student run school store

Starting a school store is about more than just selling merch and school supplies. A school store is a unique opportunity to teach students a variety of useful life skills, like entrepreneurship, financial management, customer service, time management, team building, and more. School stores can also bring in much needed revenues for cash-strapped schools that need basic supplies or want to add more enrichment activities for students. At GEDDES, we’ve been helping schools stay well stocked since 1924, so we have some pretty extensive experience with successful school stores. In this post, we’ll give our top tips for starting a student-run school supply store.

Incorporate the Store Into an Appropriate Class

One of the best ways to start a school store is to build it into the curriculum of a relevant class. This is easiest at the high school level, where classes related to business, accounting, and entrepreneurship can easily incorporate the school store as a long-term lesson. High school administrators may even decide to create an elective course just for students who want to help with the school store. However, even in middle and elementary school, math teachers can use a school store to reinforce math concepts and introduce new ones. By linking the school store to an existing class, there will always be a teacher and students to operate the store and it won’t need to be re-planned each year.

Involve Students in Every Step

While the school store will need an adult to keep an eye on everything, have the final word on disagreements, and make sure the store is operating smoothly, it’s still extremely important to involve students in every step of the school store planning and operations. When students are involved from step 1, they feel a stronger connection to the outcome and are more motivated to help.

Create a School Store Plan & Propose it to Administrators

The first step in starting a student-run school store is to get approval from the school’s administration. They’ll have to sign off on things like an initial budget, location, and operating hours, so getting their official buy-in in the beginning is important. Have the students involved in the store’s planning to draw up a business plan for the store. This is a great way to teach students in a business-related class about how business plans work and how to format one. Once the plan is ready, schedule a formal meeting with school administrators and let students present the business plan.

Create a Brand Kit

Now that administration has approved your store, you’ll need to create brand kit materials using the school logo to use for merch and promotional materials. This is a perfect opportunity to have a school-wide art contest, allowing students to enter their ideas for promotional materials and advertisements and then vote for the best ones. Once students have chosen the most popular ad designs, have students from a graphic design or computer class add the school logo to merchandise, brand kit materials, and promotional materials, then coordinate printing.

Set Up Financial Management Software

In the past, all school store financial transactions were kept up with a paper ledger, requiring students to write down each and every transaction by hand. While some schools may still use this method, most are now transitioning to financial management software. Intuit offers free financial literacy programs for high school students that include free access to some of their programs, including Quickbooks and MailChimp. Get students in accounting-related classes to set up Quickbooks for the school store and handle the account reconciliation each month. Students in marketing-related classes can help setup programs like MailChimp to promote the store to students, staff, parents, administrators, and other interested parties. These hands-on projects are much more likely to stick with the students over textbook reading assignments and lectures.

Hire Store Staff

The store will need to be staffed during its operating hours, and preferably that staff will always include at least one student. Some high school students may be able to run the store independently, while lower-level students will probably need an adult’s assistance, especially with handling payments. This is a great time to have students create resumes and really apply for the different store positions. Post a job application for the needed staff on the school website, in the school newsletter, using flyers posted around the school, or any other way that will reach students. Once the application period closes, conduct real interviews with the student applicants. This real-world experience will be invaluable when they embark out on their own and start applying for jobs as an adult.

Select Merchandise

This is another step where student input is critical. Merchandise in the typical school store includes clothing with the school’s logo, school supplies, art supplies, novelty items, drinks, and snacks. Students will have the best insight on what their peers will want to buy, and allowing them to choose the merchandise that will be offered while keeping the budget in mind is great practice for both their personal lives and upcoming careers. Once they’ve chosen what they want to offer in the store, let them help with the ordering process, including monitoring the shipments and checking that everything was included in the deliveries. Once the school store merchandise has all arrived, have students price the items based on a set formula using the item’s cost and create a spreadsheet with the item pricing information.

Promote the Store

Now that all the prep work has been laid, it’s time to let everyone know that the store will soon be open. Use the promotional materials that the students voted on during the art contest to advertise the new school store with flyers, emails, social media posts, posts on the school website, letters mailed to student homes and local businesses, and more. This is another step where graphic design and computer students can really help out. Don’t forget to take advantage of Intuit’s free access to MailChimp if you signed up for their free financial literacy courses.

It’s Opening Day!

Make opening day a big deal with special deals and lots of fanfare to drum up enthusiasm for the new store. Give away school-branded clothing to spread school spirit, have drawings for door prizes, or even do a raffle for a larger store item. Make sure the store’s operating hours are clearly posted so students and staff will know when they can visit, and solicit student feedback on the new store and merchandise.

GEDDES Makes Starting a Student-Run School Store Easy

If you’ve decided to start a new student-run store at your school, congratulations! Your making a great step towards teaching your students responsibility and helping your school out with some extra cash. Make GEDDES your partner in supplying your new school store with our affordable and fun school supplies, novelty toys, art supplies, fidget toys, school kits, and more! We’ve helped dozens of schools start and run their successful school stores, and we can help you too! Check out our School Store Operating Manual and our other resources for anyone trying to start a school store, including convenient school store startup kits! For more information on how GEDDES can help you with your student-run school store, contact us at 888-431-1722 or email