School Stores Take Little Work to Bring Big Benefits

If school stores can help raise funds and teach academic skills, then why do some sponsors hold back from opening school stores of their own? A few myths are commonly cited as the main obstacles causing teachers to hesitate. While one must consider the location, cost, and operation of a school store, none of these are insurmountable challenges.

When sponsors are first exposed to the idea of beginning a school store, all too often they envision a room devoted to storing and displaying merchandise. Rarely does the proper place exist to suit the vision and, when it does, access to it for both sponsor and students may be inconvenient. There is error in this kind of thinking, because the space needed for a school store is minimal. It is time to think “inside of the box,” for a box is literally all that is needed to house a school store.

Consider the kind of merchandise that will be sold. Students need the essentials, the back-to-school basics they are always running out of through the year: pencils, pens, erasers, paper. Luckily, these items are small and can be placed easily in a single box if need be. The box can also store funds and documents needed for daily operation routines. This kind of school store is manageable for any facility short on space. The store's portability can be leveraged to increase sales, too. The school store can move to where customers are located during different times. The cafeteria, playground, hallway, or classroom are all areas that may be able to host the school store for a limited time or extended period.

Start-up costs present sponsors with another challenge. As they research vendors and merchandise, they begin estimating an initial cost soaring to hundreds of dollars. This, coupled with the fear of sparse sales keep many from pursuing a school store endeavor. These problems can be circumvented by thinking inside the box again. Many are surprised to learn that all school store necessities can be procured for a minimal investment. While schools are revered for their generosity, they are also pitied for not having deep pockets, requiring sponsors to look outside of the school budget for backing.

Local businesses and students' families may be able to help. Some have used newsletters, e-mail, and sites like GoFundMe to get the message out about how much is needed for start-up costs and how the school store will serve the students. Starting small with merchandise quantities and sales goals will be helpful in recuperating initial costs of business. Plus, beginning small lets sponsors and students analyze the sales data so they can make informed decisions when the time comes to place a new order for merchandise with a vendor.

An equally important concern revolves around the time it takes to run a school store. A common misconception is that sponsors will have hours to invest in managing and operating the store. Here, the sponsor must realize that it will take time initially, but students can be taught to assume many of the aspects of the business. Consider how the profits are to benefit students. Those who stand to benefit should be involved directly with helping manage inventory and sell products. This can be the whole class or a club or team. Youngsters are especially eager to help when they know how the work is being done to make a difference in a goal the group has. The sponsor must train the student workers and monitor them closely when operations begin. Once students have had experience with the work, then the sponsor will be able to step back and let students have more control and responsibility. The sponsor must account for the money earned each day and help with the ordering of merchandise; however, this does not have to take more than a few minutes away from the sponsor's limited time.

Another way to ease the burden of time is to limit when the school store will be open for business. There is no need to think of the school store as being like a store that one would visit in town. It does not have to be open every day. It does not have to be open every week even. Instead, a schedule for hours of operation as well as the school store's location can be adjusted as needed.

Finally, some believe that running a school store is a distraction from the learning process. Even though it does draw attention, the focus is on supplies that facilitate learning. Being prepared for class is one of the first responsibilities students must learn to achieve success in school. Teachers stress the need for the basics students will use daily. While students may begin the school year with everything they need, as time goes by, those essentials get used up or misplaced. To continue being prepared, they need access to required supplies. School stores conveniently stock all the needed classroom materials, helping students achieve success. Staffing the store with students provides ample opportunities for them to practice skills in leadership, responsibility, and mathematics. A school store is not a distraction; it is an invaluable learning opportunity.