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Becky Erickson, Head of Early Childhood Education, Amazon Business

Over the last ten years, federal funding for early childhood programs saw a 62% increase; however, the reality is that the nation’s 675,000 childcare providers often just break even on maintaining their programs. The reasoning behind it? Providers say the increased business costs related to new state regulations, low wages due to lack of funding, and high personal stress are causes for shuttering the business. New reports show “childcare deserts”, areas with no licensed child care providers or less than 1 slot in a licensed center. Parents and caregivers are worried as an alarming number of early childcare providers have closed their doors. For those in operation, the vast majority of income from tuition goes towards keeping the businesses afloat.

With resources already stretched thin, finding time to keep classrooms properly supplied is one of the top issues, especially when providers often work 12 hour shifts. To understand where they shop, how often they buy, and how much money they spend on everything from classroom and cleaning supplies to toys and snacks, Agile Education Marketing surveyed 780 center directors and in-home providers from across the country about their purchasing habits and how much time is spent on purchasing supplies.

The results showed 94% of providers spend 2-10 hours a week making shopping trips and managing receipts. This highly manual process is a drain on a director’s time and money. As much as 60% of providers still shopped at brick and mortar stores and 30% said they visited between three and six retailers a week. The hours spent gathering supply requests from teachers, then driving, loading shopping carts, managing receipts, and transporting supplies back to schools are significant, resulting in less time focused on students and longer work hours. Fortunately, there are a number of ways schools and childcare centers can digitally transform their purchasing processes and bring the shopping experiences they know and love at home, to work.

When deciding which retailers to use, Agile Education Marketing found that price was the most important factor to providers, with shipping and immediate availability following closely behind. In comparison to purchasing in brick and mortar stores, an online marketplace with a large selection gives providers the ability to gain access to millions of sellers with one click. Directors have more selection, conveniently available at their fingertips and full visibility to the price.

For example, a quick online search for “STEM preschool blocks” will result in a multitude of offers from different sellers, allowing educators to compare products, prices, and customer reviews. This can help them make more informed purchasing decisions and stretch existing dollars further to create higher quality programs for students.

The use of an online B2B store can digitally transform manual processes to help providers save time and money. “Getting my supplies within 1 to 2 days is a big deal when running a family childcare business,” Tessie Ragan, owner of Perfect Start Preschool, a school located 3 hours away from educational supply stores. “With Amazon Business, I managed to cut my monthly expense budget by at least 40% a month with bulk ordering – 95 percent of all equipment and supplies I have been looking for I have been able to find for a reasonable price and with good quality.”

Educators seek unique items to help create an engaging learning environment for students. However, many early education providers do not always have time or staff to source niche suppliers for special education toys, Montessori sensory materials, or inspiring classroom decorations and organizers. By purchasing through Amazon Business, childcare providers can take advantage of convenient shipping options, such as next day deliveries, to get the supplies they need as fast as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found over a third of respondents wished they could devote more time to educational programming development, as opposed to managing purchases. While bringing these processes online might be a process up front as managers shift current familiar shopping habits, it can give early childcare professionals the time and savings to focus on what really matters: the students.

2019 Early Childhood Supplies Purchasing Habits Survey

Download Survey Infographic

About the Author

Becky Erickson joined Amazon Business in 2018 to lead Early Childhood Education. In her role, she leads vision and strategy for Early Childhood customers to help them reinvent their procurement processes using Amazon Business’s B2B marketplace and saving time and money so they can focus on their educational mission.

Prior to Amazon Business, Becky worked for more than 10 years in high tech startup and children’s product development. At Microsoft, she led product marketing for an ecosystem of 3D & Mixed Reality apps to develop children’s creative play and spatial skills. She also worked at Disney Consumer Products managing brand strategy and product development for baby, toddler, and children’s products. She holds an MBA with a concentration in technology and entrepreneurship from UCLA Anderson.