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The Early Camp Director Catches the Worm



Aug 22, 2005, 8:51 AM

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Imagine the future – the 7th of July, 2006.

Eager campers will spill out of school buses and into the dining hall, marking the start of another summer camp season. The camp director and counselors will stand side by side, ready to face every possible mishap and malfunction. They will have spent months preparing for this moment.

They are going to be ready.

Suddenly, an anguished cry pierces the air. It’s coming from supply shed number three. A young counselor comes rushing out, drenched in a cold sweat.

“We have no toilet paper!” he cries in a contained panic. The camp director calmly hands him the company credit card and the keys to the van.

“Run to the nearest general store and pick up as much as you can”.

Three hours later, the counselor returns, and what should have cost the camp $200 now puts them $520 in the hole.

Does this sound familiar?

To camp directors, the nature of the summer camp industry is seasonal – time is money. This camp season is winding down, so thinking about the start of the 2006 season now will save you time and money.

Aside from the peace of mind that comes with planning ahead, a little foresight can save camps hundreds of dollars in expenses every year. Smart camp directors take inventory of their equipment, furniture and supplies as soon as the camp season ends in August, and negotiate great deals at summer’s end. By this time, vendors are eager to get rid of unsold equipment and supplies to make room for next year’s new merchandise – a perfect opportunity for the cost-savvy camp director to save major cash.

Here’s a sample list of what to check over in preparing your camp for next summer’s little adventurers:

  • Beds: This is especially important where bunk beds are concerned. Check for broken ladders, guard rails and weakened bed frames. Check mattresses and bedding: are there pillows and sheets for each bed? What about sleeping bags?
  • Appliances: Check that all toilets, showers, outhouses, dishwashers, ovens, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and other appliances are in working order.
  • Sporting Goods: Take inventory of broken and missing equipment and ensure all safety and medical equipment meet national standards. Check that kayaks and canoes are in working order, and that playground equipment is in good condition. Tennis and basketball courts often need annual re-finishing – this is a great time to bargain for discounts on such services.
  • Miscellaneous: Camps typically overspend on “small” purchases (garbage cans, paint, dishes, arts and crafts supplies, AV equipment, cleaning supplies) by buying at the last minute and through retail vendors. Pre-planning, shopping early and “going wholesale” can result in significant savings in this area alone.

Shopping early also gives directors the leeway to shop around, obtaining several price quotes for the work from recommended contractors. Price quotes may vary significantly due to factors such as the contractor’s schedule, the distance from the job and the time of year’s Vendor Outlet is a great place for camp directors to begin their search for products and services at great prices. Directors can browse our marketplace by category or search by name or keyword for the vendors that will meet their needs.

There is an added advantage for camps located in close proximity to other camps or camps that belong to a family of camps or a local union – directors can band together to negotiate major discounts from local wholesale vendors and service providers. A vendor may not offer a significant price reduction to a single camp looking to purchase four bunk beds. But with an aggregate request of 25 beds, three or four camp directors have more leverage working as a team.

It pays to shop around and shop early for the best equipment and supplies. For those who barter collectively, the savings can amount to thousands. More importantly, they have the peace of mind knowing that they are prepared for the upcoming season, leaving more time to focus on marketing and camper recruitment throughout the year.

Shaby Ranganathan is the Director of Communications for


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