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So OK...this is where we'll get into the business of doing business. These are the ABC's - simple stuff - but they're also really fundamental, like learning to walk before you can run.

First up: the basics of retail. Whether you're running a lemonade stand or gift retail shop, there are going to be some common functions that can be applied to running a school store. They may seem obvious, but it's good to go over them any way. You could even put them into two groups: the behind-the-scenes stuff and the center-stage stuff.

Behind-the-Scenes Stuff

Behind-the-scenes stuff is the stuff the customer doesn't even think about. It sets the stage, making store management easy for you and shopping easy for your customers. It's like eating the right foods and taking care of yourself. The benefits don't show up until later. When later finally comes, life is so much easier.

Cost, Price, and Profit

Pricing is an important factor in selecting products for your store. When looking at the suggested retail price, consider whether or not your student body can afford each item. If the budgets of the students are not considered in ordering, inventory may not sell as quickly as anticipated.

In evaluating pricing, consider the profit percentage, which can be found with the basic formula:


So, the selling price of the item minus the cost is the profit.

To find the profit percentage, or the gross profit margin, use:


Use this percentage as a guideline when determining which products to order.


It is the responsibility of each school to know and follow its state laws regarding sales tax. Typically, states require a Retail Sales Tax License. Then taxes are collected on all sales and remitted to the state. Visit the Federation of Tax Administrators website to find your area's current sales tax information, sales tax holidays, and general information about sales tax. The state will supply the necessary forms for remitting taxes. Contact your state comptroller's office for specific requirements.

Center-Stage Stuff

Center-stage stuff is the show you put on for your customers. It's the red carpet. While the behind-the-scenes stuff is like eating the right foods, center-stage stuff is like taking a bath and wearing something with a collar and treating people nice or something. The benefits show up right away.

Hours of Operation

Many school stores are open before school, after school, and/or at lunch. It is important that the store is open during times of peak traffic when students will be in the hallway and have time to stop. Staffing must also be considered when setting hours of operations.

Store Appearance

Keep the store neat and clean at all times. Label shelves with the stock number, name, and price of each item they contain. Besides making it simple for your customers to find what they want, this will help make re-ordering easier and help keep the store neat.

Customer Service

Customer service is an important part of your store's operations. Just like any consumer, kids expect to receive some value for their money.

Student employees should consider the following rules while working in order to provide great customer service:

  • Be courteous and polite to all customers
  • Report all problems to the supervisor immediately
  • Keep track of all sales
  • Watch for shoplifters
  • Keep the store in order and neat
  • Count the change given
  • Keep the cash box out of reach of the customers
  • Double check all math
  • Locate your store in a high-traffic area, such as a before school waiting area

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