Leeds Museums & Galleries service is celebrating the final milestone in its pioneering venture to refresh and strengthen its retail offering across the service, with the opening of two retail outlets, following an intensive programme of investment which has helped sales increase across the service by more than 150% since 2008.
The service, which is run by Leeds City Council, is also gearing up for the launch in June of an online shop which will introduce to a new global market specially commissioned product ranges inspired by the people, places and cultural collections of Leeds, which are currently available across its nine venues.
The new product lines and physical renovations to retail outlets will generate revenue streams which will be invested back into the service to continue to improve the visitor experience and fund new outreach and engagement schemes to further increase audiences, which have more than trebled since 2004 from 334,000 to around 1.1 million visitors annually.
The two new outlets have benefitted from more than £100,000 of externally funded investment and include a newly refurbished gift shop at Abbey House Museum, a family-friendly interactive museum, which gives visitors a glimpse into life in 19th century Leeds. The shop stocks a selection of exclusive ranges, including stationery, ceramics, and textiles designed by illustrator and print-maker Alice Pattullo, who has previously worked with a number of museums and galleries including the V&A, and who took the Leeds collections as her inspiration.
Nearby, the historic Kirkstall Abbey has a new gift shop, trebling the size of the existing retail area, and offering a range of souvenirs including hand-sewn tapestry cushions, stained glass ornamental pieces and expanding the current range of books and children’s dressing up outfits and outdoor games. The new shop also offers a range of food and drinks including locally made ice-cream and a range of handmade jams, chutneys and Yorkshire biscuits.
This month also sees the launch of ‘The Lady of Shallot’ product range at the Leeds Art Gallery shop, featuring ceramics, textiles and traditional souvenirs including key rings and stationery, which are inspired by the popular oil on canvas painting by John William Waterhouse which is part of the gallery collection.
The product ranges will be available to buy online from Junevia a new retail site www.lmgshoponline.com alongside original product lines which include:
- Rory Dobner at Leeds Art Gallery Shop: Rory’s unique, intricately detailed, striking ink drawings have been produced in a wide range of ceramics and textiles exclusively available at Liberty’s of London and the Leeds Art Gallery shop.
- ‘Cityscape’ at Leeds Art Gallery Shop: Designed for Leeds Museums & Galleries and stylishly illustrated by artist Lizzie Presst, the range includes ceramics, textiles, stationery and a range of souvenir products featuring the dynamic Leeds skyline, including some of the most iconic Leeds architecture such as the Civic Hall, Leeds Art Gallery and Leeds Central Library.
- Alison Wiffen ceramic jewellery at Leeds Art Gallery Shop: Beautiful, unique, handmade pieces, inspired by the architecture of the award-winning Tiled Hall and the stained glass featured around the Gallery.
- ‘Natural Beauty’ at Leeds City Museum: Photographer Sara Porter captures and transforms Leeds Museums & Galleries’ natural history collection into an original range of gifts, prints and homeware.
- ‘Health and Plenty’ at Temple Newsam: A contemporary kitchen range inspired by the distinctive inscription on the balustrade which is a feature of the house.
Commenting on the new retail proposition, John Roles, head of Leeds Museums and Galleries, said: “The new shops are the finishing touches that compliment more than £1.68 million spent on physical refurbishments which have already taken place across the service over the last 18 months, improving the experiences for all our visitors. The fantastic products and shops that now exist across services are an attraction in their own right, and will act as a new way in to the museums and galleries for lots of people. Our investment and audience outreach initiatives have been recognised by Arts Council England, which granted the service £5.1m in April of last year, allowing us to further strengthen our cultural services over the next three years, at a time when many are cutting back on their support of the arts.
“We are not relying solely on external funding; this project is a testament to our forward-thinking, entrepreneurial approach and our commitment to generating new income to protect the future of Leeds’ cultural venues in tough economic times. We predict that the new gift shops and e-commerce site will help generate additional revenues by increasing income by at least 30% over the next two years.”
As part of this commercial approach, Leeds Museums and Galleries employed Mary-Ann Irbins from Gain Retail Solutions, which offers retail advice and support to the museums and heritage sectors, who worked with the service to transform the souvenir and gift outlets and to commission the artists’ product ranges. Mary-Ann’s previous experience includes senior management roles with major high street brands and more than 6 years with the National Trust before founding Gain Retail Solutions in 2004.
Added Mary-Ann Irbins: “These original product ranges are outstanding. Artists and makers have been encouraged to produce pieces which take their inspiration from the wonderful mix of historic and contemporary cultural venues in the city and we hope visitors will want to take home a special purchase as an original momento of their visit. The new online shop will also act as a window to the world which showcases both the places themselves, and the strong relationship Leeds has in attracting new and established artists to the city.”
For opening hours of Leeds Museums & Galleries venues and further information on exhibitions and events, visit www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries.