Buying is the one task that I do not want to fully delegate to anyone else, but I do seek input from others. The museum shop manager, Stacey Pappas, and I have just returned from three days in New York where we bought things related to three upcoming exhibitions. It is the task that I like most as Director of Merchandising. I think one key component to the success of the award-winning PEM Shop is our diverse and ever changing merchandise.
Picking the right products for the store is crucial. There are many variables in buying: Too much inventory is a problem, not enough stock is a problem, but understanding what the customer will buy is critical. Over the course of the last few years, we have shifted the product mix to more items related to exhibitions. Beyond that, there is always the need to keep the store fresh and interesting.
For this trip, we sought items relating to the exhibitions opening this fall: Beyond Human: Artist–Animal Collaborations, Impressionists on the Water and Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion. This was a tall order as we had three days to cover what used to be called the New York Gift Show, renamed NYNOW, held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, a 675,000 sq. foot glass box on 11th Avenue, located west of mid-town Manhattan. Just to make the task a little harder, the convention center had just been renovated and the show management decided to reshuffle all 2,800 vendors.
The preparation began well before leaving Salem. Hours were spent generating reports, detailing how products sold over the last year. Just because we purchased an item, didn’t mean that our customers actually bought it.
On our first day at the show we caught up with our favorite fashionista, Iris Apfel.
At 92, Iris rarely misses this show. We met her at Cupcake International, one of our longtime vendors for the store. While there, we purchased Japanese inspired jackets and then walked the aisles of the personal accessories and fair trade sections with Iris. We looked at everything from eyeglasses, jewelry, silk flowers and jackets to traditional Uzbekistani textiles, which Iris wanted to wear as a shawl.
She introduced us to a German jewelry designer who had perfect pieces for the store for an exhibition coming to PEM in 2014. We ended the evening by going to dinner with Iris and Brenda Lee, the owner of Cupcake.
On day two, we focused on Japanese items. We had already ordered the Japanese textiles that we needed to coordinate for Future Beauty, some of which were being made exclusively for us in Tokyo. At this show, however, we were looking for ceramics, gifts and children’s toys and books. By the end of the day, our quest proved fruitful. We found Japanese lunch boxes decorated with robots, erasers in the shape of sushi, paper wallets, decorated tea tins and bright, colorful mugs with rice bowls that sit on top.
The opening exhibition in our new Art and Nature Center is Beyond Human: Artist – Animal Collaborations. This turned into a fun search. We found William Wegman note cards, post cards, holiday cards and calendars, bug themed merchandise of various types, plus life-size woven straw dogs, which will put a smile on the face of dog lovers of all ages.
Our hunt for shop items for Impressionists on the Water turned up blue and white striped tops in the style of French sailor’s shirts and end tables in the shape of artist’s palettes.
We’re confident that our store customers will like these decisions, as things get shipped to Salem to make their way into the museum store.
See this recent post for an inside peek at making a video inside Iris Apfel’s closets.
Update: Iris just keeps popping up in the media. Enjoy this fun Q and A in Daily Candy that took place during New York Fashion Week.