Raise your hand if you lost a couple days of your life on hold or emailing with costume companies trying to get what you needed for your spring recital this year. Well, what if you could circumvent all that by keeping your costumes in house while still making money from them?
I started a costume rental program at my studio 2 years after I added a winter recital to our yearly lineup. Yes, a 2nd recital added to the year is a lot of planning and work, but it pays off big. Not only is the recital a very nice profit center, it keeps students motivated and excited all year, and bolsters student retention. However, purchasing 2 sets of costumes each year can be cost prohibitive for your studio families. I have found that splitting the difference by renting costumes to them for the winter show and selling costumes for the spring show is a win-win. You could certainly flip-flop that. I like to rent out the costumes for the winter program because it always has the same basic theme of winter/ holiday/ Nutcracker, whereas I try to do something totally different for each spring showcase.
Acquiring the Costumes
I initially acquired my costume inventory by buying back some sets of costumes from students from the previous year at half what they purchased them for, and I watched for the clearance sales at the major costume vendors. I tried to keep the purchase price of the costumes close to what I would charge for the rental fee so that I would make my money back the first year. To keep things fresh and to keep up with the growth of my studio, I do usually add a new set or 2 of costumes each year. Because I’m making a good profit from the many sets that have already been paid for, I can spend a bit more on the new sets that I’m adding.
Choosing the Right Costumes
While I was thrifty finding costumes at clearance prices, I did order quality costumes. I wouldn’t recommend undercutting quality. You still need to provide a special experience for your students. (Please don’t go and order a bunch of plain leotards and wrap skirts to mix and match.) I order costumes that are somewhat versatile so that I will have lots of options for their future use. Two-in-one costumes are especially great. I also make sure that I order a few more of them than I think I will ever need, because I have ended up needing more than I thought I would. I get one for each set that is a size larger and one that is a size smaller than I think I will need. Usually, if you’re buying something that is on clearance, it means that it will not be available in the future. By covering my bases, I won’t end up spending money on a set of costumes that I won’t get much use out of.
Organizing and Cataloging My Costume Inventory
It would be a major pain to go digging into my costume closet to see if I had what I needed for each class when it came time to assign costumes. I keep an organized “catalog” of all of the costumes that I have in my inventory including a picture of the costume, the vendor I ordered it from and the item number in case I need to order more, and how many I have of each size. I can also share this document with my faculty so that they can select the costumes they would like to use for their classes. You can grab a free catalog template here.
Storing My Costumes
I originally rented a storage unit to house my collection. That was an extra expense and not so convenient. I eventually repurposed a room at my studio to store them in. To save space, I had my husband build a system of 3 rows of hanging racks that stack to the ceiling so I can use the vertical space while saving the floor space. I keep the floor space free for rolling racks that I organize the costumes onto that we will actually use for the recital. I have a couple sets of shelving that I store accessories on in clear tubs so I can see exactly what I have and where it is. I’ll be honest, when my costume closet is well organized, it makes me very happy.
Sizing Students and Preparing for Recitals
As we head into recital preparations, we estimate what size costume each student will need. This helps us determine which of our sets of costumes will work for each class. As each set was purchased with a certain age group and dance style in mind, we already have a pretty good grasp on our options. The aforementioned catalog document also helps to make this process pretty quick and simple. We pull the sets for each group and have the students try them on in class. We then label each costume with the dancer’s name and organize them onto rolling racks.
Maintenance and Protection
My costume rental inventory has proved to be a great investment. I protect my investment by storing my costumes properly, making repairs as needed and never letting them go home with students. I store the costumes. I rent a truck to transport the costumes to and from the show venue. I require that every student wear a nude leotard under the costumes. (Which, by the way, is an additional source of revenue.) I also require a signed costume rental agreement stating the expectations of care of the costume and that the parents will be required to pay to replace it if it is damaged.
The results of my costume rental program have been awesome! Parents love the money that the rental program saves them, and the studio makes nearly as much money from renting the costumes in the winter and it does from selling them in the spring, without all the time it takes to select costumes, measure students, and place orders. I recouped most of my original investment in the first show. After that the program was almost pure profit with the exception of ordering 1 or 2 more sets per year and some new accessories here and there.
For more information about starting, managing and profiting from a costume rental program in your studio or help with planning 2 stress-free recitals every year go to www.studioplannerpro.com.