ACT News

Carol Mills plans retail revolution for Parliament's shop

Carol Mills wants to launch a retail revolution up on Capital Hill, and the Parliamentary Services boss says Canberra district food, wine and crafts producers will be her foot soldiers.

Ms Mills says Parliament House's underperforming gift shop needs to be more than just a place to buy a Julia Gillard mug and the outlet should be showcasing some of the best things the ACT and region has to offer.

Carol Mills in the Parliament House Gift Shop with some Canberra made products.
Carol Mills in the Parliament House Gift Shop with some Canberra made products. Photo: Matt Bedford

Cash-strapped parliamentary authorities are coy about the exact figures, but say they are determined that the shop, which is understood to be barely breaking even, must pay its way.

Ms Mills told The Canberra Times that her new commercial strategy hinges on making the shop a place that reflects a trip to Canberra, not just a one-hour tour of the nation's Parliament.

"We've had quite a big emphasis on identifying and working with local artists and local producers, so quite a lot of their material is now exclusive to the store," she said.

"Product-wise, we've looked at ways where we can partner with GlassWorks and other local producers.

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"We've also got local chocolates, local wine that promotes local wineries, I've been meeting with Crafts ACT to talk about how we can commission local artist to produce products for the shop."

Now that that Ms Mills's big move to Westminster to take over the running of the British Houses of Parliament looks like it is on hold, she says she is determined to turn the Australian Parliament's shop into a more rounded experience for visitors.

After attracting headlines last year by spending $245,000 on a review of the shop's operation, Ms Mills said she wanted to put the lessons into action.

"Our desire is to have a store where people who have had an experience of Parliament House can go away with appropriate memorabilia and appropriate gifts and we're hoping that we'll see that reflected in the bottom line," Ms Mills said.

"So we're really trying to help people learn about Canberra, learn about the region, not just learn about Parliament House."

The push for a better visitor experience did not stop at the shop, Ms Mills said, with specialist tours of the building now on offer, and self-guided tours and a smartphone tour app in the works.

There will also be catered tours, with an upcoming "Spring Tea" giving an early taste.

"We want not only more visitors, but we want more locals to come regularly," Ms Mills said.

"The review found that Canberrans are not coming so we expanded the offerings to get people to come, with arts, quality products covering a wide range of prices, and a good mix of events."