Santas Helpers Learn Retail, Walk Children Through

Santas Helpers Learn Retail, Walk Children Through

With an increase of students at Springfield Mall’s Classroom on the Mall, the high-school students are hitting this year’s "Holiday Gift Store" with a three-pronged approach.

The Holiday Gift Store is one of their big projects for the year, and students are now divided into inventory, promotion and merchandising teams. Since the class has more students than in years past, each team has 30 students.

Melanie Coughlan, fashion marketing teacher, mans the helm at the marketing class, which has students from Lee High School, West Potomac High School, Hayfield Secondary and Annandale High.

"Most of it [about the Gift Store] was from word of mouth," Coughlan said.

Starting Friday, Nov. 28, the shop will be open on evenings and weekends for children between 3 and 12 to go through the shop, accompanied by a student, or "Santa’s Little Helper," to pick out a gift. Everything is priced under $10. Most of the proceeds from the sales go to the Toys for Tots program, with the remaining paying for the operation of the store. Last year, the shop sent $2,000 to the Toys for Tots program, said Coughlan.

Will Kear, a junior at Lee, is on the promotion team.

"This is something I want to do when I grow up," she said.

Fellow Lee junior, Chris Stephenson, was also involved in the visual merchandising aspect. They had a low-tech system down pat when hanging the lights and decorations at the store. He gets up on the ladder and then asks for group input for what looks good.

"That’s how we figure it out," he said.

Sara Sedegie is also a Lee junior, and she is involved with inventory. She made sure that they had plenty of ornaments on hand. They will be big-selling items this year, Sara speculated.

"There’s ones with different sports, ones with little Chinese food boxes," Sara said.

STARTING IN JANUARY, the Classroom on the Mall is participating in a program with the National Retail Federation to offer a retail certification program for students and members of the public who want to be retail-certified. The program will adhere to government standards to improve retail skills.

Debra Brake, fellow fashion marketing teacher at Springfield Mall, looks forward to enhancing retail skills. She comes to the classroom with 16 years’ experience in retail.

"It’s going to give the kids here a start for their résumé," Brake said.

"It will put them a step above," Coughlan said.

Diane Pruner, Fairfax County Public Schools director of professional technical studies, is associated with the nationwide program. The Classroom on the Mall at Springfield Mall is a pilot for the certificate program in this area. The students gain the skills needed for the test in class. Pruner hopes to offer the test to employees of stores in the mall, at the individual store’s expense.

"We feel like the skills that we teach in our marketing course will put them in the position to pass the test," she