Smart Business Model: Back-to-School Shopping Made Easy

Simplifying the school-supply shopping process has helped local firm A. Hartz grow its business—and made life easier for many Westchester parents.

A parent walks into a drug store with a back-to-school shopping list. No, that’s not the start of a joke. But it was the start of A. Hartz, a division of Value Drugs, a family-run drug store with local locations in Briarcliff, Bronxville, and Eastchester, as well as NYC and Long Island.

Six years ago, while working in the Bronxville location of Value Drugs, Bill Stroud was helping a parent find all the items on her back-to-school list when a light bulb went off. “I said, ‘Why don’t we put together a shopping service, some type of a package,” says Stroud, director of sales for A. Hartz, which launched in 2008 working with just one school in Eastchester. “I thought that I had come up with the greatest idea in the world. Unbeknownst to me, there were a lot of people doing this already, but, nonetheless, we started.”

The company’s Pack to School service has grown to work with 31 schools (15 of which are in the county) helping teachers and parents complete their back-to-school shopping. The way it works is schools send A. Hartz their school-supply lists for the upcoming year. A. Hartz will take that mostly generic list (pencils, glue stick, et al) and prepare a price quote with name-brand items (Ticonderoga pencils, Elmer’s glue stick, et al). After the schools approve the items, A. Hartz puts the list up on its site for parents to purchase, and sets up a time when the packets can be delivered to the school.

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“The back-to-school business has become very list driven,” says Stroud, who estimates A. Hartz will deliver nearly 6,000 packets this year. “The kids are given their list and they’re told to just purchase what’s on there. There’s not a lot of, ‘Just go get pencils and pens,’ anymore. Everything is controlled, so we cater our retail business to that.”

Local PTAs are even using the service for fundraising. “Once we take those lists, we sell it back to the PTA and they’ll get it and maybe put a fee on top of it and sell through them,” says Stroud. “It’s great because they feel like they’re participating not only in a fundraiser, but in something that is concrete for the students.”

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