Pricing Junior Ranger Backpacks at Nonprofit Interpretive Stores

These are some great questions and concerns from park store buyers about pricing Junior Ranger backpacks. We have listed them below so you can read other buyers’ concerns and learn about our responses.

  1. The pricing structure in my store is to key-stone all items, your backpacks won’t sell at such a high price.
  2. The public is very sensitive to price – especially now in a down economy. Your backpacks are priced too high to sell in this recession.
  3. Your backpacks are great. My store sells them for more than your recommended price because they are such good quality. But, they sell slowly, what can I do?
  4. My customers will go to an outdoor store to buy a backpack.
  5. Customers will not buy anything in my store priced over $25.
  6. My store can buy cheaper Junior Ranger backpacks from a park association out west. Those backpacks look just like yours. Why should I go with your backpacks?

The pricing structure in my store is to key-stone all items, your backpacks won’t sell at such a high price.

Note: Key-stoning is when you double the price. A store buys a product for $1 and gives it a 100% markup, selling it for $2.

This is an easy pricing model to manage, but not practical for all items – and it does not serve your customers well. You might try offering markup levels for the ‘benefits’ the products offer the customers.

Low benefit items generally retail between $1-$5. These products have a low wholesale cost and offer a return for your store of 200%, 300%, even 500%. Low benefit items tend to be more ‘touristy’ and share these characteristics:

  • Offer a single use
  • The function is only in appearance
  • Almost exclusively made in China
  • The manufacturer knows little or nothing about how their product was made, product testing etc.

Medium benefit items generally retail between $5-$20. These products have a mid-range wholesale cost and offer a return of 200% to 300%. These items tend to be more interpretive in function and targeted to the local resource.
Medium quality items share these characteristics:

  • Can provide more than one use
  • Function is limited
  • Allows visitor to convey an understanding of the local resource
  • Made overseas or in U.S.
  • The manufacturer has some knowledge about how their product was made, product testing etc.

High benefit items in your store retail from $20 on up. These products have a higher wholesale cost and offer a lower return of 30% to 100%. These items tend to be highly interpretive, target the local resource, and can be used at other parks, and used for learning after the visitor leaves the park. High-quality items share these characteristics:

  • Offers potential for multiple uses
  • Provides an interactive function other than appearance
  • Allows visitor to convey a fuller appreciation of the local resource
  • Can be used to further interpretation of other parks and resources
  • Made overseas (to U.S. safety guidelines) or in the U.S.
  • The manufacturer has extensive knowledge about product safety etc.
  • The manufacturer is freely willing to share and be open about their business practices
  • Manufacturer provides information or is willing to train your staff about their product.

The public is very sensitive to price – especially now in a down economy. Your backpacks are priced too high to sell in this recession.

During this Recession, families have suffered great financial losses. Families are obviously concerned about price, but their expectations about pricing and products have transformed. The public now wants “greater insight and accountability, transparency … and assurances for the future” with anything they buy. (The Burton Group, “Dimensions of the New Normal” page 2, Jan. 12, 2010).

The outdated 20th century way of doing business was ‘Just making a profit.’ Today, anything you sell in your store must ‘walk-the-talk’ by being safe, environmentally accountable and trustworthy. If not, customers will view your store as just more of the same outdated thinking that contributed to the recession and their pain. Your message will be irrelevant to them. Do you want this for your park or your customers?

Our backpacks are made with accountability in mind, we freely give information about our product testing results and are working to continually improve our backpacks. People are sensitive to price, but what they really want is a genuine experience and to feel safe.

Your backpacks are great. My store sells them for more than your recommended price because they are such good quality. But, they sell slowly, what can I do?

The recommended retail price printed on our price sheet is there for a reason. We understand how our backpacks sell and give pricing information to help you. If your store is selling a backpack higher than our recommended range it will be slow in selling. Bring the price back in line with suggested levels. You will still make a good profit.

My customers will go to an outdoor store to buy a backpack.

Outdoor stores do not sell Junior Ranger backpacks. Besides, you have home-field advantage – your park. You have your customer’s attention, time and interest – use it well. When a Junior Ranger backpack is placed in context with the resource it will sell. Some suggestions:

  • Cross-market with the Junior Ranger program at your park.
  • Offer parents/kids a discount on a backpack when they become Junior Rangers.
  • Use some of the backpacks as an ‘adventure pack’ full of useful day hike items that a family can check out and use for the day. When they return the pack offers them a 15% to 25% discount off a brand new backpack.
  • Create a display that features related items. Stuff a backpack as a sample so it can be tried on, tested, touched etc. Help the visitor to see how the backpack can be used and enjoyed.

Customers will not buy anything in my store priced over $25.

Customers will spend money when they see a value. Value is a combination of price, quality, and longevity. Our backpacks offer all three. Plus we can make it, deliver it, provide your store with pricing recommendations, merchandising suggestions and offer information to help your staff to be knowledgeable about our backpacks. The last step in creating value is at the store level. A genuine smile goes a long way. Being knowledgeable about products, answering questions, letting customers try on a backpack can help close any sale – even sales over $25.

A suggestion, when working with the public in your store do NOT say, “Can I help you?” Eighty-percent of people will just say, “No thanks – just looking.” I do this when people ask me the question – others do it too. People dislike the question because 80% of the time the question is not relevant to their needs at that moment.

You can help your customers without getting in their face. Be observant, depending on your situation and customers, some of these approaches might work better:

  • “Wow, you look great in that backpack.”
  • “If it does not fit right, try to adjust the shoulder straps.”
  • “If you want to give the backpack a test drive try our ‘adventure pack’ that you can check out for the day.”
  • “Did you know that when you complete your Junior Ranger book you can buy a backpack at a discount?”
  • “The company who makes these backpacks is a green certified company.”
  • “We sell these backpacks because they are durable and have long life span. In fact, my kid uses one.”
  • “This backpack uses YKK zippers – the same as Police, Firefighters and Astronauts – because these zippers wont fail you in the field.”
  • “This backpack offers a one year warranty. If it needs to be replaced the manufacturer will replace it for free. Their contact information is sewn inside the backpack.”
  • “This backpack meets U.S. standards for product testing. The manufacturer even posts the test results on their website in case you have any concerns or questions.”
  • “The company who makes these Junior Ranger backpacks is a small, family business based in California.”
  • “Our interpreters in the park use these backpacks during their interpretive programs.”
  • “I bought one for my daughter, she takes it everywhere.”

If moving beyond the $25 ceiling remains illusive try these suggestions:

  • Sell the backpacks for less, you make less per backpack but you will sell more backpacks.
  • Bundle the backpack with other items to create a ready-to-go backpack with a magnifier, sketchbook, crayons, small book etc. In terms of costs, you might break even on one of the items, but you sell many more of the others.
  • Offer a day-of discount on the backpack. If a child completes a Junior Ranger certification program they receive a big discount on a Junior Ranger backpack on that day.

My store can buy cheaper Junior Ranger backpacks from a park association out west. Those backpacks look just like yours. Why should I go with your backpacks?

The copycat ‘Junior Ranger’ backpack is cheaper for a reason: it uses poor materials, low-quality seam work, is NOT compliant with U.S. product testing laws and is a blatant copy of GlyphGuy’s original backpack design.

The copycat looks like a GlyphGuy Junior Ranger backpack but NOT in functionality, durability, product testing or originality.

Remember, your park is what it sells to the public.

Junior Ranger Backpacks, Interpretation, and the Art of Merchandising

How should Junior Ranger backpacks be merchandised? Here are some successful park store experiences –

A family enters the Visitors Center of a Park. Inside the building are the standard features: information counter, maps, interpretive displays, camping information, and a chalkboard scribbled with the latest trail and weather conditions. A small store area entices visitors with a colorful arrangement of park products that include: clothes, a Junior Ranger backpack, bug viewer, journal, compass, field guides, and a Junior Ranger activity book.

The Dad notices a Coyote Junior Ranger backpack displayed on the wall. He takes a closer look. A sign on the backpack reads, ‘Try Me On.’ For a minute the Dad adjusts the pack over his shoulder; this middle-aged man looks silly trying on a Junior Ranger backpack but the kid in him cannot resist. The young daughter approaches and picks up a smaller, Chipmunk Junior Ranger backpack. Dad had not seen this backpack on the shelf, but his daughter did. Close to the backpack samples were several baskets filled with flat backpacks ready for sale. Peppered around the baskets are child-sized binoculars, compasses, and items that complement the Junior Ranger program.

The young girl tries on the smaller backpack. She twirls to show Dad then picks up a Junior Ranger activity book. She runs over to Mom. Dad studies his backpack: the stitching, the zippers even the embroidery. It was maybe a few dollars more than he wants to spend, but it is a solid backpack that will be used many times over. He reads the hangtag and is impressed that a backpack’s manufacturer donates a portion of the sale to the National Park Service.

An eye-catching note on the wall mentions an ‘adventure pack’ program where families can borrow an outfitted backpack and aspiring Junior Rangers could use the equipment to help with their own explorations. The girl came back with Mom in tow. The daughter was ready to earn her Junior Ranger badge, maybe even get a Junior Ranger backpack.

At the counter, the family chatted with the store employee for several minutes. The employee was very knowledgeable about the park and products in the store.

The family enjoyed the day. The information from the store employee, the good workmanship on the backpack and the Junior Ranger activities were combined to make the family’s time in the park relaxing, fun and relevant.

Merchandising any product is about finding the right combination of products, price, promotion, and place on the store shelf. The art of merchandising Junior Ranger backpacks is to remember that park visitors seek benefits provided by a product – not the product itself. Consider these points when merchandising your Junior Ranger backpacks:

A). Perspective
Keep a stuffed backpack at your audience’s eye level. If your audience is 4 to 6; or 7 to 12 place items for their perspective. Need a refresher course? Stand on your knees and look at the items in your store. How do you see things?

B). Hands-on
The number one missed opportunity in park stores is leaving a sample backpack flat! Ever seen a flat backpack? It is boring – the benefits are hard to see. Provide your customers with a sample Junior Ranger backpack that is plump. Find some brown Kraft paper, or recycle newspaper, and stuff a backpack with the crumpled paper. This plump backpack will be a what customer can pick up and squeeze, grip the texture, look at the materials, observe the workmanship, feel the weight, see it on another family member, even try it themselves. These things are hard to do with a flat backpack. A plump Junior Ranger backpack allows people to visualize how it can benefit them.

C). Location
What are the first things people see when they enter your store? Do you have a display that is inviting? Do the products differentiate your store from another store – or associate your park to a larger park system? Are the products in context with the park? Do the products benefit or detract from the park experience?

D). Make the ‘buy’ decision easier
Make the decision to ‘buy’ easier for the customer. Take away as many objections as you can by providing a physical sample and offering helpful information about the backpack. Create opportunities for people to see how a Junior Ranger backpack can benefit their time in the park – even their experiences after they leave the park.

E) Pricing
Should Junior Ranger backpacks be priced higher or lower than the suggested retail? Are you in business to make money, further an interpretive mission or do both? These can only be answered at your store level. But consider what other parks have done. A handful of parks have sold Junior Ranger backpacks at low retail to increase program participation. Some heavily visited parks sell the backpacks at suggested retail to maximize revenue. The majority of parks sell the backpacks slightly less than suggested retail. They make less profit per unit but sell more.

F). Cross-merchandise
How do you want visitors to see the Junior Ranger backpacks? As just another backpack, or as a tool to help youth explore and gain a better appreciation of the park. Help visitors see that the backpack can be an extension of his or her own explorations. Provide a sample with a bug-box, binoculars, viewers, field guides, journals, and any items that might be appropriate.

G). Sell the Junior Ranger experience, not just a backpack
Do you have the ability or opportunity to link the backpacks into your Junior Ranger programming? Maybe the backpack becomes a reward item for completing a Junior Ranger activity. Possibly the backpacks are used as ‘discovery backpacks’ and loaned out to visitors to help them discover for themselves why your park is important. It is the larger Junior Ranger experience that should be marketed first; backpacks are a tool to help with the experience.

H). Increase Your Product Knowledge
Ten minutes of product knowledge can go a long way to benefit your sales. Visit these web pages for a quick read:

– Mapping Park Store Products To Tilden’s Interpretive Principles
An interpretive product should help convey appreciation for or understanding of a site or park program. But, what is an interpretive product? These questions were developed as food-for-thought for park store staff…

– A Strong Park Store Does Not Sell Products
A strong park store does not sell products, it sells benefits. During a visit to a National Park last summer I overheard a family refer to the products in the park store as ‘weak’. Looking at the shelves filled with plastic mementos and affixed logo items I knew what they meant…

– GlyphGuy’s ‘Green’ Steps
GlyphGuy is a small, family-owned company that works to reduce waste, conserve energy and prevent pollution in all business activities. Since we began making backpacks in 2003 our ultimate goal was to become a zero-waste company…

Greening the National or State Park’s Interpretive Center

Parks and outdoor interpretive organizations are always looking to green their operations. But sometimes the enthusiasm of the moment results in a “Ready, Fire!, Aim” approach that has unexpected consequences.

Please use the following “Ready, Aim, Fire!” framework to generate additional discussion at your own location.

First, understand the purpose of greening your enterprise (Ready). What problem do you wish to solve?

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the purpose of greening your space is not about ‘saving the planet’ or ‘protecting the environment’. While individuals and organizations may be passionate about such issues, framing a discussion around these overmarketed hot-button slogans could have combustible results. Remember that a manager, co-worker, budget officer, a visitor, even a financial donor may have a very different perception about these words and their meanings.

The purpose of greening your organization should instead be grounded in measurable benefits like reducing waste, reusing-recycling materials and conserving energy. Any green activity must make sense financially.

Second, understand the business justification (Aim). What results or benefits do you wish to obtain from your green project? Here are three of my favorites:

– Obtain the marketing high ground.
– Gain a competitive advantage.
– A healthier bottom-line.

Obtain the marketing high-ground: By reducing waste, reusing-recycling materials and conserving energy you can market yourself as a good neighbor and a positive influence in the community. Good neighbors are hard to find. Good neighbors have value.

Gain a competitive advantage: You want to provide a potential visitor less of a reason to say ‘no’ about visiting your location. By demonstrating a healthy and clean place for families to visit and spend quality time you gain an advantage over competitors (competitors include anything that will distract a possible visitor from spending time at your site).

A healthier bottom line: If you measure the results of your green processes (reducing waste, reusing-recycling materials and conserving energy), review and make adjustments along the way, the long-term effect will be a healthier bottom line for your organization.

Third, now you have defined the purpose (Ready) and understand the business justification (Aim), you can pull-the-trigger (Fire!). Here are five helpful steps to consider:

Step 1: Scope
Document your project’s scope – this includes the project’s purpose and business justification. Imagine that you will sit down with a hard-nosed decision maker – you only have two minutes to answer their question, “Why should I care about this?” Open up a blank PowerPoint presentation and start typing; in 5-7 slides, no more than 10 you can make an executive level presentation – short, quick, to the point. Even if you never use this document in a presentation, you understand (and can communicate) the scope of the project.

Step 2: Assessment
The purpose of an assessment is to help establish a baseline for your green practices. A baseline is an original plan for a project, and any changes will be measured against the baseline. Here are two green business frameworks to help with your assessment. These frameworks were developed by the Santa Clara County – Bay Area Green Business Program (please look these up online for the latest versions).

Please note the Bay Area Green Business Program can only certify businesses and organizations within their territory (San Francisco Bay Area in California). Possibly the need exists for a national certification especially for interpretive centers and related organizations (hint).

Step 3: Implementation
This is an entire subject by itself of which future articles will be written. But here are some key points to remember when implementing your green processes.

» Build on small victories.
» Generate momentum (buy-in) for your project by demonstrating the economic benefits.
» Green activities should not be dictated from above – rather modeled.
» Don’t clutter up people’s lives with inconvenient solutions to small problems.
» Document processes.

Step 4: Communicate
Publish the processes on an intranet or another centralized internal website. Communicate with your donors and visitors about how you are reducing pollution, etc. Educate any front line staff to the advantages and goals of your project.

Step 5: Measure
Refer to your original baseline and track progress at least on a monthly basis.

When greening your own operation remember a “Ready, Aim, Fire!” approach before starting a project. Understanding the purpose and the justification of the project will help you in reaching your green goals.

From Confrontation to Conversation in the Nonprofit Store

Sometimes a park visitor is irritated about something. They direct it at you. They say something in a harsh tone and an awkward response is made. No one intends it, but the dialogue is becoming a confrontation. One simple question can redirect a possible confrontation back to a conversation.

The question is, “What would you like me to do?”

A Park once requested I work on a design for their Park Store. After spending several days in the Park I returned to the Park Store for a wrap-up meeting. While in the parking lot I noticed a very large Cadillac sedan. In the Cadillac was an elderly couple; their license plate showed they were from several states to the east of their current location. Their car doors opened. The wife commented, “This place looks nice. Let’s see if we can get something for Megan.” He loudly commented about finding a restroom.

I arrived in the Park Store for my meeting a few minutes early so I browsed the store’s items. A minute later the elderly couple entered the building. The woman saw something on a store shelf and walked over to look. The man quickly walked up to the checkout desk and bluntly asked, “Where’s the can around here?”

A very young seasonal worker was behind the desk. She was nice enough but spoke as though she was reading from a script, “Hello. The Day Use fee is $5.00.”

His tone was gruff, ” I can always tell when I drive into this state – my wallet gets lighter.”

The worker politely smiled. “It’s five dollars to visit the park, sir.”

He appeared to be physically uncomfortable. “We’re not visiting the park!” snapped the man.

The worker looked surprised, “Visiting or not sir, everyone needs to pay the day use fee.”

The man shook his head, “Five bucks, for a ten minute stop?”

The worker dug in her heels. “Sorry, sir. Those are the rules.”

“Rules!” blurted the man, “Every time I visit this G%&-D#*n state I am always being nickel-and-dimed for something.”

The young worker appeared uncertain of what to say next. People in the Visitors Center were becoming uncomfortable by the language. The man huffed under his breath, “Fine! I’ll pay the fee – just tell me where the restrooms are.” The girl pointed to a side door. He quickly disappeared out of the building. The worker mumbled, “If you’re going to be that way, we don’t want you here anyway!” The wife must have heard this because at that moment she quietly put down an item she had in her hand and left the store. Neither the elderly man nor woman returned. They would probably think very differently about parks from that day forward.

This was a sad and unnecessary escalation that could have been avoided. Obviously better training for the worker; improved visitor signage with larger text; or even an identified 15-minute parking area would have helped. But at any point during the escalating conversation, the worker could have sincerely looked at the man and asked, “What would you like me to do?”

The question is powerful and direct. It does two things: Firstly, it identifies that you can act, or are at least prepared to act and; secondly, it requires irritated visitors to state what they want/need to resolve the issue.

If the elderly man had been asked, “What would you like me to do?” he may have responded with, “I need a bathroom and my wife is looking for a gift for our grand-daughter. I don’t want to pay $5.00 because we will be here less than 10 minutes.” The worker could have replied, “OK. The restroom is around the corner. If you decide to spend more time in the park can I get your assurance you’ll pay for day use?”

Most people are not irrational; they can be irritable because they are uncomfortable or stressed about something besides you. This elderly man was loud and obnoxious, but these personality issues were probably exacerbated because he was very tired from a long drive and needed a restroom. The worker became a target for his frustrations. When the occasional visitor is irritable and not communicating effectively, ask:

What do you want me to do?

This question can move the dialogue from a possible confrontation back to a conversation.