It's the end of August and we all know what that means: if they're not already back in the classroom, the children running about your community all summer will soon be going back to school, leaving you with less to worry about until 3:30 each day. HOORAY!!!
Every time I turn on my TV or radio right now, someone from Target, or WalMart, or Fred Myers, or Fruit of the Loom is telling me about all the things I need to buy to prep my kids to go back to school. They've got me believing that I need to be buying everything from new backpacks to super hero themed lunch boxes, and I don't even have children. I can't imagine what it's like for those of you out there who have little voices in your own homes that agree with the friendly people on the TV. ABC News quotes The National Retail Federation,saying, " families with school-agechildren will spend an average of $450.76 on back-to-school items." With the economy the way it has been this last year, I'm going to bet that sales of plain jane #2 wooden pencils will be up and sales of Eversharps will be down. And you can forget the fancy Trapper Keeper this year (do they even still use Trapper Keepers?) and get used to the plain jane three ring binder.
As with most things, the $400 plus price tag hits our residents in the same place that they're already feeling a huge pinch. How can we make it better for them? It's a magical secret, used mostly just for throwing resident events, but I'll let you in on it.
Costco and Sam's Club.
No child is going to go through the entire box of 250 pencils that you buy at a warehouse store. Not in a year, not in 5 years. That's why parents for the most part, unless they're teachers who are also buying supplies for their classrooms, don't do their back to school shopping at these places. But you've got a unique advantage that makes warehouse shopping make all the sense in the world. You've got a community to share the cost.
It will take a little work, but if you're willing to put it in, it will pay off in the resident retention dollars down the road, and this is a program that will have minimal costs including a little time and some fliers!
Step 1: Go to a Target or WalMart near you and pick up the supply lists for the elementary school (K-6) classrooms that service your community. These will have the most number of items that overlap and will help you get your supply list built.
Step 2: Once you've got your most commonly used supplies list built, it's time to take 30 min at the warehouse store and price the items. Don't forget to get the price PER ITEM, not just the price of the big container. (Price per item can be figured by dividing total cost by pieces in the container, ie $12 for 250 pencils comes up to about 5 cents a pencil.)
Step 3: On paper, put together and figure up the cost for a basic back to school kit. Then send out a flier to your residents letting them know that they can pay a particular amount to the office and have a once stop, much cheaper, shopping trip to get the bulk of their back to school supplies. One note though, make sure that you make the supply kits available to people who don't have kids, too. Fair Housing still counts!
Step 4: Once you've got the payment from your residents, buy the supplies and put the kits together. You can either then deliver the kits to your residents homes or you can host a back to school party where the kids can come pick up their supplies and you can take pictures of the community's "Class of 2009" kids standing in front of your club house.
The cost of sharing a bulk price will save your residents money, give you an inexpensive event, and it will be something people remember year to year since it's an event where you're only thinking about them! It's one more chance to connect, and when we connect, we retain!