Botanical Garden Outsourcing Gift Shop

domeOn March 3rd, the Botanical Garden gift shop will be run by a company called Event Network, a California based museaum shop operator, reports the stltoday.com. Up until this change, the gift shop was run by the garden and was well known for being a supporter of the local economy and selling products from St. Louis businesses and artisans.

There’s been some concern and outcry about this change. Here’s some highlights:

1.) The garden gave no advanced notice to its current vendors.
Though they technically don’t have to notify their vendors of the change, it would seem to be common courtesy. Communication is key in business, especially to those that make the business run. If any major change were to take place or are on the table, it’d be a good idea to keep key players in the loop. The change of ownership and the lack of communication to local businesses and artisans that currently source items through the gift shop gives reasonable concern about the contents of the gift shop under new operators. Will they come in with more generic and cheaper items and throw out the local aspects of the shop? Will it look like the same gift shop with the same items you would find anywhere else? The one thing the garden gift shop has been known for is its ecofriendly and local environment. You can find unique things there. Will that change?

2.) The garden gave no advance notice to its employees.
Again, common courtesy. Employees of the gift shop had to be reinterviewed, and up to 16 were laid off without any kind of notice or warning. Many employees were invited to keep their jobs, but most are being given hourly positions that were once full time or salaried. I couldn’t imagine being told, “Okay, we’re laying off people and you’re one of them.” Though it happens all the time in companies, I just didn’t expect it from the garden. At least give your people some time to prepare back up options.

3.) The garden made this decision without a vote from its board.tree

Garden managers and the board did talk about the issue last January, and the board had many concerns but

eventually agreed on the change. But they did not provide any record of a vote upon the committee. May not be a big deal, until someone says they didn’t agree and there’s no record of it. Let that just be a lesson in good record keeping and note taking.

Though there’s much outcry about this, it could mean some good changes for the garden.

1.) Better sales
If the gift shops sales stay about the same as they have been, the garden would receive about $345,000 in profit. If sales double, they’d get about $1.2 million. The garden is a nonprofit, so the money would go to bettering the garden as a whole.

2.) New Layout

“Event Network’s proposal imagined a Garden Gate Shop with new lighting, new shelving, new signage, a streamlined layout, rock-covered columns and a tree growing out of the floor.”

Sounds pretty cool.

3.) Promise of local support

“…the company promised it would ‘seek out and support local artisans from the St. Louis/Midwest area’ and include their work in the ‘overall assortment.’

‘These types of offerings,’ the proposal said, ‘make the store feel special, increase the average transaction, and capture (as purchasers) a broader percentage of guests. …'”

Hopefully that is a promise they’ll keep.

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3 comments

  1. The mission and purpose of nonprofits are to serve the communities where they exist. MoBOT is acting like a corporation with little regard to the community it serves. The very public that grants 501c3 status to MoBOT should be outraged by their decision. If they chose to act like a retail corporation then perhaps they should lose their tax-exempt status? Where are their core values? What’s next? Will they outsource ever single job at MoBOT to other companies? I would argue the Gift Shop is more than a money making retail shop – it’s at the heart of community engagement and stewardship as those 16 employees were the first in the line of membership cultivation tied to the very fabric of this region. Will the California-based for-profit company even care beyond their profits? Sad day with another nonprofit ditching community local values and replacing it with outsourced corporate greed.

  2. Nice post. Regarding concern #1, if the change isn’t until Mar 3 and we know now, doesn’t that mean the vendors have advance notice? It seems like the vendors gripe might instead be that they were not involved in the decision? Your post is the first I’ve heard of this so I could certainly be wrong, but my guess is that current vendors would have wanted the chance to block change (and that could be exactly why decision makers would not have consulted vendors ahead of time).

    1. You are completely right. I think the concern lies in that the garden had been in talks about this since January 2013, but didn’t inform vendors or staff until now – or until they started letting staff go and cutting hours. I’ve worked with a non-profit that has changes in how things are operated, but they’ve always been good at communicating with staff as things are being talked about or hashed out. I’m sure that’s exactly why they didn’t inform vendors ahead of time, but that’s another reason this deal doesn’t seem to sit well with many in the community. It makes us lose trust and respect for both the garden and this new company.

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