South Carolina's Boys State store is big business
Delegates shop at the South Carolina Boys State store at Anderson University in Anderson, S.C., on Friday, June 14. Photo by Jeff Blake/The American Legion

South Carolina's Boys State store is big business

The store at Palmetto Boys State is a year-round venture for staff members Whit Campbell and Daiten McCraw — and a sizable source of revenue for the program.

“The revenue that it brings in for us is the lifeblood of the organization for sure,” McCraw said, noting that the income from the store helps pay for the charter buses that take the Boys Staters from Anderson University to the capital in Columbia for inauguration day, as well as funding scholarships. “It’s just a huge pump of revenue into the organization.”

Campbell and McCraw both previously served as counselors for the program. After Campbell’s third year as counselor, he was asked by director of branding Tom Merritt to come back as his assistant. As Merritt sought to transition out of the store, McCraw came on board.

“(Merritt) knew what prices were supposed to be, and he knew what these guys were paying for shirts, therefore we knew what we should be paying for shirts, and we still do because we’ve always had those numbers basically in the backs of our heads. That, plus using the buying power of saying, ‘Hey, I’m about to buy 8,000 shirts, work a deal with me,’” Campbell said.

“We work year-round doing all this stuff, buying all the inventory,” McCraw said. “You need at least two guys dedicated to it year-round.”

The store stocks a variety of merchandise for the week, including shirts, shorts, neckties, journals, water bottles and coffee mugs, and graduation cords — an idea the South Carolina staff borrowed from Texas and which has become one of Palmetto Boys State’s best-selling items.

Perhaps nothing is more important than the branding that goes into the items Campbell and McCraw order.

“You can find the coolest piece of merchandise, but if the logo isn’t good, it’s not going to do a thing,” McCraw said. “Everything that we do in the store is basically, we set a brand standard. We find things that a guy this age, 16 to 17, is going to want to wear. We spent a lot of time developing that logo to where it was something that you could wear outside of the week.”

“That’s the biggest thing is making sure that a 16- or 17-year-old is going to wear it when they go home, because then that makes people ask questions about it and they can tell their experience,” Campbell said.

Campbell and McCraw track sales and compile data to keep track of what’s selling and what days are the top sales days year over year.

“For inventory purposes, we track all that. It used to be we would have to make midweek orders, run to the screen printer for shirts because we ran out. This year we didn’t really have to do it,” McCraw said.

“There’s a lot of overhead in, but fortunately, a lot of our vendors, we don’t have to pay until Boys State is over,” Campbell said.

“The other big thing is, we don’t put years on anything,” McCraw said. “Everything we do is something we can carry over, so eventually that inventory pays for itself. … Our target is to try to find the leanest we can be and still have enough.”