How to Set Up an In-School Holiday Gift Shop

Girls in a christmas market

When the holidays come around, everyone is in the mood to get their shopping on... even kids! Setting up an in-school holiday gift shop is a great way to provide a space for children to shop for their loved ones. Knowing how to set up and run a successful holiday gift shop can make the experience fun and productive for everyone involved.

What Is an In-School Holiday Gift Shop?

An in-school holiday gift shop is a shop located on school grounds that is run by parents, teachers, and volunteers, and often led by the school's Parent Teacher Organization. The store serves the function of providing small, cost-effective gift items for students to purchase during the holiday season to give to their family and friends. Children usually come to the store during a designated time, with a list of people they need to buy for. Volunteers help students navigate the merchandise and assist kids in purchasing the items. Kids then take gifts home and give them to their loved ones.

Considerations for Your Gift Shop

A well-run, productive holiday school shop must be thoughtfully planned out, with attention to detail paid in the areas of volunteers, merchandise purchasing, communication, and set up.

Where Will Your Merch Come From?

Purchasing merchandise for the school holiday store is a hefty job. There are tons of options available, and those heading up this aspect of the holiday shop can turn to merchandise magazines or the internet for assistance. These days, some companies make the process of running a school store seamless and stress-free.

  • Holiday Treasures: this website lets you choose your store week, mark-up, and items. Gifts, price tags, a scanner, promotional items, and wish lists are then sent to your school. Unsold gifts can be packed back up, and the company will pick them up from your school.
  • School Holiday Shop: is a one-stop-shop that aims to make the process of holiday school stores as simple as possible. First, you choose a store date and the items you want for your store. Depending on the chosen mark-up selected, the prices are pre-stamped on the items. Items then get delivered one week before the store opening. Promotional items, table cloths, and shopping bags are included in your delivery. Unsold items can be returned to the distributor free of freight costs.
  • My Holiday Fair: works similarly to other online holiday store companies, but this particular company pays special attention to the organizational aspect of running the store. Everything comes arranged in pre-organized and sorted kits, so all volunteers have to do is open the kits and set them out on display.
Bags and sweets on the table

Setting Up Your Store

You will need a prime location on school grounds to set up your store. Most schools don't have empty classrooms, so setting up a school shop takes some creativity and careful planning. Some schools choose the gymnasium because it is a large space that can hold many people and many tables. With the gym in use for the school shop, physical education classes might need to be put on hold or relocated during the dates the shop is up and running.

The library or the art room are other options for spaces that may house the school shop. Again, book checkout might be paused during the school shop week. Library classes and art lessons can be taught to children in their general classrooms by their specials teachers, who won't have access to their typical classrooms until the shop is no longer running.

Do not set up your holiday gift shop in a space where students will have their school day disrupted, or in the hallways, where many distractions can occur.

Communicate With Parents Before Kids Shop

When the time comes to shop, kids need to be prepared. Families need to know what gifts will be available, and what dates the school holiday shops will be operating. Parents can help their children make lists of people to buy for, and tell kids approximately how much to spend on each person. Schools should also send home communication to families regarding volunteer opportunities.

To streamline the shopping experience for kids, parents should write the names or titles of family members on their child's gift list. Staff and volunteers at the shop can then help them make appropriate selections for everyone on their list. Money being sent to school should also be kept in a plastic baggie or sealed envelope for safekeeping. If families allow a child to buy something for themselves, this should also be noted on their list.

Boy holding his Piggy Bank and smiling cheerfully

Recruit Help So Things Run Smoothly

A holiday school shop doesn't take an army to run, but it will require a few trusty volunteers who are willing to devote a few weeks of their time to the cause. Parent-Teacher Organizations likely have several parents who will gladly come to the school to help with the school shop. Requests for volunteers can be sent home to families in classroom emails or newsletters. When asking for volunteers, make sure to note the types of jobs that you need help with, the dates that you need volunteers, and the hours that volunteers can expect to work.

You will need helping hands in the following areas for running the holiday shop:

  • Set up and tear down
  • Assisting students during their shopping experience
  • Check out and payment
  • Gift wrapping the items for students
Child using adhesive tape to secure blue wrapping paper around a gift

Store Gifts Before and After the Shop Sale Dates

Most companies ship their items directly to schools one to two weeks before the holiday shop is set to open. Schools will then have the responsibility of storing them until the shop is ready to open. If your school district has shipment containers or large trailers, these are easy storing options. Gym locker rooms sometimes have room for storing items, as do teacher workspaces. If your school building is tight on space, ask the administrative building if there is some basement space that can be freed up for the week leading up to the shop.

Undoubtedly, there will be items from your shop that don't sell. Be sure to choose a merchandise provider who offers the option of returning unsold merchandise. If you choose a merchandise provider who doesn't provide this option, you will be responsible for storing unsold items until next year's holiday sale, which is not optimal.

Secure Funds for Families in Need

Every school has students from families where money is tight. You will want those children to be able to purchase gifts from the in-school holiday shop, just as more financially set children can. Ensure that your store contains very low-priced gifts to accommodate all shoppers. Additionally, most schools have a surplus fund to draw from, to distribute to families who don't have money to spend at a school holiday shop. Look into these funds and work with the school administration regarding the protocol for disseminating specific funds for this purpose.

Benefits of In-School Holiday Shops for Kids

In-school holiday shops benefit kids by offering them a safe and practical place to get gifts for loved ones. This type of shop comes with practical learning benefits as well. Through the shopping process, kids can:

  • Hone in on their organizational skills, and learn who they need to shop for.
  • Budget their money to shop for everyone on their list.
  • Utilize mathematical skills like addition, subtraction, and making change.
  • Boost emotional skills like self-sacrifice, as they shop for people other than themselves.

Make Your School Shop Festive and Fun

Be unique in how you and your organization choose to set up your holiday school gift shop. Think outside of the box, provide interesting gifts, and perhaps pair your shop with a school fundraising opportunity. What you choose to do with the planning and execution is up to you, but no matter how you set things up, remember to make your shop enjoyable and festive. As different as school shops might be, they should all have one thing in common: fun for all.

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How to Set Up an In-School Holiday Gift Shop