Editor’s note: To read Cheryl Ossola’s complete article on the San Francisco Ballet merchandising program, click here.
- Hire well. Choose a retail manager who knows how to buy, has a good sense of quality and style, and understands the company’s aesthetic. “I like the hunt, and that’s important in someone who does this,” says Valerie Megas, San Francisco Ballet’s senior manager of retail operations.
- Buy with a sense of adventure. Find unique, interesting items, price them well, and display them in a fun, thrill-of-the-hunt atmosphere. Toss out original packaging and tags and present items with company-branded labels. To generate repeat business, let customers know that the merchandise changes throughout the season.
- Use common sense. Business sense equals common sense, says Megas, a 12-year veteran at the Ballet Shop. “Run a streamlined business; don’t waste money; buy low and sell high; recycle; use volunteers wherever you can.”
- Invest wisely. Commit to the needed space, time, personnel, inventory, and technology. “Without merchandise you can’t make money,” says Megas. “You can’t sell what you don’t have. The silliest thing any retailer can do is have a captive audience and a shop that’s half full.”
- Know your limits. Hire a retail consultant if necessary. And if you’re willing to spend the money on a consultant, be open to the advice offered.
- Be patient. Like any small business, a fledgling arts-organization shop can take three years to turn a profit.
Photo: The nutcracker selection at San Francisco Ballet’s Ballet Shop, courtesy San Francisco Ballet
Cheryl A. Ossola is a writer for San Francisco Ballet and editor in chief of Dance Studio Life magazine.
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