Friday, March 13, 2009
When The Checks Stop Coming In: Metropolitan Museum Cuts Staff, Closes Shops as Visitors Drop
March 13 (Bloomberg) -- New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art said it’s cutting 10 percent of its staff, about 250 jobs, as its endowment and gift-shop revenue shrink.
The museum also said yesterday that it’s firing 74 retail workers immediately and closing seven of its shops nationwide. In recent months, it had already closed eight stores and eliminated 53 retail jobs.
“The decision acknowledges significant recent downturns in its merchandising sales, but also represents an effort to restructure this department so it remains competitive in the future and can continue to support museum programs,” the Met said in a statement.
The museum-wide layoffs, which will be completed before July 1, are the Met’s first since New York City’s fiscal crisis of the early 1970s, Met spokesman Harold Holzer said.
With an annual budget of about $220 million, the Met is facing financial pressure in several ways. The value of its endowment has fallen about 25 percent to $2.1 billion since June 2008, Chairman James Houghton wrote in a letter posted on the Met Web site. Endowment income supplies 30 percent of annual revenue.
Membership renewals and gifts also are down. There are fewer visitors and those who come are paying less (the Met’s $20 adult admission is “suggested”).
Houghton wrote that “tourism to New York is projected to fall throughout 2009, which will unavoidably lead to further declines in attendance -- more than 35 percent of Met visitors come from abroad -- and with it, inevitably, further reduced patronage of the shops and restaurants.”
The Met is not reducing its hours. The museum will continue to be open six days a week and 11 1/2 hours a day each Friday and Saturday. The job cuts include full-time and part-time workers. Holzer declined to say whether more is in store.
“It’s difficult enough today,” he said yesterday. “No budget is set in stone.”