The rise of museum stores as retail destinations

Museum shop at the Broad Museum LA

Museum shop at the Broad Museum LA

It’s a familiar phrase, “please exit through the gift shop”, a phrase spoken by a range of museum assistants and such a  popular phrase that it became the title for street artist Banksy’s movie. Gift shops were once seen as the afterthought, you went there after an amazing exhibition to pick up a memento, a pencil, a postcard or maybe even a book about what you had just seen.

V&A museum shop

V&A museum shop

But that was then, now a new wave of gift shops are changing the way we perceive them, these stores are becoming retail destinations on their own. “Now these museum stores, many of which are standalone propositions are creating the buzz for the exhibition, rather than the other way round. The recent shop created to celebrate the Victoria and Albert Museum’s 60s exhibition: ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’ is essentially brand activation and experiential marketing. The in store visual merchandising is key, it has everything from 1960s band posters on the wall to the decade specific music played in store. Plus the location is perfect, London’s Carnaby Street is what you think of when you think of the swinging sixties.


The V&A store isn’t the only location to watch when it comes to retail, the recently redesigned MoMA design store at 44 West 53rd Street, is also one to watch.

moma2 moma3

For the last three months, the store was being renovated by Lumsden Design, now it’s home to a stunning new store layout with a strong focus on visual merchandising and an installation of iPads for sales assistants, making sales easier.


Over in LA, the Shop at the Broad Museum is another most-Instagrammed destination, offering a selection of products celebrating the work of artists in the Broad collection.


The Museum which only opened last year and just won awards this week, for Best New Museum and Best Museum Architecture at Leading Culture Destinations Awards is celebrated for its design, and the store embraces that design work. It also stocks jewellery and clothing by local Los Angeles designers, as well as limited edition Jeff Koons products.

“I think that the change we are seeing with museum stores is that they are starting to value their point of difference. They realise that consumers want a reminder of the experience they had, much like when they come back from a good holiday, and so now they are developing their stores with experiential retail in mind, and consumers love that,” says WGSN travel editor Emily Cater.

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