Museums see holiday shopping event as lifeline

Yes, Museum Store Sunday is a marketing campaign—a way to help boost sales during the all-important holiday shopping season.

But supporters say the event, which takes place Nov. 29 and is now in its fourth year, seems especially relevant this season because the pandemic has caused so much disruption to other sources of museum revenue.

“Museum Store Sunday is really a day of advocacy,” said Jenny Geiger, director of retail at The Museum & Garden Shop at Newfields. “We’re just trying to get people to remember museum stores and come out and shop.”

The Newfields shop is one of several in Indianapolis, and more than 1,500 museum stores around the globe, that will participate in the event. Participants are offering everything from discounts to giveaways and in-store events to get people shopping at museum stores, both in person and online.

At Newfields, shoppers will get 20% off all in-store and online purchases on Museum Store Sunday, along with free shipping for online orders.

Geiger said the 2020 event has extra importance because the Museum & Garden Shop will be missing out on a key source of holiday revenue this year.

In previous years, the shop has remained open during Newfields’ popular Winterlights event, which brings thousands of visitors to tour the campus’ elaborate outdoor light displays. But because of COVID-19, the event is outdoors only this year and the store won’t have evening hours.

Museum Store Sunday, held annually on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, is organized by the Museum Store Association, an industry group based in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

It’s inspired by other shopping and giving campaigns such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday—all annual events that happen in the days following Thanksgiving.

“We branded Museum Store Sunday for the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when the nation is primed for shopping anyway,” said Susan Tudor, co-chair of the Museum Store Sunday event. Tudor is also director of retail operations at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida.

Tudor said stores will likely be an even more important revenue source for museums this year, when so many other sources of earned income, including admissions and program and events fees, have dwindled because of the pandemic. “The purpose of the (Museum Store Sunday) initiative is key, now more than ever.”

Here’s a look at what some other local museum stores are doing for the occasion:

The Basile History Market at the Indiana History Center will offer 25% off the purchase of a single item on Nov. 29. The store will also have 10% off selected merchandise; free snacks and treats; and a door-prize drawing.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is offering 25% off all in-store and online purchases Nov. 27-29.  The museum is also promoting its new online retail experience in which shoppers can explore a 360-degree photo of the store and click on hyperlinks to purchase products.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art will offer a 30% discount on all store purchases Nov. 29.

The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is offering store discounts of 30% for museum members and 25% for nonmembers Nov. 29 at the State Museum and its 10 other museum stores around the state. Discounts apply to everything except for clearance items. The State Museum store will also have in-person visits from vendors Abbott’s Candy and Only in Indiana. Shoppers who spend at least $10 get a free cup of popcorn and those who spend at least $25 will be entered into a giveaway drawing.

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library will offer 20% off on all merchandise Nov. 27-29. The first 10 in-person and online shoppers each of these days will also receive prize bags with giveaway items such as postcards and keychains.

Speaking of holiday-themed shopping events:

The Mass Ave Merchants Association is hosting its 20th annual Midnight Shopper event on Friday, when participating stores and restaurants in the neighborhood will stay open until midnight. The association is also organizing a Small Business Saturday event on Nov. 28.

The events have been modified to allow for social distancing with features like online reservations for store visits and curbside delivery for purchases. For details, visit the association’s Facebook page at

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