One of the buzzwords in retailing today is the use of the word “curated” to describe a selection of merchandise.  The person who selects these goods would logically be described as a curator, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit.”

Most of us don’t use “superintendence” often — it means someone who directs or supervises — but I think we’d agree that a buyer who is curating a line is assumed to have taken greater care in selecting merchandise than someone who just places an order. A good eye would be an asset, as would a sense for style or design.

On the one hand, I applaud the idea of selecting merchandise carefully, and having a set aesthetic, or brand image, for your store.  I have always been a fan of cherry-picking a line to select the items that I feel will sell best when a broader selection from one vendor doesn’t serve my needs, and will even bring in just one or two items if they will merchandise well with other products.

But the danger of curating the merchandise in your store comes from making purchases as if selecting items for a museum or other place of exhibit, as the dictionary puts it. The driving force behind buying decisions has to be finding goods that customers want to buy, and ideally things they want to buy over and over again.

I have also been in a number of carefully “curated” stores that just don’t have enough merchandise to make them viable in the long run.  If a customer comes in who has a slightly difference aesthetic than the owner, or who is looking for a specific gift or household item, it is important that there be enough variety to  induce that shopper to make a purchase.  Because as a shopkeeper, you don’t want the merchandise you’ve  selected to stay on the shelves — you want it to make its way to the cash register and then home with a happy customer.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

The photograph accompanying today’s blog is of Dr. Helga K Aurisch, curator European Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston MFAH, in front of a portrait of Pauline Sándor, Princess Metternich

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