About five-and-one-half million children ranging in age from 7 to 14 years will attend camp during the summer months ahead. Every one of them has to be outfitted, uniformed, name-tagged and packed up. There are three methods to follow in outfitting a young camper. One way is to get a list of required gear and clothing from the camp and collect the items, one by one. A second method is to take the list to a camping shop that can furnish everything from a blanket to toilet kit, flashlight, underwear, bathing suit and even mess kit.
The third procedure is to order by mail if a camp shop is not locally available. The list obtained from the camp should be filled out with the child's correct sizes and mailed to the official outfitter or camp shop. The shop will return your order sheet with prices filled in and await your confirmation before filling the order.
Several camp shops also will name-tape every item and then ship the trunk or duffel bag directly to the camp on a specified date.
A first-season camper's equipment and clothing usually totals up to better than 125 items. It may seem contradictory for a child to wear an official outfit or uniform for roughing it, but, however rugged the program, camp officials want the kids to keep clean and look neat with the least amount of effort. They also prefer to avoid the status rivalry often produced by personally chosen outfits.
Most camp shops open during March or April and operate through June. Many are located in metropolitan New York, but all of them do a big mail-order business.
Rappaport's at 2307 Broadway in New York City opened a camping shop on the lower floor of the clothing store on March 1 and will not close it until July 1. With more than 25 years' experience, the shop is one of the oldest and largest camp outfitters, serving approximately 3,000 camp-bound youngsters each season. "First-time campers always come in and place their orders early, about March 1," says Sam Rappaport. Depending on the camp and its requirements and the size of the youngster, he figures a first-season camper's initial order runs from $150 to $200. This includes the big expenditure items, such as the trunk, duffel bag, pillow, three blankets, four to six sheets, four pillow cases, six bath towels, toilet kit, mess kit, flashlight, knapsack, sleeping bag, uniforms and so on. Yearly fill-in orders average about $50 at most. Three to four weeks are required to label and name-tape everything. Name-taping and delivery of an already packed trunk is a service of the store, and there is no extra charge.
The colorful pennant-decorated Campers' Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue is located at 9 East 49th Street, above the toy store. Saks, like other camp outfitters, carries basic camp wardrobes and is designated official outfitter for more than 150 camps. Saks tries to put a lot of styling into the "extras." Two new items in the camp shop this year are a lightweight yellow nylon slicker with huge patch pockets, metal snap fasteners and sou'wester hat; it is made in all sizes for boys and girls and costs $10. There is also a trim-hooded nylon-fleece-lined poplin parka with knit cuffs and heavy-duty zipper. The parka comes in dark green, brown, navy, red, maroon and gray in sizes for boys and girls, $14. Saks' young camping customers are becoming more conservative. They prefer sweatshirts with smaller camp emblems, and they like them sewn on the left side of the shirt instead of the camp name emblazoned across the front. All camps request a label on each garment; Saks will hand-sew all labels free of charge and will pack all clothing and equipment in a trunk and send it directly to camp.
April 30 is opening day at Macy's Camp Centre. Here a unique system of catering to the camp, the camper and the parent is worked out ahead of time. In order to be official outfitter for 267 camps, early in the year the store furnishes the camps with lists on which to specify their uniform requirements. Then the shop prints bulk quantities for each camp, and the camps in turn forward them to the parents of enrolled youngsters. It is as simple as that. This system expedites going through the more than 600 colors, sizes and styles available for boys and girls. Within each category the shop attempts to have variety and selection in quality and price. For example, boys' polo shirts are available at $1.69, $2.19 and $2.25. Name-taping, as well as packing and shipping of trunks, are additional services.
The Campers' World at Abraham & Straus in Brooklyn is another shop that caters to one-stop shopping. Its opening date was April 2, and it is equipped to outfit young campers from head to toe and supply bedding and equipment. Name tapes are sewn on without charge on orders of $25 or more.
This large business has even created one shop, small in size, enormous in volume, all for itself. It is the Camp Shop at 550 Fifth Avenue, which supplies all the services associated with the genre to 10,000 kids every spring—many of them by mail.