our target.

To work out if you have any hope of making your target you need to do a little maths:

  • Divide the total number of visitors by the expected number of shoppers to get your conversion rate e.g 10%
  • Take your expected Average Transaction Value (ATV) and multiple this by your conversion rate to get a baseline amount of sales revenue you expect to generate – remember sales are not profit
  • Take your baseline expected sales and divide by the expected visitor numbers to get your Spend Per Head (SPH)

The problem should be obvious…. an average is basically an assumption that IF A + B + C happens then success!

It is good to have a working set of data, averages and assumptions to use as a baseline but we can’t run our retail on assumptions and need to try everything to maximise sales. I know that to have more confidence in our programme we need to keep poking the box to try to positively increase our conversion and thus sales.

The best way to get the conversion up to is raise awareness to the visitor that we have a shop offer and try to affect behaviour. Our front hall has 100% of our visitors passing through.

During the summer holiday we’re testing the idea that more exposure should increase sales by introducing a small shop located in the front hall. This project will inform our future plans for growing the retail business which may include moving the location of the main shop.

The outline business case is below:

  1. A visually attractive retail offer located in the front hall will undoubtedly increase awareness of a retail offer in the Museum. Although improvements have been made to the entrance of the main shop including introducing a large bookstand and jewellery stand, some visitors still miss the retail offer. This project will hopefully encourage impulse buying and whilst signposting to the main shop either now or for Christmas.
  2. As an example we used a pop up shop for Chinese New Year which increased sales by 18% on the previous year 2015-2016. This also avoided the big queues in the shop and congestion in the entrance and exit in the shop which aids the visitor experience
  3. There will be almost no investment costs, as we already have the equipment needed to set up a small shop.
  4. Staff costs will be met using the current budget by moving the second retail assistant to the front hall. The downside of course will be less ability to deal with deliveries and some customers who want assistance.
  5. The shop in the front hall will be open daily during summer school holidays 24th July -1st September and be mobile enough to be able to close and move for any evening events.
  6. The space taken for the shop would measure 9ft (2.7 mtrs) by 11ft (3.4 mtrs).
  7. Meeting the potential for growth – going on last year’s August figs of ATV at £6.18 an increase of 5% conversion could lead to an increase £10,000.
  8. Hopefully a secondary benefit is that this will reduce queue pressure on the main shop
  9. Use the opportunity to engage the visitors about our cafe and exhibition Pliosaurus

So how did we do the first week?

Sales in the front hall accounted for 13% of sales. The first two days we were finding our feet so i’d expect this to increase in the coming week. At this stage we can’t tell if this has simply taken a share of the main shop’s sales or increased sales overall… we need to compare a few data sources and experiment with the product range…. watch this space!

Retail: Improving the buying process

Customers buy what they can pick from the shop floor or online catalogue. Not what is “on its way from a warehouse” or “gathering dust” on our stockroom shelf. Stock not available to the customer is therefore waste. A waste of committed money (cash flow concern which  immediately introduces risk) and a waste of space in our shop stockroom which in turns reduces overall shop floor space and slows staff looking for product.

Because “Buying” is the most critical of the four pillars of retail, it seems the sensible place to focus our attention on to gain further improvement. I’m going to challenge ourselves to use 2017-18 to maximise our buying by refining the workflow.    This will be a collaboration between me, retail, user research and our digital team.

At present we do our buying like any other retailer, we order by supplier when we feel or notice heavy product depletion. Furthermore at any one time we’re “holding” about 10% of our annual total stockholding in our stockroom and another 10% on the shop floor. If it is on the stockroom shelf it has zero chance of being sold.  In addition to having a costly quantity of product hanging around, the space used to hold our product could potentially be converted into public shop floor space. For example at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery there is a false wall which conceals our stockroom which is about 8m in length with a depth of 1.4m. If we’re about to improve how we buy, it is possible to push this wall back further and gain that space as public floor space that could be used for 2-4 nesting tables worth £10,000+. The challenge of course is that would reduce our total stockroom space by 2/3.

If we can nail our understanding of what to buy and when, this would unlock the potential to carry out operation “shrink the stockroom”. Order exactly what we need when we need it and not before.

The upsides would be:

  •  Move to a new process of ordering “just in time”
  • reduce stockroom size thus freeing up new floor space for customers worth £10,000+
  • reduce “out of stock” scenario by improving the buying process
  • order by need not assumption
  • reduce ordering time across the full year
  • reduce owning costly stock that may not sell which also takes up space
  • maximise available money set aside for buying products that sell
  • Reduce time lost by staff who have to hunt around a big stockroom
  • Heavily reduce human interaction which will reduce our cost per transaction and help us move to being digital by default
  • Allow retail manager to focus on other tasks

 

Challenge: Improving the buying process for retail

Customers buy what they can pick from the shop floor or online catalogue. Not what is “on its way from a warehouse” or gathering dust on our stockroom shelf. Stock not available to the customer is therefore waste. A waste of committed money (cash flow concerns and thus an introduction of risk) and a waste of space in our shop stockroom which in turns reduces overall shop floor space and slows staff looking for product.

Because “Buying” is the most critical of the four pillars of retail, it seems the sensible place to work on iterating to gain further improvement. I’m going to challenge ourselves to use 2017 to maximise our buying workflow.

At present we do our buying like any other retailer, we order by supplier when we feel or notice heavy product depletion. Furthermore we “hold” about 1/4 of our stockholding in our stockroom. If it is on the stockroom shelf it has zero chance of being sold. In addition to having a costly quantity of product hanging around, the space used to hold our product could potentially be converted into public shop floor space. For example at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery there is a false wall which conceals our stockroom which is about 8m in length with a depth of 1.4m. If we’re about to improve how we buy, it is possible to push this wall back further and gain that space as public floor space that could be used for 2-4 nesting tables worth £10,000+. The challenge of course is that would reduce our total stockroom space by 2/3.

If we can increase our understanding of what to buy and when this would unlock the potential to carry out operation “shrink the stockroom”.

The upsides would be:

  • move to a new process of ordering “just in time”
  • reduce stockroom size thus freeing up new floor space for customers worth £10,000+
  • reduce “out of stock” scenario by improving the buying process
  • order by need not assumption
  • reduce ordering time across the full year
  • reduce owning costly stock that may not sell which also takes up space
  • maximise available money set aside for buying products that sell
  • reduce time lost by staff who have to hunt around a big stockroom

The first major step forward has been moving to a fully digital ordering process to minimise the steps required for that particular part of the system. We use a combination of Shopify reporting and google spreadsheets to do this. Our internal system for generating purchase orders currently prevents us using automated ordering directly to the supplier.

I think the next step will be to understand the rhythm of how often each product is sold AND what minimum order size suppliers can accept.

Myself and the team will write about our successes and challenges throughout the year. It won’t be easy but nothing worth doing is!

Our shopify setup for running POS in our gift shops

Across our museums and archive we sell in-person using an iPad and Shopify app. I thought i’d share with you our Shopify point of sale (POS) set up seeing as we’ve now rolled it out to five locations. The setup cost is just under £1000 for the kit and running costs are approx £3000 per year for the Shopify software, reporting and add-ons. It is worth mentioning that originally we used the basic Shopify package which is $29 per month (plus $40 for retail pos) but once we started to get serious with our retail management we upgraded to the “Advanced Shopify” which is approx £2800 per year.

Hardware

We purchased our kit from POS hardware as a bundle for approx £455 (ex vat) excluding the iPad and card reader. Most small merchants skip on getting the receipt printer and prefer to use “email this receipt”.

  • iPad air 2 – £379
  • Bluetooth barcode reader
  • Standard till drawer
  • Receipt printer
  • Contactless Credit/debit card reader with Applepay (approx £20 per month rental)
  • iPad secure stand
  • Router to avoid public wifi and maintain security – fitted by IT services

Software

A good thing about shopify is that you can scale up your options with the click of a button to install new features. Once you pay you can also install it on as many devices as you like which is great for pop-up shops.

Shopify retail $40 per month and is essential for turning your standard shopify account into a retail POS
Advanced Shopify £2800 per year which we use for the “reporting” features
– App – ALT Text FREE used to automatically generate image ALT text for our online shop
– App – Low Stock Alert FREE sends us an email warning which products are running low
– App – Profiteer $15 per month used to add the cost of goods to all products so we can understand our profit
– App – SEO Doctor FREE used to improve our online shop
– App – Shopify Theme Tool which we use for our custom online shop theme

Top tips

Updating shopify or iOS. It normally takes about 45mins to update the app shopify AND update iOS so never do this during hte business day..also avoid Friday or weekends if you have IT support who work Mon-Fri

If possible it is worth having a second iPad in case the primary device falls over for any reason. I’d also suggest you upgrade the software and test it using the second device before unleashing the latest version on the primary device

Shopify has 24/7 support so when I hit a snag I normally use their live chat to help get it resolved

Transformation: Business as Usual

Transformation is made one day at a time. Ideas, mistakes, doing and refining. Ship early, ship often. There are no ribbon cutting moments just the quiet satisfaction that a tool or way things are done become normal and it’s seen as business as usual. I love this transformation.
To counteract my nervous energy on my Dublin to New York City flight I made a brief list of things we’ve introduced in the recent past.
We’ve introduced new roles including Head of Digital and user researchers. New as in never been seen in the service before. How cool is that?! We’ve pushed as many decisions out from management as possible to keep the responsibility with whomever has the direct expertise and to release the bottleneck of waiting for the four of us. Yes we can still override a preferred course of direction.
We’re getting digital tools (basecamp and trello, emu) into position as THE way we do business – freeing up meeting time and being transparent. We’re also chipping away at a culture of being a ‘cultural business’. And that’s just on the staff front. All things to be super proud of from those across the team. What I love though is how “normal” all this is now. Tools like Basecamp were seen as for the nerds like me back in 2014 in the team. Yet in 2016 I can see we now use it for project managing all exhibitions as a matter of course.

We’re cooking on gas using google drive now too as the spreadsheet sharing and linking data gets more critical eg for kpi work. Accurate information over live/ancient information.
The public are seeing some of this work through our ‘Pay What You Think’ approach to our own in-house programme. Tinkering with pricing and value.
Stroll into Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and you’re now greeted upon entry and asked if you’d like to donate without delay.
All of the above are super closely aligned to our core value of “excellence” by focusing on the needs of the user – staff or public. You may be asked on your visit about any number of our services and we use this to make our service better.
Long live business as usual.

A special welcome for every visitor at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Photo showing our new welcome area with the public at the desk

Image credit: Oliver Merchant

Post by Valerie Harland

If you have been at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery within the last week, you might have noticed that our street-level entrance lobby is now a much more welcoming place for our visitors.

Staff at a new Welcome Desk now greet everyone as they enter the museum. Visitors are asked if they’ve been to the museum before, if they’ve come for a general look around or for an exhibition, talk or particular gallery or artefact.

Welcome Desk staff state that there’s no general admission fee and that donations are welcome, adding any highlights or their own personal favourites from what’s on display.

The visitor map has been improved to more graphically show the layout of the museum and share some of the highlights in the galleries. Finally, visitors are asked if they would like to make a donation today to Bristol Museums Development Trust (the independent registered charity that raises funds for Bristol Museums and Archives).

To explain why we are asking for donations, the editorial on the reverse of the visitor map explains that behind the scenes curators, conservators, documentation professionals and a host of other specialist staff are working to care for the collections, create new displays and encourage people of all ages and interests to discover more.

Illustrated examples of how the £5 suggested donation could help are also provided in the visitor map, for example to conserve an artefact, examine minerals more closely, or conserve a painting.  The visitor map also outlines Bristol Museums’ sources of funds: this is approximately 40% from Bristol City Council, 30% from Arts Council England, and the remaining 30% coming from our shops, cafes, event hires, Friends groups, and fundraising from a variety of sources including visitors.

It is anticipated the new Welcome Desk will give passers-by more of an idea of what happens inside this Edwardian building, resulting in more people crossing the threshold. It should also significantly increase the donation per head (currently 7p per head at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery), thus bringing in much needed funds that will enable us to do more with our collections and thus improve the visitor experience.

The Welcome Desk is being trialled for four months, until the end of October. If you have any comments about the Welcome Desk project, please contact Valerie Harland at valerie.harland@bristol.gov.uk