Today, my son and I picked up some last minute supplies for his first day of middle school tomorrow, and this idea popped into my head.
Amazon.com is in a perfect position to make this a reality, though other online retailers could do it.
Amazon will allow school districts, schools and/or teachers to create school supply lists through an easy interface in their system. Families will be able to log on to Amazon.com, find their school or teacher, and see the whole list of supplies needed for the school year. The families can then buy the whole list, or edit the supplies if they already have things on the list. When they do buy the items, they will have the option to ship the supplies directly to the school, and the student will be able to get them on the first day of school.
Teachers will also be able to post wish list items for the families, instead of having little slips of paper at the open house asking for Clorox wipes or Kleenex. When the families are checking out on Amazon.com, they can choose to add one of the wish list items.
Prices will be kept low because they will be supplemented from the companies whose products are featured through the list process. For example, Elmer’s Glue will be the only brand of glue that teachers can add to their supply lists, and this exclusivity would be paid for by Elmer’s, which would pass savings on to the consumers. (Families could deselect a brand if they would like a different one.)
The student won’t need to worry about forgetting an important supply at school, or losing something before the first day because it was bought weeks before. The parents won’t need to worry about wasting gas and time trying to find the supplies going from store to store. They won’t need to worry about getting the supply list from the teachers.
The teachers will be confident that their students have access to the list and to the supplies, and that the students will have what they need. There will be consistency in the products the kids are using so there’s no confusion about white glue versus glue sticks or something other than a No. 2 pencil.
Another option that will be available through this service will allow people to donate school supplies. This can be done either through an add-a-dollar process, that adds money onto the final amount of the sale, or the donor can select a school district and donate a full supply list to the school to give to a student in need. Schools would be able to sign up for up to a certain amount of donated supply lists.
In Central Florida, 172,000 children are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program and 10,000 are homeless (source). If their families have difficulty putting food on the table, you know they will be unable to purchase school supplies. This opportunity to help other students would be a great benefit to all communities.
Since this is just an idea, I would encourage you to find a way to help out students in need this school year. Here in Central Florida, we have an organization called A Gift For Teaching that helps meet these needs by allowing teachers to shop in a Free Store for donated school supplies. They are associated with the Kids in Need Foundation who can help you help others in your own community.
So what do you think of the idea?
And how do we make it happen? Well, if you happen to work for Amazon, or another internet retailer – just run with it. If you don’t work for a company like that, this could start from the grassroots – send a letter to Amazon, to your school district or both. It seems like a win for students, parents, teachers and the community, as well as for the school supply business.
The school supply industry is pretty recession-proof. Kids don’t stop going to school when the economy is down. According to this article in the Porterville Recorder, “Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion; and total back-to-school and back-to-college spending combined, $72.5 billion.”