How To Run a School Store

by Rose Hamilton



School stores are lots of fun for students, and they can help raise funds for your group. We recently had a great Facebook discussion on how to be successful with a school store, and we wanted to share some of the tips from our community members.

1. Hours: Picking the right time to be open for business is key. You’ll want to check with the principal and teachers to find out what makes sense for your school. Some principals may find a lunchtime school store works best, while others may find that disruptive and would prefer your group set it up as a before- or after-school activity. 

2. Frequency: Some leaders said they run their stores for a half hour once or twice a week. You may want to start slow, however, and run your store once or twice a month so you can gauge student interest. Once you get a good feel for demand, you can set an official schedule. 

3. Location: Here’s another matter to discuss with the principal. There may be a spot you could use on a permanent basis. If not, you can keep inventory and supplies in portable containers. Work with the principal to select a central area. Also, think about how to best display merchandise. You may need to purchase folding tables to set out items. 

4. Purchasing merchandise. There are two primary ways to do this, and it comes down to how much time you have and your personal preference. You can purchase online items like pens, pencils, and novelty items. Or, you can do your own shopping at local discount stores. A few folks report doing both; they buy basic school supplies online and shop locally for specialty items. One leader says she purchases items during holiday clearance sales for 70 percent to 90 percent off and tucks them away for the following year. 

5. Branding: Consider naming your school store, perhaps something clever tied to the school mascot. This will make it more fun for the kids. One leader reports that her school community is known as the Lafayette Tigers, so she named the store The Tiger’s Den. 

6. Advertising: Promote your store with flyers and emails so parents know the store hours, available items, and pricing. One group says a teacher wear a sandwich board promoting the school store at pickup and drop-off times. Also, to get more buy-in, let parents and students know how any profits from the store will be used. 

7. Pricing: Try to balance the goal of raising some money for your group and keeping prices realistic so kids can shop. To help keep prices low, ask community members and local stores to donate items.

8. Accommodating all kids: You’ll discover that some children won’t have money to purchase items. Some groups have had success using a point system in place of cash. Children can earn points by helping in the classroom. Talk to the teachers to see whether they can help with this. 

9. Remembering who your customers are: Kids are the ones buying, so try to stock merchandise that you know will appeal to them. Community members report that current popular items include mechanical pencils, novelty erasers, markers, Sharpies, earbuds, change purses, Pillow Pets, lunch boxes, notebooks, and “anything that makes noise.” 

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