On an annual basis, The Harvard Shop has a pop up shop - or “tent” - at the Harvard Class Day and Commencement ceremonies. As the only student run retailer of Harvard gear, The Harvard Shop’s commencement team is rife with energy and genuine excitement for their graduating peers. What started out as a single table in the yard has now grown into a massive operation, with 2 coffee stands and pop up retail locations: one at the Graduate School of Education and one front and center in front of Boylston Hall.
While it’s an exciting day for graduates (and of course, nothing beats cheering for HSA alum passing by the tent), it also marks the beginning of the summer at HSA. During the semester, student managers only work 15 hours a week on top of balancing school, friends, and other extracurriculars. However, during the summer, all student managers transition into working 40 hours a week. For many student managers, tabling during Commencement may be the first time all semester they have gotten to really work with managers from other agencies who usually focus on different industry verticals. It’s a time where all student managers across all agencies work together as a unit to help The Harvard Shop make their Commencement sales budget.
Of course, it wouldn’t be HSA without lots of fun involved. We’ve learned over the years that there is a certain magic to playing hype music and pumping caffeine into young adults at 5AM in the morning. Adrenaline fuels even the most sedentary of college students to lift tents, shelves, and product from the HSA headquarters a block away to Harvard yard. This year we brought a huge variety of products over to the tent ranging from Hillflint sweaters and Vineyard Vines bow ties to “Harvard Mom” and “Harvard Dad” tees. As early as 6AM, the first sale was made by an excited manager from Cleaners and Dorm Essentials, operating the iPad POS like a professional. In an era of internet shopping and credit cards, a manager even asked “how much is a nickel worth?” perhaps supporting that generalization that Harvard students are more book smart than street smart. Customers at the tent ranged from the curious graduate who finally got their hands on the iconic “H Sweater” to proud family members buying memorabilia for family unable to attend the festivities.
Tenting at commencement is also rife with its challenges including a complete Harvard WiFi meltdown in the Yard that prevented our Vend point-of-sale platform from properly accessing inventory counts and connecting to Square for credit card transactions. Problem solving on the go is one of our managers’ strengths, however, and a couple of runs to Verizon later, we had a network of mobile hotspots up and running.
Although the student managers are physically exhausted by the end of two 12-hour tenting days, there is nothing quite as fulfilling as crushing a sales goal after sweating hard as a team for it.