b'GUEST VIEWSo, We Built a CampgroundErin and Exploring the Science Behind Operating Our Campstore Dan ThiemWeve both attended workshops at conferences over the years and talked to vendors at trade shows about whats new and exciting in the retail space, but how do we even begin to figure out what we need and how to generate the most revenue?Its the time of the year when we re- what we need and how to generate thelously calculate the greatest perceivedthe store. Women like to buy shirts and visit our camp store inventory, strate- most revenue? Again, were not retailhaul from their precious allowance.tank tops, while men buy hats, beer and gies and sales goals. We would love tospecialists, and we often consider it ourWehadoneespeciallyfunnyin- charcoal. As we learn and pay attention say that weve got it all figured out, butweakestbusinesscomponent.Yet,stance where a boy of about eight orto fads, we get better at anticipating the its probably been our biggest area forevery year the sales grow and we learnnine came in to buy some candy. Weitems that the campers want. growthincampgroundownership.more about what were doing. Some ofhad Double Bubble gum pieces for fiveWe dont always get it right (I think When we hired our current manager tothat learning is about metricswhatcents. He spent ten minutes trying toevery article we write has some theme work in the camp store eight years ago,to measure and why. And some of thefigure out how many pieces of gum heabout what went wrong). When we first we told her we were going to have alearning is about product selection could get for his money (all in variousopened, we thought that our campers camp store, but wed never run a retailwhat to sell and when. coins). Dan helped him calculate it allwould be more like Instagram influ-shopbeforeanddidntevenknowFor example (although this may beout and even asked if he wanted to mixencers, craving gourmet marshmallows where to begin. Fortunately, she hadobvious to many of our readers), ice isit up with some other candy. In the end,and fancy wine. In reality, we have fraz-previously owned a small retail store inour No. 1 selling item by volume. Cali- the boy could afford forty pieces of gumzled parents who want Jet-Puffed and a our area and had some experience weforniaishotinthesummerand which he happily counted out. Whencan of winepronto. Thats not to say could use when setting up the space. campers like cold drinks. Interestingly,Dan asked, Are you sure you want thatwe dont have some boho sophistica-Were also grateful that through theour highest single-grossing item is ourmuch gum? the kids reply was Yes,tion; however ultimately, were a family years weve learned a few things aboutdump station, presumably because thejusttakethemoney,notsnarkyorcampground and parents know that a how to run our camp store, includingalternative of not dumping your tanks isrude, just matter of fact. We realized$3 marshmallow is lost on a five-year-forgingsomegreatworkingrelation- unthinkable. These are basic examplesthen that kids love the agency that buy- old who drops it in the dirt. ships with vendors and local businesses. of how we look at category and iteming gives them in our store, and its en- We also moved away from any glass Of course, we listen to our customerssales, as well as sales trends across daystertainingforthestafftoo!Now,wecontainers. Too many broken bottles, about what theyre interested in buyingand times. Were getting better at usingmake sure kids have a variety of optionsalongwiththedifficultyofrecycling (e.g. they love the fact that we sell high- the tools we have to help us analyze theat small price points so they can buyglass,havepushedustowardsalu-qualitylocalcraftbeer).Now,aswehigh-ticket items and cut the ones thatthings on their own. We also include taxminum. Fortunately, good beer is now stock the store for another year, were re- are underperforming. inallourpricingsokidscaneasilyalmost always available in a can, and minded that we still have a lot to learnSome things sales trends and databudget their spending. there are several quality canned wines and thought wed share a little of our ex- cant provide are strategic in nature. WeAdults, of course, remain the eco- that guests like. perience in running our camp store.didnt know that kids love to spend timenomic and creative engine of our campWeve also tried to move our cus-Were not pros and many of you willin the store poring over things they canstore.Theybuyeverythingfromicetomersawayfromdisposable1lb havemuchbetterperformingstoresbuy with their money. We started to pickcream and craft kombucha to magnetspropane canisters, which are not recy-than ours, but as with all our articles, weup on the trend when we first startedand mugs. We try and stock a variety ofclable and are considered hazardous want to be authentic and tell our storystocking a variety of candy and watch- items that a broad range of campers willwaste in our area. We offer refillable as we experience itgood and bad. ing the kids hem and haw over whichlike. We have a whatever mug thatscanisters from Little Kamper, which has Weve both attended workshops attype to get. Weve now expanded thebeen a big hit for eight seasons, whichachievedsomesuccess,butalotof conferences over the years and talkedkid section to include more candy, butis a fun logo mug with a catchphrase.campers dont understand the swap/re-to vendors at trade shows about whatsalso small toys. We know that parentsWeve had more success with supplierfillprocessorsimplydontwantto new and exciting in the retail space,often give their kids a few dollars tographics and a name drop than specificbother. We continue to stock them any-but how do we even begin to figure outspend, which kids then use to meticu- logo wear. We pay attention to trends inwaybecausewebelieveinreducing wasteasmuchaspossible,butnot everyone is willing to buy one. Like all business practices, we con-tinue to learn and pivot as we hear from our guests.Retail remains our biggest conun-drum. We know it can be a big part of our revenue spread, but it somehow al-waysfeelslikeanafterthought.We spend more time each year trying to dial in our product selection and pric-ing,whichhasyieldedsomegreat growth. We love that we give the whole family something to shop for, conven-ient camping supplies and mementos from their experience. Nevertheless, we know there is a lot of upside poten-tial in our store, and we look forward to figuring out how to realize it in the coming season.If youve got a great store or retail tip that works for you, reach out on social and help us help ourselves! Happy Camping.Erin and Dan Thiem are the own-ers of the Inn Town Campground in Nevada City, Calif. Inn Town Camp-groundwasrecentlynamedthe nations Best RV Campground by USA Today 10 Best. WCM12 April 2024 Woodalls Campground Magazine'