Camp Store

  • January 24, 2022
  • Luke

Camp Store

Every overnight camp has a store (perhaps you call it “tuck shop” or “canteen”?). You would be hard-pressed to find a camp that does not sell something to their campers. Whether it be clothing, snacks, or items needed at camp, camp stores are an integral part of camp communities. 

But, as with many processes in the camp world, there are many nuances and differences in the ways that camps operate their stores. Some use POS systems…others rely on their trusty clipboards and pencils; some track inventory diligently….others not so much; some allow both cash/credit and account-based purchases….others just one of those. Considering store managers typically change from year to year, it is easy to see why camp stores quickly become a difficult area to manage.  

Why We Made Camp Store

CampBrain’s Camp Store module was released in 2020 to make this complex area of camp easier to maintain. The module is directly integrated into our camp software at no additional cost to our camps. When we set out to create the module, we did so with a few specific objectives in mind: 

  1. Create a user-friendly interface that is easy to learn and use. 

  2. Provide a smooth parent experience when collecting and managing deposits and issuing refunds. 

  3. Develop a system to easily keep information accurate and up to date. 

  4. Save time. 

Now that the Camp Store module has been available for two years, we sat down and spoke to a couple of our early adopters – Dylan from Cheley Colorado Camps, and Kayla from YMCA Camp Classen – to hear about their experiences using the Camp Store module. 

Cheley Colorado Camps

Dylan by a cabin.

Located 2 hours outside Denver and steps from the Colorado Rockies, Cheley is a sleepaway camp that hosts hundreds of campers during their two 4-week terms. Across their property, Cheley has 4 store locations, 2 “storefronts” and 2 satellite locations for campers that are offsite. When at capacity, they have just over 500 campers a day going through the store.

Cheley has a robust store setup. Dylan, the Store Manager, along with a team of three trained staff members manage the storefronts. At each store, they have an iPad on a Square stand. Their stores are packed with snacks, clothing, letter kits, and even some sleeping bags that they rent to campers.    

User Friendly Experience

With 500 campers (and some staff) coming and going, ease of use is a significant benefit to Cheley. Being able to search campers by first name, last name, or cabin makes it simple to find campers.  

“It’s so easy to use other people can easily run it, it takes 2 minutes to train someone.”
Dylan, Cheley Colorado Camps

“A lot of time at our two bigger stores, campers would even run the tech side of things… We are tech free at camp, but I did not feel it takes away from their experience. Instead, it allows them to meet and interact with more campers.” 

Often, making a purchase provided a learning opportunity for campers. Campers were able to manage their own accounts and learn how to budget, adding an unexpected benefit to the store experience.  

Parent Experience

The improved parent experience has also been an incredible upgrade. During registration, parents can put down a deposit in the camp store. When parents log in to the registration portal, they can see their child’s current balance and top up their account throughout the session.  

Parents adding to camper accounts themselves saved a lot of time for Dylan, but parents do not always check their child’s account balance. So, the full transparency of Camp Store really shines here. 

“When I see campers are reaching their balance, being able to email parents with a report on what they bought has been nice.”
Dylan, Cheley Colorado Camps

Those parent experiences have made a lasting difference for Cheley. It is a meaningful touchpoint, as an additional way for parents to keep an eye on their camper. They know exactly what their camper is spending money on, which allows parents to tell Dylan, “Hey, can you make sure my camper doesn’t buy another sweatshirt or stuffed animal, etc.?”  

The friendly and considerate parent experience, along with the ease of use, makes recommending Camp Store a no brainer for Cheley. 

YMCA Camp Classen

Kayla by a lake.

Camp Classen is in a rural area in the Arbuckle Mountains. Part of the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, they offer a wide range of programs  from overnight camp and family events to outdoor education and corporate retreats.  

For years, Camp Classen had used a custom program for their camp store – affectionately called “the trading post”. While it worked for a long time, it had some drawbacks. Once the Camp Store module was released in CampBrain, Kayla, Sarah, and the rest of the team at Camp Classen decided to give it a shot. 

Store is amazing, it’s just what we need.”
Kayla, YMCA Camp Classen

Like many camp store managers, Kayla is a one-person show. She handles orders, manages inventory, keeps the store organized, and completes transactions. Having an all-encompassing product that would handle their needs, with special features built for camps, is a perfect solution for Camp Classen.  

Adding store to their camp software stack brought a professional and intuitive product to their workflow. They could leave an outdated system in the past and move to an integrated solution. Campers can now move through the store faster and manage their own camper accounts.  

Robust Camp Store Reporting

A huge benefit for Camp Classen is the reporting capabilities. 

Like most camps, reconciliation used to be a challenge for Camp Classen. Their old software tracked money, not inventory.  

“We would input what their initial store deposit was, and every day, input that Johnny spent $5 today, and that is how we would track their tab. There were literally spreadsheets of data, and we were constantly having to count inventory.”

“When things are getting lost, the greater YMCA would look and say (inventory and sales) aren’t right.”
Kayla, YMCA Camp Classen

Even with their best efforts, there were sometimes mistakes, and over the course of the summer, those mistakes can add up.  

Now with the Store module automatically tracking inventory, they have freed up time, energy, and have complete peace of mind.  

“I can look now and say, “we have sold $800 worth of sweatshirts today, or you know, 15 flashlights, just like that.” 

The inventory functionality and the friendly user interface for staff has dramatically improved Classen’s trading post. They have more time – and confidence – that their trading post is operating effectively.  

Kayla ended our interview with; “It’s really just benefitted us all the way around.”

Internet

Both Kayla & Dylan touched on one downside of Camp Store – spotty internet. 

Both camps are in remote locations, so after a storm or on a bad day, they occasionally lose internet. Once the internet goes down, they have limited options. 

“It can be frantic when the store connection cuts out.”
Kayla, YMCA Camp Classen

Simply put, you put a lot of trust in your internet when using the Store module. Like most things at camp, the key is to have a backup planned and ready to implement.  

We recommend having an offline Google Doc, or a notebook ready to record transactions and keep the store moving in the case of an internet outage. Once the internet comes back up it is easy to re-enter transactions. At that point you can take a few minutes to enter transactions manually.  

As Camp Classen & Cheley have both said, once you start using the module, the benefits of Camp Store outweigh the occasional internet outage.  

Is Camp Store Worth It?

The Camp Store module has been a game changer for both YMCA Camp Classen and Cheley Colorado Camps. Even with the occasional internet outage, they save time, finally have faith in inventory and sales numbers, and have an intuitive tool to add to their camp stack.  

If you are interested in learning more about Camp Store module, please contact us and we would be happy to chat about it some more with you. 

Luke by a bush



Love your Software,
LukeW
lukew@campbrain.com