Last Fall, the Shop at AGH launched its Shop at AGH Online website, giving customers the opportunity to continue shopping with us throughout our temporary closures, as well as from the comfort of their homes upon our reopening. A member of the Shop at AGH team for over nine years, Mylene Farion leads the team today as the Retail Manager & Buyer.
I sat down with Mylene to learn more about the Shop at AGH, its history, and its plans to continue growing both online and in-person.
Connor: To begin, tell us a little bit about the Shop at AGH and its history.
Mylene: Like many Gallery functions, the Shop was historically run by a team of volunteers, along with a manager and one or two staff. While we are fortunate today to still have consistent help from volunteers, the Shop couldn’t function how it does without the hard work of our staff.
The Gallery has changed a lot in my 9 years at the AGH, and of course the Shop has changed alongside it. We have grown in size, broadened our selection of quality merchandise, and furthered our commitment to the permanent collection. In the past, our collection largely only saw representation in posters and postcards, but since then we have introduced mugs, scarves, and totes just to name a few, with our goal moving forward to continue building on representing the works that appeal to everyone.
Connor: When customers shop in-person, what does that customer journey look like? What extra value does the Shop bring to a trip to the AGH?
Mylene: Well, I’m always amazed when I look at our bestseller stats, as our top 5 always tend to remain the same: books, accessories, cards, pottery, and jewellery. Books are always of particular interest to our customers after they are finished seeing an exhibition, as they’re coming in inspired by the art and holding that feeling with them. Often, customers want to talk to us about what they just saw and ask what complementary items we may have available. We offer the chance to purchase a memento from a great trip, a gift for someone else to tell them about the Gallery, or just something that catches their eye during their stay. Hearing the comments from our customers always bring such a great feeling of knowing we contributed to their positive experience at the AGH.
Connor: Without that immediate connection to visitors physically experiencing our exhibitions, how has the Shop adapted to the challenges of this past year?
Mylene: The biggest challenge has definitely been being away from the team – we are such a tight-knight group working together, so it has been quite tough to not do that every day. We are always in touch, but I know I’m really looking forward to working with everyone in-person again soon. My main priority during the pandemic has been ensuring our staff and customers stays safe, that everyone is protected, the workspace is clean, and all PPE is available. When you have a lot of product to browse through, cleaning is important.
Adapting to the lack of in-person working and shopping meant that we developed and launched our Shop at AGH Online website last Fall. While it can be a challenge to encourage our customers to shop online, the site has really performed well as more and more customers have become exposed to it. Our staff go above and beyond to help any hesitant shoppers feeling nervous with online purchases, and we offer safe curb-side pickup options for anyone who may need them. Ultimately, we want to make sure nobody feels left out from shopping with us.
Connor: With that continued connection to customers in mind, what can those customers look forward to from the Shop at AGH?
Mylene: There is always excitement around our Members Shopping Days, which will look a little different this year – giving our customers opportunities to save in the Summer and in the Fall. Beyond that, customers will of course enjoy the huge variety of items arriving to complement our upcoming Maud Lewis exhibition.
We are also working on some really fantastic, dynamic pieces that customers will love to complement the 25th anniversary of Kim Adams’s Bruegel-Bosch Bus. I’m personally really excited for those.
In the near future, too, we are hoping to represent more Hamilton artists and artisans. We currently have over 30 regional authors, artists, jewellery makers, and more on the Shop.
Ultimately, our hope is to always fulfil the words that a positive review once left for us – “as carefully curated as the exhibitions themselves.”
Please note that at the time of this publication, the AGH is temporarily closed. We continue to follow the advice and directives of the local public health officials, the provincial government, and our Board of Directors, so stay tuned to our Plan Your Visit and COVID-19 Guidelines page for updates. We hope our visitors remain connected to our programs and exhibitions through AGH at Home and Shop at AGH Online.