The Retailer as Curator

Think back to the last time that walked into a museum.  As you walked through the gallery you were surrounded by pieces of art or artifacts.  Just by looking around, you could tell that every item was selected for a particular place and reason.  It offers something special in the context of why the visitor (you) is in the room in the first place – to experience something that you were looking for.

The fact that the collection of objects increases your understanding of the subject matter or opens your eyes to a different aspect of the subject creates the value of your visit.  You’ve paid your entrance fee to learn more and experience more about the subject rather than subject yourself to a random collection of items.

Each item is there for a reason.  If it is a Picasso exhibit, you have come to learn about Picasso and each object should tell you something about Picasso.  If you have come to visit a natural history exhibit about the dinosaurs you don’t want to see something that is completely unrelated to dinosaurs.  What is the point of doing that?

I think retailers today must move away from trying to be all things to all people and start to focus on putting together stores that meet the specific needs of the customers who visit us.  Just like a good museum curator, we need to decide what story we are telling, figure out how to tell it, and then have the objects (or products) that tell the story and provide the value to the visitor.

Who is our customer and what do they want?  In the convenience store business we have a pretty general target: we sell time.  We want to provide products that meet our customer’s immediate needs and these are usually based upon immediate consumption.

But how we meet those needs within that general target is where the art of curating comes into play.  Think of “we sell time” as the museum exhibit.  What are the items that we need to include in the gallery to tell our story and increase the value of the visit?  If you were charging admission, would someone pay to come into your store?

By all means, have the basics. But it is the extras that will create the value that will keep your customers coming back.