One of the aims of our extension project is to earn a bit more money from the 75,000 or so visitors we hope will be coming to the museum each year. We have no intention of charging people to come into the museum because we think that we are at least as much a community resource as a tourist attraction. But we know that museum users now expect to get a good cup of tea when they visit, and that people value the opportunity to buy souvenirs of their visit or items that help them find out more about our local area and our museum collections.
When the Museum opened in 1989 there was no shop at all – the entrance hall looked very smart but very bare!
By the time we closed for refurbishment the front hall was a bit of a higgledy-piggledy mess of different units piled high with local books, traditional toys and postcards. There was lots to buy but not necessarily what our visitors wanted, and Museum objects like paintings and the beautiful black painted Brannam shelving units were competing for attention with rubbers and fluffy toys (not to mention an elephant).
We have been looking at our staffing structure and realised that we need to be much more serious about managing both the shop and the tea-room, and we need outside help to plan the spaces and decide what we should be selling. We have divided responsibility for the shop and tea-room so that Trudy can really get her teeth into making the shop profitable and Jodie can have free reign creating a really great tea-room.
We have also been looking at other shops and tea-rooms to get ideas about layout and stock. We would like the shop to become a destination for people looking for unique gifts and quality greetings cards, as well as stocking local books and hopefully the products of local craftspeople. One part of our Lottery Funded Activity Programme is called Made In Barnstaple, and we have challenged Petroc students to create great new products based on our collections.
You can see our new shop space here – it’s coming together now. It will be bigger and brighter than before, next to our new entrance facing the High Street. We hope that by creating a new shop with unique products we will add to the town’s retail offer, strengthening the draw to bring tourists into Barnstaple to shop, as well as helping the Museum’s sustainability.