2020 was our Golden Anniversary year and, whilst many of our celebrations had to be postponed, it felt like the right time to expand the sweet shop operation and take Beamish out of the museum gates!
Here at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, we tell the story of everyday life in the North East in the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s. Many of the buildings within the living museum have been moved brick by brick and rebuilt here – from a railway station, to a bank, pit cottages to our bakery and co-op store.
Beamish is a charity and COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our museum, like other cultural organisations, as we had to close our doors during two lockdowns and look at new ways to generate income, and connect with our audience. We created an online shop, which allowed visitors to explore the various shop exhibits and purchase a present from the past, offered video calls with Father Christmas and, more recently, have started to sell our famous sweets in shops across the North East as part of a new wholesale venture and brand expansion.
If you speak to anyone that has visited Beamish, nine out of ten times, they will mention the sweet shop! One of our most iconic exhibits, Jubilee Confectioners makes by hand many different flavours of hardboiled sweets in the factory exhibit, which are then sold in the shop.
2020 was our Golden Anniversary year and, whilst many of our celebrations had to be postponed, it felt like the right time to expand the sweet shop operation and take Beamish out of the museum gates! The thinking being that our sweet shop is one of our most-loved attractions, so what better way to promote the museum and fundraise for us as a charity than to start selling our sweets elsewhere?
We have initially partnered with two local shops – a farm shop, and a city centre shop (which, as a CIC, supports local businesses) – to create jars of handmade confectionery that would appeal to their customers. Inspired by designs in our collection we created bespoke labels, printed by a local company, and sourced jars that our sweets could be sold in.
We delivered the jars of sweets, in costume and with our 1900s delivery bike, to the two shops and, after just one day, the farm shop called to order more stock. Customers were even taking the sweets out of the delivery boxes to buy them in the city centre shop as the staff were stocking the shelves!
Our plan is to continue to trial this new venture, looking to offer the sweets to more stockists in 2021 and hopefully create a new revenue stream. We hope this entrepreneurial spirit will help us during these difficult times, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll have a stand at the Cultural Enterprises Conference and Trade Show?!