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Footfall and retail delight or despair?

January 6, 2018

UK museums have been a steady performer in the leisure and cultural world over the past decade, despite large cuts to many institutions, museum visits have generally held up well.  In a digital world where consumers can order almost anything online, the museum experience provides a uniquely authentic trip which you don’t get from the internet or manufactured visitor attractions.  For instance Hampton Court Palace or Lyme Regis museum provide fascinating and engaging venues and perhaps most importantly, something that is “real”.  Lyme Regis is embedded in the Jurassic Coast with 120 million year old dinosaur fossils all around you.

However museums are very much part of their environment, which in many cases is in or near the local High Street.  So to certain extent the success or failure of the local museum is linked to that of its High Street.  Post Christmas retail reports have indicated that the UK High Street has experienced a mix bag of results.  Although Next enjoyed above expected sales, this was garnered from their online sales, while their bricks and mortar sales were marginally down,  Debenhams suffered from poor sales, a retailer which majors in many UK High Streets and has a weak online experience.  If footfall in the High Street diminishes as more consumers reach for their mouse or smart phone this could impact many museums who benefit from a busy High Street with plenty of passer-bys.  Many cultural venues also have retail and catering offers as well as galleries and gardens, so they to rely on visitors coming in and spending in the museum shop.

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A bit too quiet

Perhaps the humble local museum is a resource that could benefit retailers?

At the moment UK towns and cities are keen to make themselves more attractive to shoppers.  One way would be to widen their appeal, making the local town centre a more attractive place to visit, not just to shop, but also providing cafes, bars, parks and entertainment.  Indeed some purpose built shopping centres are already providing a range of non retail offers to lure consumers.  Although the traditional UK High Street can try to emulate the out of town shopping offer, their trump card is likely to be their historic and cultural environment, which an out of town shopping centre or online retailer can never match.  The local museum can provide an important element of the local cultural and historic environment.  Although many towns are already attempting to make their centres more enticing to shoppers they don’t always think of the less obvious, or at least less obviously commercial assets of their town.

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Here are some real ammonites, best experienced by their home on the Jurassic Coast

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