The museum recently asked for expressions of interest in leasing its boutique retail space. Specifically, it is looking for operators with experience working in cultural and scientific organizations, according to solicitation documents.
A museum spokeperson said details of the arrangement, such as the store merchandise, appearance and hours of operations, will be negotiated with the successful proponent.
"We are looking at rethinking or repositioning how we look at our boutique operations. But of course, the person that we would choose is certainly going to come with their own ideas and their experience for us," said Liz McCrea, the museum's director of marketing and communications.
"We've now had a year or so to experience life in the new museum; because of the renovations we're sort of able to look at things a little bit differently."
Longtime boutique operator Joe Dafoe will retire in March 2012, vacating the existing 1,410-square-foot gift shop. The new souvenir store could use that space in addition to a larger 3,466-square-foot area near the admission desk, which now houses temporary exhibits, depending on what a private operator proposes.
According to Ms. McCrea, in the next six months the museum will undergo a separate branding exercise with a consulting firm, selected through a competitive process that closed Sept. 14. The results of that exercise will affect what store merchandising is carried.
She added it would not be fair to provide current revenue figures for the gift shop as it had been operating while the museum was undergoing its six years of rehabilitation. The facility fully reopened last year.
The region's major museums say gift shops are intended to provide products relating to museum exhibits, thus enhancing the visitor experience, while also providing income for the museum.
There are different models of engaging the private sector.
The Museum of Nature already outsources the physical gift shop. Other corporations run their boutiques themselves, or do partial outsourcing.
Perhaps the greatest local gift shop transformation in recent years took place at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which has been in its current space along the Ottawa River since 1989. At one time, the facility had five souvenir shops run by museum staff.
Gradually, the museum consolidated operations into a single, 3,175-square-foot space on the main floor and to cut costs, outsourced its floor staff to personnel agency Adecco.
Its parent organization generates about 15 per cent of its revenues from gift shop operations, which also includes a 1,200-square-foot store in the Canadian War Museum at LeBreton Flats.
"Most visitors won't go to five gift shops," said Michele Canto, the corporation's director of marketing and business operations.
"If you give them only one gift shop, you can show them the full gamut of products. People can make a more informed decision and buy what really suits them."
The Canada Science and Technology Museum Corp., which is comprised of three museums in the city, recently opened an expanded Canada Aviation and Space Museum gift shop in March. Officials doubled the size to 2,540 square feet from 1,200.
"It has become part of a focal point of the aviation model community in Ottawa because we have relationships with some of the suppliers. Aviation enthusiasts come in and do a lot of special orders," said Fernand Proulx, chief operating officer for the corporation.
Last year, the museum generated about 17 per cent of its revenues from the gift shops, but it expects to see more with the expanded aviation museum space.
Museum staff fully run all three gift shops, including a 1,175-square-foot space at the Canada Museum of Science and Technology that has stayed in the same location for well over a decade.
Due to its high number of repeat visitors, the Canadian Agriculture Museum no longer has a separate gift shop as the cost of operating it surpassed the revenues it generated. Items are still sold, but at the front desk, Mr. Proulx said.
"The advantage of in-house staff is you have more control over the quality of the products," he said. "If it's a third party, they can compromise on the volume of the products because of the margins."