Holiday shops are a good way to promote the spirit of giving and provide students with a fun way to buy inexpensive gifts for their family members. Recently, we've had some questions posted on Facebook about how to put together one of these events, so we wanted to provide some tips.

Groups take different approaches to holiday shops. Some gather items from dollar stores throughout the year to stock their holiday shop shelves, while others run an event that features homemade crafts. Still others opt to use a holiday shop vendor, which is convenient because of its one-stop shopping approach.

If your group opts for a holiday shop vendor, we recommend talking to a few companies to find out which one best fits your needs. You can also ask for references of other PTOs or PTAs. When you speak with a company, make sure to go over these issues:

  • Payment: Ask companies to explain how your group will pay for merchandise. Many companies treat your business arrangement like a consignment shop, meaning that your group should be able to return items that it doesn’t sell.
  • Promotions: Find out whether the company will provide you with promotional materials as well as some guidance on how to market your shop.
  • Best-selling items: Chances are, you won’t know what the hot items will be until they start to sell. If you run out, you should be able to order more merchandise in time to restock the shelves for your event. Ask your vendor how this works. Also, ask the company for insights on what are the expected big sellers for this holiday season. The companies are tapped in to these trends and should be able to give you guidance.

If you already have a holiday shop on the calendar, consider these ideas to make the most of your event:

  • Time permitting, consider adding some homemade crafts to your event. A table with crafts by kids will give your shop a personal touch.
  • Keep prices low so items are affordable for kids.
  • Select merchandise that will appeal to kids, not to the gift recipients.
  • Talk to the principal to find out how to help students who don’t have money to go shopping. For example, the PTO could create holiday shop coupons for free items that teachers could discretely give to children who may need them.
  • Ask teachers whether they can help out. Children will get a kick out of encountering their teacher at the cash register.
  • Add holiday cookies and treats for shoppers if the school snack rules permit it.