Ruth Spivak oversees the school store at Warren Elementary in Maryland. She took a few moments to tell us about their great school store.
Tell us about your school store
The Warren Elementary school store is open every day between the opening bell and the late bell. The cashiers are all 4th and 5th graders who are responsible for using the cash register to correctly total all of the purchases, count the money and give change. They make sure that each shopper has enough money to pay for their choices or else they will guide them how to choose which items they will not buy.
There are two “employees” each morning. One actually runs the cash register and the other checks the prices, sometimes bags things to go home and otherwise helps keep the store running. The parent volunteers help the children make choices within the store itself. Both employees put products out on the table as a “display” which attracts attention.
Our store is two “bookcases” that are about 6’ long by 4’ high. It is hinged and on wheels and folds together and locks up when not in use.
What do your student employees learn from working at the school store?
These five 4th and 5th graders get a full economic lesson. We have 4 or more meetings a year. The first one is the merchandising meeting where we discuss all of the requirements of a store. (Physical plant, employees, overhead, stock etc.)
We discuss why there is a need for a profit (to be able to buy more merchandise while there are still items on the shelf and to support the PTA.) We then look at the wonderful products from Raymond Geddes to discuss which items are appropriate for our store. We discuss if it is more a toy than a school supply item, if its quality is up to our standards (with Geddes products that is not a problem), and if we can price it at a point where students will buy it. After that, students go through the GEDDES catalog as well as two others to tell me items they think will be good sellers at our store.
The second meeting is a “sale” meeting. It happens before Halloween. The children discuss why a store has a sale. (To get new customers, to move product that isn’t selling, to have holiday merchandise.) Then they do 3 types of advertising:
- Posters which function as our store window displays
- A one page article which we put up around the school which serves as our “newspaper” ad
- Once a week for two weeks, two of the children go on our closed-circuit TV station to advertise the sale and the store
The third and fourth meetings are inventory. We discuss why we need an inventory and then the students take a physical inventory of the store! We do this in December and again at the end of school.
We have several other times during the year when they go on the TV to show new product or discuss holiday merchandise.
What service does your school store provide to the student body?
The students who visit the store have the opportunity to shop in a safe environment. From pre-K to 5th, they are free to come in any morning as long as their teacher knows they are coming. They learn how to count their own money, how to make choices, and decide what they want.
Some of the items do go home only. Many children come in with a $1 bill and think that they can only get one $1 item. Their eyes get big when I tell them they can get 10 pencils or 4 large erasers or other combinations. They do not have the opportunity to shop elsewhere and here they have many items to choose from. Our last inventory had over 9,000 items!
How successful is your store?
We have a profit of about $1,800 a year when we are only open 15 minutes a day! We have about 80 different items out at all times.
Any advice for people who are thinking of starting a store at their school?
Our store is open every day at the same time. In elementary school it is hard for the students to remember which days to bring their money. This way we are always available.
Use students, they can do it. Talk to someone who has a successful store and get some guidance or mentorship (I would be glad to do that for someone in Baltimore County or city).
Lastly, have FUN with it!