School stores: Bring learning outside the classroom
Pens, folders and school swag are just a few of the things you can find in almost any school store throughout Canada. But what else can you find? At their core, school stores are learning environments that bring the teachings of the classroom to life.By working at a school store, elementary school students can improve basic math skills. For older students, they can see the business concept of supply and demand come to fruition. High schoolers and college students can reap real-life management skills. The opportunities for learning are vast.

Here are a few simple tips on how to make sure your school store is not only successful in driving a profit but in driving education as well.

Do your research
Make sure your shelves are stocked with items that will sell. Do market research by conducting a survey of students and staff to see what items they would like to have at the school store. Do they want generic pencils or pencils that show some school spirit? Would they be interested in buying baseball caps or beanies? Drill down to find out what items will get your customers excited.

You can gather this information by simply taking an informal poll or by digging a little deeper and developing a survey. If the school has access to student and staff e-mail lists, you could easily distribute a questionnaire via e-mail using a tool such as Survey Monkey® or Mail Chimp®. For schools that don’t have access to an e-mail list, you could hand out the survey the old-fashioned way, by hand during homeroom. Let the responses help guide what items you keep stocked.

Treat it like a business
Whether big or small, a school store is just that … a store. Make sure that you are running the store like an actual business. This is a great learning opportunity for students to see how a business operates, keeping on top of the inventory, giving customers receipts and preparing employee schedules.

When starting out, don’t overlook essentials like pricing stickers and product signage. Think about your demographic. Do students have their own money to buy items or are they receiving money from their parents? Perhaps selling gift certificates to parents at school sporting events would be a great opportunity and one tailored to a critical audience.

To take the business experience to the next step, think about implementing an employee incentive program. Each month an employee can be recognized for their outstanding contributions. Post their picture in an Employee of the Month frame and award them with school swag like a sweatshirt or T-shirt.

Spread the word
Don’t rely on the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Recruit students to make signs and posters to hang up around school. They can be handmade with art supplies or created and printed by a graphic design student. Use whatever talent is at your disposal to let people know you are open for business.

Take your marketing one step further by giving out product samples of the newest snack you have in stock. You could also hand out a coloured gel pen in the hopes they will purchase a variety of colours. You could even have stickers printed and placed on the last piece of paper in the notebooks you sell that has your hours of operation and a note that says “Out of paper? The school store has notebooks and loose-leaf paper for sale!” Think of different touch points that will get your audience thinking about the school store.

But above all, HAVE FUN! There is a wealth of learning opportunities in running a school store, but if the students are having fun while learning, then you’ve achieved the best of both worlds.

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