Mission-Driven Retail

At Lakeside Collaborative we work with an open-source network of visionaries to design immersive retail experiences that echo and underline our client’s mission. The retail identities and stores we create become brand assets for their parent company – a testament to their mission and values.

Lakeside Partner, Sophie Sagar, discussing with Architect Owen Maher and Ceramicist Matthew Ward at The Store at The Museum of Arts and Design

Lakeside Partner, Sophie Sagar, discussing with Architect Owen Maher and Ceramicist Matthew Ward at The Store at The Museum of Arts and Design

In Franci's Words:

It was in conversation one evening that we discovered we were in possession of a powerful retail philosophy: “mission-driven retail”. Mission-driven retail describes retail when it’s employed as a medium to communicate a set of values, a vision and as a platform for social impact. The driving force behind it is retail as a community experience – a place of gathering and sharing, commerce and celebration. Its value-added comes from its ability to craft emotionally connective and informative shopping experiences.

I was brought to act as Retail Director and VP of Brand Development to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) 16 years ago based on the reputation of my then retail business ZONA. It was the brainchild of my then-husband and I, built in SoHo in the 80’s, when SoHo was at the center of the art world. It was a time when high technology was becoming more pervasive in our lives. ZONA grew out of our desire to balance this ever-increasing presence with products that celebrated the textural and sensorial, the hand of the artist and the soul of the maker.

We became known for a signature merchandising style that focused on visual storytelling and cross-category product vignettes. With ZONA we were credited as having created the first “lifestyle store” and hailed as having forever changed how retail stores were merchandised. I didn’t know at the time that what we were doing would later morph into what Lakeside today calls “mission-driven retail” – where each retail touch-point is in service to a message.

When I was brought in to rethink the retail experience at MAD, I realized how instrumental retail could be as a medium through which to communicate a museum’s mission and operate as a brand asset. It was at this moment that Lakeside Collaborative was born. We saw each customer in the store as a museum patron, the product assortment and retail experience offered had to be inspired by their parent institution’s mission, so when purchased they would continue to act as vessels for the memories people take away from their visit.

Mission-Driven Retail in Action

In 2008 the Museum of Arts and Design was moving to its iconic building at 2 Columbus Circle in New York City and it was to have a 1,300-square-foot store in its lobby. Working with JGA, Lakeside’s goal was to uproot the antiquated concept of a “museum gift-shop” and create an elevated mission-driven retail experience whose aesthetic integrity would also stand as a unique destination in the broader retail marketplace.

One of the project’s design requirements was to create a sense of discovery, where each display surface had to support a highly unique assortment of products made from a myriad of materials – glass, ceramic, metal, wood and jewelry. Glass had to have a place to be displayed where it could capture the light, and products of complementary materials needed a home where they could be placed together in inspiring compositions that caused people rethink the way they live with objects.

At MAD, our role as a museum retailer is to build a bridge between the artist, the customer and the museum. With JGA, we set out to design a store that would mirror MAD’s mission to promote innovation in craft, art, and design. Each creative choice at MAD’s retail store was born out of the desire to showcase excellence in craftsmanship and design with the same thoughtfulness as MAD’s exhibitions. The store would act as an extension of the museum, educating its customers about the creative process and celebrating products that enhance our contemporary lives.

Today, Lakeside’s approach to retail design continues to be guided by the belief that we can transform the retail experience of both non-profit and for-profit concepts, from a place of empty consumption into an act of conscious consumerism, and a statement of affiliation with a higher mission. Once considered an afterthought, we see museum retailing as a new platform for the next wave of arts patronage.

Since the Museum of Arts and Design, Lakeside Collaborative has gone on to create mission-driven retail experiences for clients that include The Gardiner Museum of Toronto, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Cleveland Museum, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, Miami Art Museum and Minneapolis Institute of Art and most recently, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

sophie sagar