Author Topic: Starting a Regimental Kit Shop: How To;  (Read 2500 times)

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Offline --NES--

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Starting a Regimental Kit Shop: How To;
« on: September 14, 2007, 17:40:29 »
MODS: I didn't know where to put this, so feel free to move it if necessary.


Background:  I am the Kit Shop Manager for the RHFC Regimental Kit Shop (I'm a man of many hats; VPMC, Unit recruiter, Piper, Kit shop manager... everything except anything that has to do with my trade)

Last night I was asked about how to start a kit shop; what steps to take and where to get inventory, etc.  The member who inquired is attached to the Fusiliers from an EME unit and has been tasked by his home unit to set up a kit shop for when he returns from school. He's also a member here at Army.ca, but I'm unsure as to his handle... I'm sure he'll post something here though.

Anyway, I think he was looking for a quick short answer...  I don't think there is one.  So here it is...
Everything below is based on my experience over the last few years (I think 4+) while running the kit shop.
For those who have experience running kit shops, or with NPF organizations (NPF Clerks and/or NPFAOs); please feel free to add to, or correct, anything posted here.
The more input the better... 

Starting a Regimental kit shop:

1) Permission, principal funding & Resources;
First step is to gain permission from the chain of command. This can be done by memo directly to the CO, Regimental trust / treasury board, and the NPFAO (Non-public funds administrating officer) for the unit.  To facilitate this, you might want to find an Admin Officer.
Most kit shops, if run correctly, will have an Admin Officer, Coordinating NCO (usually a Sr NCO) and at least one manager… everybody answers to someone, and no one person has total signing authority.

Once permission has been gained, the next step is to contact the NPFAO/NPF Clerk about initial funding. This is done by submitting a business plan and basic budget. You may have to skip to point 2 first for more details.
You will also have to set up banking… keep it separate from any other NPF organization.  The NPFAO/NPF Clerk should help, but it is up to the Kit shop staff to sort it out.

At this point it is also prudent to find out what resources will be available to you from the unit.   i.e. room / storage space, furniture / display cabinets, computers and logistics, etc.  Don’t start purchasing this with your initial funds until you find out what you can squeeze from the system

Notes; 1) Most, if not all, kit shops in the CF (at least in the Pres) are governed the same as Messes (by the NPFAO). This is your chain of command for funds and resources.
2) Since the Kit shop, like a mess, is for the serving members, but unlike a mess, is for all members, it is not unreasonable to raise funds via the other messes in the unit.  Donations to the kit shop, during start up, will be a great asset. Try to avoid loans.

2) Market, Margins & Product;
When establishing a business plan and budget, the first step it to figure out your market, which is invariably the soldiers of the unit and possibly the regimental association and families of the soldiers.  Once you’ve established your ‘Arcs’ for the market, it is prudent to make a list by priority. This will help you when it comes to expanding.

For the list; at the top of the list for priority should be the biggest members of the market; the regiment as a whole.  Then consider; the platoons/troops/squads (working end), the individual messes, the regimental association, family members, affiliated cadet corps, etc.
List by priority so that you can keep stock moving and avoid ordering product for limited demand.

Once you know the market, begin scouting products and calculating margins (mark up vs. cost and shipping) a good way to judge both is to look to already established kit shops from other regiments for advice.  You won’t be competition to them as you are selling items for a different regiment.  Once you start moving from regimental kit into tactical, it’s best to establish your own contacts (or make friends with another kit shop manager who’s not afraid of a little competition.)

Use these margins and product ideas to sell the idea of the kit shop to your initial investors (the regimental trust / treasury and messes).  Most regimental trust will either sponsor by donation or loan, and most will expect a return on their investment. 

Notes; 1) The regimental kit shop can be set up to feed 1 or both interests with it’s income; The profits (minus expansion costs) can either go into the regimental trust (good resource for paying for/maintaining elaborate ceremonial dress uniforms) or it can go towards the troops directly for things like post ex pizza or year end smokers/parties (more for reserve units).  Either way, profits from the kit shop are rarely ever retained by the kit shop itself.

Keep in mind: the mission of every kit shop should be simply: “for the troops”.  The kit shop provides the regimental/tactical kit for the troops, at fair/competitive prices, and returns the revenue to the troops indirectly.  No one gets rich running a kit shop… troops just get what they want.
 
3) Distributors & Product;
Distributors & products are easy to establish and resources to find them are equally as easy, thanks to the internet.
How to find product;
Ask the troops what they would like to see in the kit shop.  If someone has a ‘sample’ of the items requested, this will make it easier to find online.  Ask where it was purchased and/or who produces it.
If you get no response from the troops, start small; regimental hats, t-shirts and sweaters will garner support for the Kit shop as well as generate revenue and moral.
If the troops don’t have ‘samples’, get item names and start researching it online… they had to have bought it from somewhere.

Note: There are certain bulk items worth stocking as they are used regularly, are generally cheap and aren’t readily supplied through the system; Boot bands, bungie cords, Shemagh scarves, boot polish kits, etc.  Develop a list and keep these items on hand.

How to find suppliers;  (this is easy)
Look at tags; you want to make t-shirts? Find a shirt in your wardrobe which you think would suit and look at the tag… research the company online.  Same with tactical equipment. Most wholesale and production level companies have a website and a contact for a sales department, contact them for more info. And contact more than one supplier for any item (unless it’s specific for that company.)
T-shirts; Google “embroidery” or “silk-screen printing” and the city / town / area you are in and you should come up with a list of companies.  Shop around. These same companies can also be useful for making regimental stickers, embroidered blazer crests, etc.

The harder way to do it is to contact a distributor / retail company and ask for a supplier list… most will say no (in more words), as they will regard you as competition (same with other kit shops). But the rare few will give you information… keep these friends close; they help you, you help them (works well with kit shops)

Notes; 1) there are lots of resources on this website for items the troops might want.  As well, there are resources here for items you may not have thought of. 
2) When / if you make friends with other kit shops in your area, it will make it easier and cheaper to get products: Mass orders. All the kit shops get what they want and cheaper than if they ordered alone… Everybody wins.
3) Always ask suppliers if they offer discounts for the military and / or bulk orders.

Important: Before you start stocking tactical equipment, consult your CoC (specifically the RSM) to ensure that the troops can actually use the tactical equipment for unit training. Otherwise, you're essentially stealing their money... If they can't use it, it's pointless to sell unless they're going to use it for paintball or Air Soft. Depending on your CoC, you, as the seller, may be held accountable when a soldier brings a piece of non-issued, non-sanctioned kit out on an ex and gets jacked for it.

4) Set up
Start small; most reserve armory buildings (and military buildings in general) have limited space, and priority goes to Operational Areas and the working end of the unit.  You can easily run a simple kit shop with regimental attire, blazer crests, key chains and stickers out of a large locker in a storage room in the building… it just requires more leg work.

Specialty orders work well for start ups.  Find specialty item suppliers (Snug pak / softie, Danner, Peerless, etc.) with items made to order, sized, etc. (sleeping bags / jackets, boots, stealth suits, etc.), create order forms and have the troops order as needed.  Develop price lists and include a shipping estimate (some companies’ ship for free for bulk orders.)… Taking payment in advance ensures you have the funds to purchase the items and pay for shipping, but the troops have to trust you… you have to earn their trust and live up to it by getting the orders to them quickly.  These types of orders are great for generating revenue with low overhead and no stock.

It’s better to spend money on expansion of products than extravagant resources to make the business look fancy (eg. Desks, computers, etc.). Work within the system to get stationary and supplies to run the kit shop… keep overhead low for a better return to the trust or the troops. And most importantly; Function over form.

5) Book keeping; VERY IMPORTANT
Generally, kit shops are governed by the same regulations as any other NPF organization within the unit (messes) and are accountable the same way.  Ensure that you co-operate fully with the NPFAO/NPF Clerk completely as the accounting system for the forces is slightly different then the civilian world and the NPFAO / NPF Clerk is the SME (Subject matter expert) on this one.

I won’t pretend to know anything about the book keeping process beyond these points;
  • Make receipts for every sale
  • Keep receipts for every purchase
  • Keep a firm grip on inventory
  • Keep track of all banking and transaction history and information
  • Make all this information available to the NPFAO / NPF Clerk

Before selling anything, ensure that the NPFAO / NPF Clerk or other qualified member briefs / trains you on the operation of finances for NPF organizations.

6) Expansion;
Expand slowly or be stuck with unmovable stock. Keep the troops in mind when expanding inventory.
If you are offered a location within the regiments armoury (Pres); Take it… even if, at that time, you don’t have the stock to use all the space… you may never get that offer again.



I hope this helps.  And if you have anything to add, please feel free.
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Offline Blindspot

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Re: Starting a Regimental Kit Shop: How To;
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2007, 13:09:47 »
Putting up a web storefront with a real-time shopping cart will also expand your market. Ex-members and other regimental family have access to your swag wherever they are. The greatest considerations would be set-up, product photography, and shipping procedures.

Software ranges from high end custom website design to customizable storefront kits like eCommerce. Ensure you have a tech guru that can help you out if want to go down this route.
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Offline Fishbone Jones

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Re: Starting a Regimental Kit Shop: How To;
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2007, 13:36:15 »
Just a word of advice. Your kitshop should belong and be run by your Regimental Association. They are (usually) non-profit, a stand alone civilian organisation, working for the good of, and in support, of the Regiment. They don't come under the glaring, meddlesome eye of NPF. The military (and NPF) cannot tell a civilian group how to run or what to do with their funds. If you run under NPF, your profits, operation, etc, do not officially belong to you, but to the military, and are sustained at the whim of the Commander.
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Offline geo

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Re: Starting a Regimental Kit Shop: How To;
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2007, 13:54:00 »
Big IMPORTANT point,
Make sure of the products you bring in and the quantities you bring in.
Sometimes the CO or one of the junior subbies or a junior member will look to bring in something like a windbreaker jacket with "INFANTRY" in big 2-3" lettest.... might sound great in concept but, in the long run, how many people want such a product.
Other things like bootbands, mini lights, terry shorts and TShirts are staples that will always move.

If you run a kitshop, you have to inject some sensibilities...
Chimo!