The museum made a cameo appearance in the very first episode, by way of a Brontosaurus “Thunder Lizard” hooded sweatshirt worn by one of the most popular characters. The appearance caught staff by surprise, getting inundated with messages after the series released on Oct. 27 and swamped with requests to purchase the hoodie. The only problem? The science fiction series is set in the 1980s and no such garment exists in the museum’s Explore Store.
The design featured on the hoodie apparently dates back to an exhibit at the museum sometime in the 1980s, according to Steve Fegley, director of retail operations. The show’s costume designer was looking for something retro and found it on eBay, adapting it to a hoodie, he said. Fegley has been with the museum since 1991 and tracked down a former president who determined that the museum sold the Brontosaurus on T-shirts but not hoodies.
— Science Museum of Minnesota (@sciencemuseummn) October 27, 2017
Within days of the season’s release, the museum set to work on creating a separate online store dedicated to the retro apparel. The first day it was available, Nov. 7, the site was overwhelmed and crashed for several hours but still managed to move 12,000 units, grossing some $400,000. The museum has grossed almost $1.1 million in sales from the apparel.
“We knew we needed to see this online to reach as many people as wanted it. We saw right away the international demand and knew we had to do it quickly,” said Kim Ramsden, public relations director.
Typically, the museum store grosses about $1 million to $1.2 million annually with 6 to 7 percent of that in garment sales. In about a week’s time, the store has sold half as many garments as it normally does in a year. Demand has waned but only from the huge initial peak; the museum is still moving 1,000 units per day, far more than it typically does.
The majority of the almost 30,000 items sold have been ordered from people in Minnesota, with others scattered around the country and internationally. “It’s more regional than some people might think,” Fegley said.
Another shipment of 1,400 items was expected today and another has been ordered, Fegley said. “We’re trying to figure out how much is enough,” he said, debating whether there’s enough demand to warrant selling items beyond hoodies and T-shirts. “It’s still got some legs,” Fegley said, adding that volunteers and staff are still restricted from buying them to meet outside demand.
“The toughest part was the fact that everybody wanted something right away,” Fegley said. “Everybody has been very supportive and understanding,” he said, not just in the store but other areas like the museum’s call center, too.
The museum is the largest science center in Minnesota, welcoming 700,000 visitors annually. It has about 600 full-time staff and annual revenue of about $38 million, according to Ramsden.
The museum has seen its Facebook and Twitter audiences grow as well. The first Facebook post on Oct. 27 reached more than 340,000 viewers and was liked more than 8,400 and shared more than 1,700 times on Facebook. The Oct. 27 tweet regarding the hoodie had more than 2,000 likes and was retweeted more than 630 times. The museum’s Twitter following has grown by a few thousand, approaching 30,000, and followers on Facebook have grown by about 5,000, surpassing 85,500.