Linda Weston tells how the William Morris Gallery has recorded increased shop sales since its recent refurbishment.

Image of the William Morris Gallery shop

Oliver Dixon, Imagewise

Last year Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery was refurbished and since has recorded over 42,000 visitors from September to December, compared to 10,700 for the same period in 2010, before closing for refurbishment. The gallery’s shop has also shown a significant tenfold increase in sales, with takings remaining high throughout the course of the year.

A key factor in sustaining sales has been down to the new shop layout. The welcoming light in the new shop foyer means that products are being shown to their best advantage. Many of the products on sale now were also available in the old shop and interestingly, some of the slower selling items – umbrellas and Morris patterned mugs to name a few − are now selling really well.

We have tried to cater for all budgets, offering a range of prices from pocket money items, to one-off, expensive pieces

Visual merchandising has also had a big influence on the appearance and layout of the shop. Here the gallery team sought the expertise of Ian Herdman, visual merchandiser and designer, to help arrange the merchandising. I knew that visual merchandising would have a big influence on how our products were perceived. Our stock is laid out in themed, logical sections; for example, books, homeware and stationary are in well-lit units. We also have some stock displayed in the tearoom in glass cases to tempt visitors while they are enjoying their refreshments. We have also held a training session with Ian and gallery staff to promote the importance of layout on sales to inspire this thinking in the future.

In terms of choosing merchandise, it has been important to create and stick to a brand identity. Most of the stock items in the shop are chosen because they relate to Morris and his wider circle, enhancing the look and feel of the gallery and its concept as this is what people are here to see. We want to be able to offer items of interest to children and the general visitor, as well as those with a more specialist interest in Morris. We also offer bespoke items from local designer-makers who have been influenced in some way by Morris and his ideas.

Currently, all items seem to be selling well, and best-selling items change from week to week. They include stained glass window transfers, tea towels, William Morris in 50 objects (a souvenir guide to the collection providing an overview of the life and times of Morris), postcards and Morris’ News from Nowhere.

Feedback suggests that visitors are happy with the range of products on offer and our pricing policy. We have tried to cater for all budgets, offering a range of prices from pocket money items, to one-off, expensive pieces that are not available on the high street. We are always looking at how we can build on this and a key consideration would be to increase our branded items. We are also exploring the feasibility of developing an online shop, but this is still very much in the planning stages.

Linda Weston is the Museum and Gallery Support Officer at the William Morris Gallery.

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