By P. Erik Meyer ‘14
For the past two years, Mr. Tony Oldani’s economics class has collaborated with the Varsity Shop to come up with student designed products.
This year students worked in groups of three to complete the project titled “The Varsity Shop Lessons.”
“Its overall to put them in the shoes of a business person instead of learning about it on a whiteboard,” Mr. Oldani said.
The students receive a list of product ideas from the Varsity Shop and design, price and market their product from there.
“The guys basically come up with what product, whether it be a t-shirt, we had pajama bottoms this year, women’s, they draft their category, do some initial research come up with an idea for a design, sit down with Mrs. Pierre and make their pitch on, we want to do this kind of shirt with this design,” Mr. Oldani said. “Then there is a bit of back and forth and this is what the price looks like and a couple of different options of this is who we get the product from.”
Mrs. Andrea Pierre, who runs the Varsity Shop, finds the product design helpful as it pertains to market research on students.
“There are certain items that because of my particular age or because of where I am, I might not understand, and I want to give those projects a chance as well,“ she said.
The students involved in the project learn the ins and outs of how to sell a product from start to finish.
“They have to really do some market research with their peers on does it matter if it’s an Under Armor shirt or a Gildan shirt,” Mr. Oldani said. “Once they order, the kids have to do print ads and commercials.”
The products are brought to the fashion show where the students are given the opportunity to show off their goods.
“I think that it has become more and more successful every year, and this year in particular, the timing of everything with the fashion show and bringing out the items, that was terrific because the seniors were present at the fashion show to highlight and market their items,” Mrs. Pierre said.
The items sold at the fashion show help support the Brophy scholarship fund.
“From a generating revenue side for the scholarships, it’s been great because that’s where the proceeds go,” Mr. Oldani said. “Initially the plan was that whatever stuff came back we would have a sale day here, but the last two years very little of the stuff ends up coming back because once the moms and the guests at the fashion show hear that this product or this table of stuff was designed by the kids, that’s usually the first stuff they buy. “
For Mrs. Pierre, the student-designed products provide confidence for the buyer.
“Mothers in particular are often buying for boys and so if I say that a senior boy designed this, they think OK, my son would like this and they are a little more confident in making the purchase,” Mrs. Pierre said.
There is a certain amount of risk involved for the Varsity Shop and the school.
“When we started it was kind of how much money is the Varsity Shop willing to float as start up money for these groups,” Mr. Oldani said. “That dollar amount has continued to go up a little bit because by and large, with the exception of a couple misses, most products end up selling really well and therefore the Varsity Shop now realizes that there is not really any risk.
According to Mr. Oldani and Mrs. Pierre, the Varsity Shop has only lost small amounts of money on certain projects, but overall each year has turned a profit.
“Because of the way the project is designed, we are very cautions about items that we don’t want to endorse, and we’re very cognizant that we don’t want to put any of the schools funding at risk at any time,” Mrs. Pierre said.
The Varsity Shop and Mr. Oldani plan on continuing the project with a few new twists.
“One component we are going to add next year is, that up to this point every product has gotten made and put in the store. So next year we are going to add a sort of “Shark Tank” element where only a certain number of products will get made and therefore you have to make a pitch as to why you think your product should be in the store,” Mr. Oldani said.
For Mr. Oldani, the project helps to convey key economic concepts.
“To me one of the benefits of this is learning how to work with a group,” Mr. Oldani said. “They’re not going to be working independently and they have to play nice in the sandbox and sometimes they’re going to get their way and other times not. The idea of trade-offs, do you want to sell a few things that are expensive, and certainly there is a market for that, especially at the fashion show, where other groups do $5 sun glasses and one grandma this year bought 14 pairs of them.”
The project has been mutually beneficial for both the class and the Varsity Shop.
“Its something that I think to utilize the resources of the school and apply it to the concepts was both advantageous to him as a teacher and to myself in the shop,” Mrs. Pierre said.