School Solutions

School and Gym Uniform Buying Enters Digital Age

by ED BERNSTEIN

When New York City’s Collaborative Arts Middle School was planning for the opening of its new facility this fall, administrators and staff were coping with logistical challenges. They did not want the headache of purchasing school and gym uniforms in various sizes for the 171-student body, a task that requires the school pay upfront and then handle distribution and inventory of the uniforms and manage customer service.

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The school’s principal, T.N. Holloway, contacted PropellShops over the summer, and we set up a web-based shop in the school’s name. The only tasks Holloway had to do were review and approve the site and the pricing and direct families to a website to find easy-to-use size charts and simple instructions.

Students and families placed orders online during a predefined two- to three-week period, and we shipped packages to the school. For families without computer access, we took orders using a toll-free number.

Win-Win, No-Cost
CAMS is just one of our school customers that enjoyed savings in effort and money as a result of working with my company, Propell Corp., a member of the AASA School Solutions Center.

Both the school team and the students expressed satisfaction with the online arrangement and products. Feedback from customers has helped us improve; we now carry a wider variety of apparel products and uniforms, including name brands. In addition, schools (and school clubs) can benefit from pricing products to earn money (or pass along savings to buyers).

Busy school staff are thankful for an e-commerce solution that means they do not have to handle sales, payment, fulfillment or exchanges. Students like the opportunity to choose exactly the right uniform because they order the product themselves rather than making do with sizes in a preselected inventory.

“We are so grateful for the team at Propell,” says Holloway. “As a new school, we were facing many challenges, and providing uniforms was critical but also presented expense and logistical challenges. Thanks to Propell, we offered our families the convenience of at-home shopping, and the school did not need to commit any financial or personnel resources. It saved us money and simplified everyone’s lives.”

Fund-Raising Experts
For years, PropellShops offered customized merchandise to schools and school clubs for fund-raising purposes. The old-fashioned way worked, but e-commerce takes our services to the next level. We’ve tailored two e-commerce solutions to be a win for both schools and families, raising several thousand dollars each time, while saving countless hours of time for all.

We will share our ideas on how to showcase merchandise opportunities during back-to-school or other schoolwide events based on listening carefully to our customers.

In my November 2010 column in The School Administrator, I related the story of another public school in New York City, Elias Bernstein Intermediate. The school simplified its phys-ed uniform program by using PropellShops to streamline logistics, save money and resources and even raise several thousand dollars — all without upfront investment. We’re pleased to report, they are a return customer. As I write this, they’re close to raising even more funds than last year.

Schools are under many economic and resources pressures, and these have continued in the year since we launched our online shops for uniforms. Staff and parent volunteers are doing a terrific job finding ways to overcome the stresses of limited economic and staff resources.

You can learn more at our website (www.propellshops.com). The Propell web shop (and team) will do it all: Take orders, collect funds, distribute products and handle customer service. Just forecast the volume and spread the word; then you’ll receive a check from us.

Ed Bernstein is CEO and co-founder of Propell Corp. in San Anselmo, Calif. E-mail: ed@propellshops.com

AASA SCHOOL SOLUTIONS CENTER
Eleven firms make up the AASA School Solutions Center. NJPA is a premier member.

NATIONAL JOINT POWERS ALLIANCE, national contract purchasing solutions

ECRA GROUP, research, analytics and accountability solutions

HMS, dependent healthcare eligibility

HOPE FOUNDATION, professional development for leadership teams

K12 INSIGHT, survey tool

MEDEXPERT, medical issues management services

ORGANIZATIONAL HEALTH, organizational audits of human capital

PFM-FINANCIAL SERVICES, public procurement card program

POWERIT, cost-saving web technology for schools

PROPELLSHOPS, no-cost fundraising solution for schools

TUTOR.COM, 24/7 online academic support and tutoring

School districts should do their own due diligence before signing contracts with companies that belong to the AASA School Solutions Center.