Storage dilemma yields entrepreneurial solution

Facing the prospect of two years of school construction, a Pennsylvania band director was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Two entire rooms, filled with flags and uniforms, needed to be moved out of the building and there was simply no place to store them.

Enter Brian Prato, a member of the band’s instructional staff. Prato, a marketing communications professional, discovered that no company existed to sell used color guard equipment, so he created an on-line “virtual consignment shop” and Guardcloset.com was born.

Since “going live” in January 2001, Prato has repurposed an incredible variety of “previously owned” flags, props and uniforms, and has returned over $85,000 to consignor schools and independent color guard organizations and drum corps. The Guardcloset.com operation has grown from a one-car garage to nearly 1,000 square feet at its Harrisburg, PA, facility, with plans in the works for continued expansion.

“I never thought it would grow to what it has already become,” Prato commented. Using his marching band, color guard and drum corps contacts, Prato has grown the business to include          customers and consignors in most of the 50 states and several European countries.

“Often directors may intend to use the flags and uniforms from one season to the next, while many color guard instructors would rather create new materials each season to reflect the fresh design of their programs. The designers would rather reuse items only if they absolutely have to. We look at Guardcloset.com as a way to help schools and independent organizations make money on items that would be just stored or worse, disposed of, while at the same time helping other organizations to stretch their budgets by getting quality materials for a fraction of what it would cost to purchase new,” Prato added.

The 60/40 consignment split (60% of the sales price goes directly to the consignor) allows          consignors to set their own prices, or they can allow the Guardcloset.com staff to set prices for them based on their experience. Checks are mailed to the groups as the items sell and guardcloset.com stores all but the largest props and vinyl color guard floors at its location to ensure prompt and          efficient shipping and delivery. “You might be surprised at how many people need overnight delivery on a set of flags,” noted Prato.

The only cost to consignors is for shipping the items to Guardcloset.com. There are no hidden fees and, while the items must remain with Guardcloset.com for a minimum of 18 months, they can remain on the site for sale indefinitely. A 100% money back guarantee ensures total customer            satisfaction. Prato noted that “in five years, we’ve had a total of only maybe 10 items returned for       various reasons. “Some customers even return items as consignors, reselling them after they use them for one season,” he added.

Most items in the Guardcloset.com on-line catalogue range from $5 to $20 each. Compared to the $30 to $50 price tag for new flags and up to $125 and more for new uniforms, Guardcloset.com allows groups on a tight budget to purchase items at a fraction of their full retail cost. Some schools can outfit their guard programs for both fall and winter without having their boosters sew a single stitch.

Advertising with DCI, WGI, local band circuits and in Drum Corps World, in addition to electronic advertising at Drum Corps Planet, keeps Guardcloset.com visible to thousands of potential buyers and sellers. The heaviest sales traffic months are June through August and December through January, as most groups prepare for the fall and winter marching seasons.

Merchandise often includes flags and uniforms used by some of the top 12 DCI corps in each of the three divisions, as well as DCA corps, and championship-calibre bands and winter color guards from throughout the United States.

At the request of several of his band director clients, last fall Prato increased Guardcloset.com offerings to include sales of new band and guard shoes and accessories, in addition to new color guard equipment. At this time, that portion of Guardcloset.com is still growing. “If you purchase band shoes through us, we can pick up your used guard equipment at the same time we’re handling your shoe fittings in the summer. It’s truly a “win / win” scenario,” according to Prato.

If you would like to sell your used guard equipment, clean out valuable storage space and make money for your program, or if you would like to purchase items for your group, contact Brian Prato at info@guardcloset.com or visit www.guardcloset.com today.

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Drum Corps World is published as an on-line electronic magazine by Sights & Sounds, Inc., Madison, WI. It is supported by advertising from manufacturers, service providers, corps, circuits and show sponsors. The publication began in October 1971 at the same time Drum Corps International was formed and has been produced continuously as a tabloid newspaper until April 2011 and on the Internet since May 2011. It is released monthly, as well as six additional e-mail blasts, one in late June, three during July and two in August.

The worldwide staff of writers and photographers provide show reviews during the season and interviews, feature articles, news and human interest stories during the off-season. The photographs that appear in the magazine are provided by 27 staff members who are scattered around the world. The publication covers World and Open Class Drum Corps International corps, Open and Class A Drum Corps Associates corps, alumni, mini-, parade and standstill units, as well as the growing activity in Europe, the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Philippines and South Africa.