Step 1: Choose your partner wisely.
Your partner is not just your source of items for your shop, but a valuable asset in making your job and the whole project go easily and well. It will still be a large undertaking, but having a good, local accessible advisor at your side will prove very helpful.
That’s why Castle To Go works primarily in a radius from our base that we can manage well. We’re exactly as much help as you need. And if you want to run your own plan, that’s fine too!
Step 2: Assemble a good team.
Most In-School Holiday Shops are conducted by a volunteer sub-committee of the Parent-Teacher organization. These are moms motivated by a love for their kids, but many also have excellent natural organizational skills from previous work experience.
Your shop will need both savvy business management and the touch of moms to make it inviting and fun. By getting to know your team personally, you’ll identify the skills they bring. You’ll need:
- Treasurer for this shop who will understand the numbers and help you manage finances.
- Partner liaison so that communication with supply and necessary training is planned well.
- A Promotions team to develop a strategy for correspondence to families through paper and/or electronic flyer, signage, School Calendar placement, etc. (images for flyers and other promotional signage is provided by Castle To Go)
- Decorations people to create the right shopping atmosphere.
- Helpers for kids to shop and make good decisions
- Helpers at the wrapping table
- Personnel manager to make sure everyone has a job and knows where and when to take their place.
Step 3: Understand your school and student body.
Estimating quantities and planning your shop.
Try to gather data early on in the process to answer these questions:
- How many students are in the school?
- How many students shopped at this event last year?
- How much did the average shopper buy? (Total spent divided by number of transactions) If you don’t have this figure, no problem. We’ll provide it at the end of the event this year in our Shop Summary Report.
- What was the date of the event last year? Will this year be the same? Any conflicts on the calendar?
The principal, janitorial staff and teachers.
The principal is responsible to the superintendent and the community for all school matters and functions. Some principals will be very involved and others not at all. Ask them how involved they would like to be. We are willing to meet with or correspond directly with the principal to create a necessary comfort level.
Take good care of the janitorial staff. You’ll need them in set-up and tear-down. They will need to be a part of layout, flow and shopper movement through the shop. Keep them in the loop.
Teachers simply need to be informed about the shop. No one like surprises. Some teachers see Holiday Shop as an annoyance while others embrace it as a lesson in economics. Be clear and informative. Communicate dates, times and particulars of the schedule. And teachers are invaluable in helping kids with the shopping. Ask them to get involved.
By the way, our staff has full clearances according to PA Child Protection law. Therefore we can be on site if necessary during or prior to the event.
Step 4: It’s all about perspective – Choosing price points and item selection.
Mom’s the focal point. When we plan our item selection, we do so from Mom’s perspective first. Mom is the primary shopper in the home and knows value best. She will be the one heard from if the item value seems askew. So we choose items of great inherent value and price them right. Junk is junk and no matter what price you put on it, the perception is the same. Our items are simply better because our buyer is a mom (and grandma).
The price point question is also a matter of perspective and value. Many schools add “Fund Raiser” to their list of goals for the shop. This should be clearly spelled out in all correspondence going home. The pricing will be slightly higher when you choose a rebate program, and families should be aware that the shop is a fund raiser. Even with a rebate our prices will still be a good value, but it’s helpful when the fund raising goal is clearly communicated.
Step 5: Receiving Promotional Materials and Goods.
Our promotional materials are available electronically here and should be accessed 4-6 weeks prior to the event so that printing and sign production can be handled well ahead. We suggest that signage be placed around the school at least two weeks before the Shop begins. Sandwich Board signs and Yard signs require two weeks production time at many print shops.
Supplies, Technology and Merchandise will be scheduled to arrive 3-4 days before the event by our truck, delivered to the location of your choice. These materials must be secured upon arrival. See more details here.
Step 6: The Flow of the Shop: Introduction, Shopping, Checkout, Wrapping and Exit.
As children enter the shopping area, we suggest that each child be given a bag to place selections in. Castle To Go will provide these bags for each Shopper. Kids should then be paired with a helper and general guidance should be given either individually or in groups so they know to look for signs and prices, etc.
The layout of the Shop will depend upon the room to be used. But planning should include how kids will work through the room. Choices for moms and dads are naturally made first. Siblings and pets next and then other family members. So departments should lay out this way as well.
Kids are people too and share our desire for simplicity in choosing gifts. If all items are put together and the child has too many choices for Mom or Dad or Brother or Uncle, it will be too confusing. That’s why our layout suggestions recommend tables for each shopping department. As a child approaches the Ladies Table she can focus just on the adult women on her list. A Men’s Table also labeled as Dad, Grandfather, Uncle proves very helpful. Our signage is helpful to both shoppers and helpers.
Our standard packages include gifts for all family members and because we’re local, a Black ‘n Gold selection is also included. This selection draws well and while it can be its own department, we find that gifts originally chosen for Dad are sometimes exchanged when kids see those cool Steelers items. So in the interest of having all Dad selections together, we normally mix Black ‘n Gold into Men, Ladies and kids tables.
A Checkout Area should be outside or away from the shopping area. Generally one or two tables close to power outlets should suffice. Typically all purchases will be made with cash, but Castle To Go also makes provision for Credit Cards and pre-funded Gift Certificates when cash is less desirable. In any case, some cash should be planned for as Beginning Cash so that change can be made for early shoppers. Quarters, Ones and Fives will be in demand. Our prices are always round to make calculations easy. Collection of local sales tax is required by law in almost every state. Sales tax is paid by Castle To Go so that making purchase decisions and making change are both simple and easy. Your partners at Castle To Go will assist you in determining how many cash stations will be needed and making sure all necessary components are in place.
There should be a designated wrapping area so that parents don’t see the gifts before they should. We provide three sizes of Gift Bags with labels to and from to make this as easy as possible. The area should be away from the departments so there can be no mixing of what is bought with what is not.
Following the Wrapping Area should be a clear exit for the shoppers. At the exit someone will make sure shoppers are met by teachers if during the day, or parents if yours is an evening Shop.
Step 7: Reconciling the Shop
When the dust settles and shopping has finished, repack everything back in the cases provided. No need to count the returned items, and if anything has been found broken, pack that too. We at Castle To Go will pick up all unsold items, equipment and extra supplies in our truck so that no shipping arrangements are necessary.
We will also provide Summary Reports of all activity so you’ll have data for next year. Your first report will be a Store Close Report showing sales by Cash, Credit Card and Gift Certificate (if you’ve chosen these options) so that payment and rebate can be calculated. You will be able to verify all of these amounts using the software provided.
Next we’ll send a Feedback Form so that you and/or your team tell us about the Shop and your experience. If you’ve taken pictures you can share, we’d love to have them!