How Walmart makes money off of high schools

The school year is just about over, which means it's time for prom, yearbooks, spring fever and maybe a little nostalgia — especially for the parents of high-school-age kids — that can be best expressed by buying some school merchandise. Go, East Angels!

But not all merchandise is created equal. While the stuff you buy at your school probably stays at school, the T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, alarm clocks and other gear conveniently hawked by the big chains may not do the same. "Walgreens and Walmart had been making money off of the high schools for years without anyone overseeing it — not just in Colorado, but all over the country," says Rhonda Blanford-Green, associate commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association. "The merchandise was being sold without any cutbacks to the schools."

In other words, those crafty merchants simply appropriated the names, logos and mascots of local schools — whether the George Washington Patriots in Denver, the Arapahoe High Warriors in Centennial or the Greeley Central Wild Cats — and sold their own merchandise at nearby stores. So last year, the National Federation of State High School Associations and a partner company, Licensing Resource Group, negotiated an agreement that would allow high schools to get royalties from such sales. And now the retailers that have legally partnered with the high schools display an "NFHS Official High School Licensed Product" hang tag from the merchandise, so consumers know that it's not bootleg.



"All of the states are involved, but Colorado is one of the states that is very progressive and involved with this," says Dick Welsh, who manages the program for the NFHS. In 2010, roughly half of Colorado's 338 high schools participated, receiving a combined total of $50,000 in royalties. "That's no small amount of money, considering that this was the first year of the program." Nationwide, the association gave out "well over a million dollars in 2010," Welsh adds, noting that Walgreens and Walmart are both part of the program. "It was very successful, and we think it will grow."

Welsh recommends that all high schools trademark their logos and marks — something that might only cost them about $100 to do — so that they can protect their own interests. Blanford-Green says that many schools have been hesitant to do so because they don't want to inhibit fundraisers for school programs and activities that might require the school logos, but she's still pushing them to sign up for the NFHS program, even if they're small and don't sell much merchandise."It costs the school nothing, so it's in their best interests," she notes. "There are still some who haven't, but we will do an education campaign in July for the next school year."

Scene and herd: This isn't the first time the Colorado Legislature has tried to repeal the archaic law banning adultery. In the early 1970s, retired Colorado Supreme Court Justice Otto Moore was helping to coordinate a major revision of criminal law statutes — including one banning fornication and adultery. At a hearing on the proposals, then-legislator Jerry Kopel asked, "Mr. Justice, can you define for committee members the difference between adultery and fornication?" As Kopel recalls, Moore paused and then, with a with a twinkle in his eye, answered,"Well, I have tried both, and I did not find any difference."


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