Let’s face it. By the Sunday after Thanksgiving, you’re exhausted. You cooked. You ate. You cleaned. You watched football and parades. And you absolutely need to escape the relatives. On Black Friday, you braved crowds for disappointing sales. You had a great time shopping on Small Business Saturday, but you still have a few hard-to-shop-for people on your list. It’s time to support a different kind of small business—it’s time for Museum Store Sunday.
Nine years ago, an important new date was added to the Thanksgiving week calendar: Small Business Saturday, bringing millions of customers into the small and local businesses that are the backbone of communities. Now, there’s a new day worthy of your holiday attention: Museum Store Sunday.
“The general public already loves shopping in museum stores, because they know they’re sure to find something different,” says Julie Steiner, Director of Retail Operations at the Barnes Foundation, a Philadelphia Museum. “Museum Store Sunday gives people a chance to support local businesses, give back to the community through local non-profit museums, support good causes, find unique holiday gifts, and enjoy an entertaining and educational experience at favorite museums, all at the same time.”
I have been in love with museum stores for years. I buy most of my jewelry, interesting housewares, and many gifts in museum stores. The merchandise is interesting, attractive, and, surprisingly affordable. I love knowing I’m not only supporting a local cultural institution but an individual artist. And I know I’m going to get compliments!
You can find a list of museums participating in Museum Store Sunday, November 25 at https://museumstoresunday.org/participating-museums/. Many are offering significant discounts on Museum Store Sunday.
Lots of retail stores like to throw around the term “curate” when describing how they choose products for their stores. The people behind museum stores literally are curators. So they know how to find items that are unique, appealing, useful. You’ll find something for everyone on your gift list at museum stores: jewelry, clothing and scarves, housewares and home décor, books, desk accessories, postcards, artwork, games and puzzles.
Here are just a few examples:
- a beautiful apron packed in a pie pan ($29.95) at the Oakland (CA) Museum
- a child’s astronaut suit ($49.99) from the Cosmophere Space Museum in Hutchinson, Kansas
- a cobalt and cream bead necklace ($54.95) at the Detroit (MI) Institute of the Arts
You can get a better idea of some of the types of products at https://museumstoresunday.org/product-gallery/.
Let’s clear up three myths about museum stores that are just fake news:
- Museum stores are for the elite only. Ninety-five percent of museum stores don’t charge admission, according to the Museum Store Association.
- Museum stores are expensive. Museums have gotten smart: they have products at all price points. The top selling items are at the lower end of the price scale. Of course, you will find some handmade, one-of-a-kind items, such as unique jewelry and other objects made of precious materials, among the small handful of items that command big prices.
- Museum stores sell only “artsy” stuff. Not all museums are art museums. On Museum Store Sunday, you can choose from a wide range of museums: history or natural history; nature or botanical gardens; science and technology; performing arts; military, air and space; anthropology; ethnic/cultural; zoos and aquariums and more. Let’s say you need to buy something for your brother-in-law Sheldon who wouldn’t be caught dead in an art museum. You might give him a Campbell’s soup can decoy safe ($12.99) from the International Spy Museum.
When you shop at a museum store, you support not only the important work of museums, but also the local artisans and small producers that supply these small shops.
“Museum Store Sunday pairs with Small Business Saturday because both events encourage shoppers to support the local community, whether at an indie bookstore or museum,” said Stuart Hata, Chair of the MSA’s Marketing and Communications Committee. “Museum stores are indies because we all are independent and unique to each of our institutions. Whether we’re the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco or the New York Historical Society or the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Washington State, we are all a fabric of the local community and by supporting your local institution, you are supporting your local community.”
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2018
This article originally ran in USA Today on November 21, 2018