One of my favorite clients to work with is Matsunaga Elementary, Montgomery County's largest elementary school, located in Germantown, Maryland. They have an exceptionally involved and talented PTA, and we always have a great time brainstorming product ideas for their ever popular Gecko Gear fundraiser and other school events.
These ladies have great taste in product, and even better sales strategies. Knowing we work with a lot of schools and PTA boards in the area, they were kind enough to share some tips with our readers today.
Know your audience.
T-shirts, sweatshirts, knitwear, magnets, calendars, seat cushions, and noisemakers are common choices for school spirit wear and booster club merchandise. While these items might sell well at some schools, they're not necessarily the best choices for your school. Every market is different. Before committing yourself to a particular product, do some research and ask parents and students what they'd be willing to buy.
At Matsunaga, non-traditional items have surprised us as best sellers. For example, food storage containers sold quickly last year, and soft, vintage-style T-shirts were a parent favorite this fall. We've also learned that colorful prints and fun artwork featuring Mo, the school's gecko mascot, catch buyers' eyes.
Pay attention to what sells out quickly, and make notes for next season.
Start planning early.
Matsunaga's PTA board plans several events throughout the fall, and Gecko Gear is available for sale at each one. The back-to-school sale in late August or early September receives the best turnout, and the PTA plans for it several months in advance.
In June, we sat down and brainstormed product ideas for the fall season. Within a few weeks, final decisions were made and production commenced.
There are several advantages to early planning. First, building in a few months for production allows for overseas sourcing and greater creativity with design. Fully custom merchandise at a lower price? Yes, please!
Secondly, if you determine your product selection early on, you can begin to build buzz around back-to-school sales well before students step foot in the building. Matsunaga uses Facebook and the PTA website to share product images and collect pre-orders before the big sale.
Finally, if an item looks to be more popular than expected, early planning allows you to easily place a reorder before interest subsides.
Promote and cross-sell.
Now here is an area where the Matsunaga PTA team really shines. Sourcing great product is important, but it's not going to sell itself. Be vocal about upcoming sales and offer coupons and discounts for pre-orders and large purchases. In preparation for back-to-school sales, the Matsunaga PTA circulates "groupons" and pre-order forms.
I love this clever idea from PTA President Kim Penn. Give $1 off coupons to board members and have them leave it on the windshield of cars in the school parking lot bearing a school bumper sticker or magnet. Rewarding loyal customers... so smart!
Another good strategy is Matsunaga's "Final Call". After initial sales, the PTA board creates a form promoting remaining inventory. Parents complete the form with last minute orders, and items are sent home in students' backpacks for hassle-free delivery.
The Matsunaga PTA has been very successful in their fundraising endeavors, providing support dollars that pay for school events, mini grants for teachers, laptops for portable computer labs, and Promethean Boards for every classroom. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks with us, Matsunaga!