Glasgow School of Art

Generating revenue through award-winning retail

Where did we start?

Glasgow School of Art boasts a world-famous archive of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s unmistakable designs and is one of the creative industries’ richest sources of new talent. Yet little on sale in its retail space reflected this heritage or vibrancy. As a student said “You’d never believe from the shop that it’s in an art school!” Poorly displayed, generic and uninspiring, the merchandise for this small shop was separated into no less than 32 categories, a complexity which did nothing to help focus sales or guide the consumer.
A new retail manager asked us to develop a retail strategy that clearly articulated the values and creativity of the art school.

What did we do?

Following interviews, exit surveys, sales analysis and a competitor audit, our recommendation was to build on what makes the GSA special: a place where you can smell the paint. We wanted to put the customer first, ensuring they encounter strong, dramatic visual merchandising that celebrates creativity past and present. Poor quality, clichéd photographs of the school were replaced by Ella Doran’s cropped, often abstract images of unexpected parts of the building. We introduced eight new product categories, including ‘art materials’ and the new ‘GSA collection’ which showcases the imaginative work of former and current students, creating a direct link between the shop and the art school’s entrepreneurial spirit.

What's the impact?

Despite a tough economic environment for retail, the shop achieved record sales in the first three months, up 14% from the previous year and 27% up against budget. It was also awarded the Association for Cultural Enterprises’ Best Product Award and Best Product range.

“Frances’ ability to translate knowledge from hugely reputable and large scale cultural institutions into practical advice for a small and specialist centre, her ground level retail expertise, patience, sense of humour and infinite list of ideas made her an invaluable addition to our team. The end result is an impressive retail experience that our world famous School is very proud of, one which has more than proven its commercial viability and one which represents our institution as a whole, finally allowing the visitors to smell the paint!” 

Cathie Randall, Retail Manager, Glasgow School of Art Enterprises Ltd