Knowledge Centre Tips from the Industry

Finding the Finance

Not many arts organisations have pots of cash available to develop a suite of merchandise. However, it is possible to develop initial product offerings with relatively low amounts of finance. It is worthwhile thinking about crowdfunding as a means of not only raising finance for your merchandise but also as a way of:

  • assessing demand for the product
  • generating engagement with the product prior to launch
  • creating product/brand advocates who assist ongoing product development
  • inviting strategic partnerships and bulk acquisition opportunities
  • conducting cost effective market research


The profitability of your merchandise is important. The more money you make from your first product(s), the more revenue you will generate and the more resource you will have to explore new products in the future.

There are a number of ways you can increase your profit margins. For example, depending on the manufacturing process involved producing merchandise in larger quantities can sometimes be cheaper than producing only a limited run, though beware of storage issues this might create. Equally, printing graphics that are only 1 or 2 colour are more cost effective than full colour printing.

The Importance of Design

Everyone loves great design and you need not look very far to see that we are always being influenced by it. You’ll notice that good design is often quiet (as opposed to ‘busy’), relying on its strengths to compete with everything else around it. Form, function, material and customer experience combine to create something that stands out for the customer/user.

While great design is important, strong demand for certain types of merchandise and/or a need to get to the market quickly can take preference over lengthy or overly complicated design processes.

If you are looking to commission artists or designers to develop designs for your products, have a look through guidelines on the main Business to Arts site (link)


Do you know the best places to sell your merchandise? Before setting up your merchandise ‘shop’, it is worthwhile analysing the audience traffic in your venue/at your event or on your website and identifying prime zones for the sale of merchandise.

Once you’ve identified a position, step back and try to view it as a customer would. Remember that very few people will see it standing directly in front of it. Most displays are approached from the side and/or seen from an angle. Observe the direction from which most customers approach the display and make sure that the best view of the merchandise is the one that most people will see.

When arranging merchandise for sale, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your merchandise angled appropriate to the customer’s viewpoint?
  • Is your signage (price, promotions etc) visible and clear?
  • Is the location adequately lit?
  • Does the display of merchandise interest and attract the customer?


Overwhelming merchandise displays or a lacklustre one can have an off-putting effect on a customer. Know the focal points of your ‘store’ and which product(s) you want people to notice.

  • Is there one product in particular that you want your target consumer to notice? If so, is that product effectively located? It is useful to focus on eye-catching best sellers, hot new items and impulse items in prime locations.
  • Where will the customer’s eye travel while browsing through the merchandise display?
  • Is the focal point at the eye level of most customers or in a part of your shop that most people will see? Remember in crowded spaces, it is useful to have a selection of products above eye level
  • There’s no need to have a large number of the same item on display if only a few are sold daily/at each event.  You should keep a close eye on stock on the shop floor and replenish when necessary
  • Complimentary and/or co-ordinating products should be grouped together.
  • Effective lighting, signage and shop furniture (shelves/cabinets etc) all help to capture attention.

Sales People

It makes no sense to miss sales opportunities because no-one is attending the shop. If your shop does not have people to attend it for any period of time, refer potential customers to other sales outlets such as your website or other online merchandise aggregators where your merchandise can be bought.

Be Patient

Having a market that is large enough to support any significant merchandise sales takes time. Don’t become discouraged if you aren’t seeing customer traffic and revenue you expected. Keep testing the market, stick with it, trust in your vision.

Design by New Graphic.