The Postal Museum: New Visitor Experience
This summer sees the grand reopening of the The Postal Museum in London’s Clerkenwell, bringing five centuries of communications history to life. The redeveloped museum reflects the vital role the postal service played in the distribution of the country’s post, with interactive galleries, an immersive subterranean ride on its very own ‘Mail Rail’ railway line (some may remember this from early Blue Peter episodes), and much more.
As with much of our leisure sector work, the retail element positively contributes towards a smooth integration of the overall visitor experience, with spaces designed to be flexible and easily repurposed on a regular basis for things like events. This is an experience where everything is so cohesive that you don’t know where the exhibition begins and retail ends, and vice versa.
With little in the way of physical ‘shop walls’ to house the museum’s commercial offer, our thinking for two retail sites and a coffee cart was vital – designed to enhance the visitor experience, inspire passion for Post Office collections, and provide the maximum opportunity to drive revenue from museum visitors and passers-by alike.
Merchandise is a mix of bespoke, bought in, and licensed products that relate to each shop’s location – aimed to attract a diverse range of visitors such as families, older heritage-focussed individuals, and school groups. The 50sqm Postal Museum Shop focuses on the postal element, and is in a free to enter Welcome Area at the front of the new building, showcasing products in a feature window from the street to engage passers-by. The second 66sqm shop space is within the adjacent Mail Rail building’s Welcome Area, themed around the transportation of post.
The retail spaces will also be used as private hire spaces in the evenings, so we developed flexible, mobile, robust, and modular solutions that are all about the Postal Museum’s heritage – with products secured away with pull-down blinds (in the spirit of a postal depot) during the out of hours events. Although both stores use the same types of fixtures, each has its own unique design language, and there’s a sense of personality and theatre through the use of finishes and bespoke, vintage-looking pieces. For example, the Postal Museum Shop uses wicker, brass, and cotton to evoke the sense of being in a turn of the century postal depot. The Mail Rail Shop is more industrial in its feel, with design elements echoing train transport. The custom-made coffee cart is mainly located in the museum’s family zone next to the Mail Rail Shop, but can also be moved around the museum.
Certain high street retailers are experiencing huge change, uncertainty, and challenges. But cultural heritage commercial activity is going from strength to strength. Attractions like The Post Office Museum are engaging and educational destinations, occupying a special place in everyone’s minds. And that means the retail element is often as important as the actual attraction, because visitors want to take a little piece of their experience home with them.