Museum Pay Barriers And Spending

By Joe Collins

The preliminary analysis of our Insight data looked at what predicts retail spend per visitor in a museum. Where the shop is behind a pay barrier (visitors have to pay to enter before they can visit the shop) retail spend per visitor is higher. This might be considered a little surprising. One might have thought that visitors who have paid to enter would be reluctant to spend more money having just paid to enter.

It is hard to know why this might be the case. It could be that the pay barrier is simply acting as a filter for visitors who are more willing to spend money. Another possibility is that having paid to enter, visitors are placing more value on the whole experience including the shop. As far back as 1966 Freedman and Fraser demonstrated that people tend to behave in ways which are consistent with previous behavior. Freedman and Fraser found that householders were much more willing to have a sign on their front lawn if they previously agreed to have a sign in their front window.

For museums seeking the maximize income this finding might indicate that the amount visitors will spend in total is not fixed. Organizations set budgets and (sometimes) stick to them but people don’t. They spend in a way which is consistent with their self-image and experience. Helping visitor’s value one part of the museum experience can help them value other parts of the museum experience. This may mean that we need to look more closely at the usual assumption that low admission income could be compensated for by higher secondary spend.

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