Summer camp is one of the most exciting parts of the season. We love summer camp because of everything that comes with being at camp: living with friends, experiencing nature, learning skills not otherwise encountered, and growing and developing as individuals.
However, it is worth saying that one of the best parts of camp is coming home with awesome merch that reminds you of your amazing summer. Everyone from owners, counselors, and the youngest campers love to sport merchandise that shows off their membership in the camp community, and reminds them of what’s waiting for them next summer.
But not every camp is the same, just like not every camp community is the same. The products that campers are going to wear vary from camp to camp. In order to ensure that you’re providing your campers with merchandise that is both functional and attractive, consider each aspect of your camp’s offering and identity.
To get you started, let’s consider the following 4 things that make up your camp’s identity and how it can influence what kind of merchandise you sell.
The Location of Your Camp
When I was young and quite literally a ‘happy camper,’ I attended a sleepaway camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I still get pangs of nostalgia when I see fog roll down a wooded mountain in just the right way.
But the first summer I attended, I made a crucial mistake. I didn’t take into account the camp’s location when I packed my bags. Because it was summer, and hot all the time at home, I underestimated how cold the mornings in the mountains would be and didn’t bring a sweatshirt. That turned out to be a huge mistake.
However, the problem was soon solved. Thanks to my parents giving me money for the camp store, I was able to buy a comfortable sweatshirt from the camp store with the camp logo emblazoned across the front. I wore that sweatshirt obsessively for years until it finally wore out.
When you order merch for your camp, it’s a good idea to think about what the weather will be like when the campers will be there. This ensures that you’ll have products on hand that can supplement a camper’s wardrobe should they have forgotten a crucial piece of clothing.
Some examples of location-minded camp gear for your store include:
- Sweatshirts for camps in colder regions.
- The traditional t-shirt or tank top for camps in warm areas.
- Blankets for colder camps.
- Lightweight, long-sleeved t-shirts for camps that are in cool or buggy areas.
First-time campers, like me, will make mistakes while packing, no matter how comprehensive your suggested list is. That’s just the nature of hosting a camp with human beings as guests. But when your camp store carries extra clothing that children might need, you can solve many of these problems before they cause any serious discomfort.
Whether you’re in the mountains of Maine or the Arizona desert, choose your camp store products to make sure that your campers are well-prepared to have the best summer ever.
For help running your camp store, and other camp management responsibilities, consider checking out CircuiTree to get started.
The Activities at Your Camp
Did you know that there are over 8,400 sleepaway camps in the United States alone? There are so many different types of camps, as well: music camps, circus camps, athletic camps, visual arts camps, general-activity camps, you name it!
Whatever activities your camp offers, remember to keep those in mind when choosing what products to sell for your camp. The activities that your campers participate in will influence what merchandise they’ll find the most interesting or useful.
Ask yourself some of the following questions:
- What activities is my camp known for? Which are favored by our campers?
- What do our campers like to wear while participating in those activities?
- How can we provide what campers like to wear for our activities?
A few examples of this in practice are:
- Offer pullover hoodies for activities like snowboarding, skiing, or backcountry hiking. Kids will appreciate being able to layer under their snow jackets and parents will rest assured knowing that, even if their child loses a layer, they can get a replacement.
- Offer the classic tank top for basketball and surf camps. Campers will appreciate having their arms and shoulders free in these activities, especially in warm climates.
- Offer baseball caps or visors for camps featuring outdoor sports like baseball and sand volleyball. They’re functional for keeping the sun out of your campers’ eyes, and can be worn for many other activities as well.
When you consider your camp’s activities as a determinant of what products you offer in your store, you’ll find that purchasing camp merch becomes not just a fun event but a necessary part of the camp experience for many.
Don’t forget that selling camp merch online is an important off-season revenue stream for your camp, as well. Decrease your rates of shopping cart abandonment with this guide from Swoop, and make sure that your campers are able to purchase the camp gear they dream about.
While clothing and t-shirts are the most popular product options, as well as the best passive marketing campaign you could ever dream of, don’t forget that kids (and adults!) love to rep their interests in a variety of ways. Offer your campers ways to advertise their camper status through products like stickers for water bottles or instrument cases, lanyards, baseball caps, and more.
If you’re not sure what type of clothing will be most popular, consider asking the campers or their families about their preferences in your summer camp evaluation form. That’s an easy way to keep your ear to the ground and hear back from your customers.
Find Out What Your Campers Like
Another aspect of your camp’s culture and community to keep in mind when choosing the right products for your camp is the demographic that you serve. One of the most wonderful things about finding a camp family is that the culture is one where your campers feel like they can be 100% themselves.
When choosing your products for your camp, think about these demographics to make sure that you’re providing the most relevant and functional products to your campers.
Research design trends for the age groups of the people who will be attending your camp. If your camp is for high-school students, check out apparel trends for high schools, colleges, and sorority or fraternity apparel.
Making sure that the merchandise and designs printed on products that you offer is attractive to the demographic that your camp serves is an essential part of offering products online or in your camp store. And don’t forget that offering more options is always a good way to entice more people to wear your merchandise. Your camp may serve all children, so offering unfitted and fitted t-shirts might interest more campers in your store than a one-size-fits-all t-shirt situation.
Your camps merchandise can play an important role in building a camp community, so make sure that your products are targeted at all of your demographics and campers.
In addition to keeping in mind age ranges, interests, and tastes, don’t forget to think about camp-specific demographics that can influence what products you sell. Is your camp a week long? Three weeks? Or is there a group of children that spend their entire summer at camp?
To interest these demographics, consider selling duffel bags, suitcases, or luggage trunks so that they can take their camp memories with them wherever they go. Trunks are also a useful camp product because they’re sturdy, reliable, and families can use them for so many different things than just sending their children to camp.
Personalize Your Merch to Match Your Camp
When you’re planning the right products to offer to your campers, make sure that you customize them to your camp’s community and values.
Think about your camp’s motto, culture, or song. What are the values that your camp works to instill in the campers that attend? Common themes include friendship, empathy, trustworthiness, hard work, or honesty. How can you tell your camp’s story with the products that you offer to your campers?
Think about your camp’s motto, culture, or song. What are the values that your camp works to instill in the campers that attend?
Common themes include friendship, empathy, trustworthiness, hard work, or honesty. How can you tell your camp’s story with the products that you offer to your campers?
Is there a logo that your campers can easily associate with your camp as a whole? Is there a slogan or motto that every camper strives to live by, both at camp and away?
No matter how you decide to express your camp’s values and priorities on your products, make sure that you have a retailer who can help you either create your design, or print your design so that it looks amazing on your t-shirts, sweatshirts, or tank tops.
Camp merchandise is a tried-and-true strategy for raising more money for your camp, building a visible community, and engaging both kids and parents in the lifestyle that your camp promotes. With these tips, you’ll be sure to offer the best products to your campers.
Before becoming a camp professional, Glen enjoyed many other pursuits. As a native San Diegan, he worked through college as a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He has a passion for literature and the outdoors, and is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, so he naturally loves to get out on the water with his wife and two kids whenever possible. He loves hearing camp cheers outside his office window during the summer, while helping camps across the country overcome their unique challenges!