My name is Alex and I’m the Buying & Merchandising Manager at Royal Museums Greenwich.
This means that I am responsible for the products we sell in our shops at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Cutty Sark, and online at shop.rmg.co.uk.
I manage a team of 7, and together we look after all the stages of a product’s lifecycle, from developing an initial idea into a physical product, through to buying in the right amount of stock, deciding how and where to display it, briefing the shop floor team, photographing and uploading it onto the online shop, and then monitoring and reporting on the sales and, hopefully, re-ordering it as it sells.
My favourite product range at Cutty Sark is one I developed last year. When Patrick Hearne’s beautiful painting Cutty Sark – A Day in the Life went on display in the Sammy Ofer Gallery under the hull of Cutty Sark, I knew it would be perfect for a range of gifts in the shop. I started by meeting with Patrick in March 2014, and luckily he was very keen for his work to be used on retail products.
Every bespoke product takes a different length of time to develop – it depends on things like how many samples have to be produced before we are happy, and where the product is manufactured. This range was relatively quick to develop, and it launched in September 2014. I really love how it looks in the shop, and the fact that it’s completely exclusive to the Cutty Sark – when I’m shopping in other museum shops (which I do quite a lot) it feels much more special when you can buy a gift or souvenir that you can’t get anywhere else.
A typical day for me involves a lot of time at my desk answering emails and meeting with my team to update on upcoming projects. It can take around 6-8 months or more to develop a range, so we have to work really far in advance and be good at anticipating sales patterns and trends!
As well as developing our own products we also buy ‘off-the-shelf’, which is a much quicker process but it can still take a while to find exactly the right product for our shops and for our visitors.
As a team we regularly attend trade shows, where we look out for new ideas and meet with our suppliers, and we also work with our colleagues from across the museum to find out about upcoming exhibitions or projects that retail can support. Our number one priority is for our product ranges to reflect the visitor experience, so that all of our customers can buy a souvenir of their visit and go home happy. With so many events going on across our sites keeping up can be a challenge, but that’s what makes working here so interesting and varied. I’ve spent most of my career in museum retailing, working my way up from the shop floor, and it’s fulfilling to know that our hard work as a retail team, and all the profit we generate in our shops, directly supports Royal Museums Greenwich.