Back to School Furniture Buying Tips

By Wren Ovard

Here it is, the middle of summer, and someone mentions Back to School Furniture.  How can that be when the temperature tops 100 degrees?  But it’s true, while the kids are enjoying summer camps and parks, the school systems are planning for the next school year.

Now is the time for school administrators to be determining their needs for the next school year in relation to furniture and supplies.  If you wait any longer, you may not be able to get the school furniture delivered in time to open the doors in the fall.  With that in mind, here at the top 10 tips for School Furniture buying.

back to school
4000 Ergokids Active Seating by ErgoErgo

1. Order now, order early!

This is the season and if you don’t get your orders in now, your furniture may not arrive before the students.  Remember, yours is not the only school needing new preschool or school furniture and planning to open within just a few short weeks.  Don’t wait so long your order is in the bottom of the pile.



2. Order quick ship colors & models.

While you might just love that lime green classroom desk and chair set combination, do you have the time it takes for special orders?  Another thought is how will you find 20 new matching sets, in five years, to that unique item when the time comes that more are needed.  In the interest of simplicity and continuity, order stock colors and models.  Their delivery cycle will be shorter and most likely they will be better priced.



3. Save on shipping charges by ordering items made by the same manufacturer.

This seems obvious, but many school systems don’t realize the saving they may have by buying multiple times from the same manufacturer.  Not only will you save shipping charges, the items will coordinate with each other since they are from the same manufacturer and you may be able to get better pricing due to larger orders.  Look for and do business with distributors that can offer you not only the standard school desks but also offers a wide range of products such as library furniture, activity tables, cafeteria tables, computer furniture, chalkboards, easels, room dividers and display cases.  Make sure to look at the total picture when selecting a distributor.  Being able to acquire many things from the same distributor saves shipping cost, time, money and headaches.  The distributor is much more likely to provide superior customer service and order tracking if you place orders for multiple items.



4. Need freight special services?  Inside delivery, call before delivery, liftgate?

Think ahead, isn’t that what we tell the students?  This is also true when your furniture order is to be delivered.  Make sure you and the delivery company have the same understanding of the delivery, time, place and circumstances.  You do not want to be scrambling trying to get furniture onto a loading dock without the proper equipment.  Not only do you risk damaging the new furniture, but also injury to your staff.



5. Inspect all cartons during delivery; don’t wait until school is back in session.

Don’t assume anything.  Take the time now, at the time of the delivery, to inspect the delivery cartons to make sure they are not damaged.  If you wait until school is back in session to inspect the cartons and contents, and there is damage, you will not know when or how the damage occurred.  By signing for the delivery, you are stating that the furniture was delivered properly and in good condition.  If there is a problem, identify it at the delivery time and work towards appropriate resolution.  The furniture company, delivery company and school will be much more satisfied with the end results.



6. Include summer delivery contact person & phone number. 

Not all schools are open every day all summer long.  Make sure the order contains the contact information for the person responsible for receiving the furniture cartons.  And by all means, let the responsible person know they will be contacted with delivery details, and that they are able to fulfill this obligation.  See item 5 concerning the responsibility of the receiving person.  It might be a good idea to have some staff available that can assist in the inspection of the cartons and contents so as not to delay the delivery company.



7. Call us for chair & table height suggestions.

One size does not fit all when it comes to school furniture.  Discuss what age group the school furniture is intended for when placing the initial order to make sure you are selecting the appropriate size of furniture.  There is a wide variety of products available that are designed for specific ages and activities such as computer desks and activity tables.  Mistakes will be costly in time and money if the wrong size furniture is ordered.



8. Call us about space requirements or weight capacities.

Is this furniture going to be stationary or moving around a multipurpose room?  The intended use may impact the type, size and weight of furniture you should be considering for purchase.  Measure twice, order once.  It will save you time, money and frustration.



9. Spend new budget money now.

Don’t wait till the end of your fiscal year and then try to get something delivered and invoiced in time to meet your deadline.  Think about what your needs are in relation to your budget money and submit your order early in the budget cycle.  You are better assured of getting the furniture you want and need if ordered early.



10. Order age appropriate chairs and desks to insure student’s comfort.

If a student is uncomfortable in their chair or desk, it will have a negative impact on their concentration and school performance.  See item 7, and make sure the size of the furniture grows with the students.  Feet not being able to touch the floor or knees hitting the underside of the desk make for unhappy uncomfortable students and poor attention.



Use these tips to help your school furniture vendor delight you with a positive experience for all involved.  A little forethought goes a long way in the preparation for a successful school opening for the upcoming year.



Wren Ovard is head of online sales and technology for ( the leader in school and church wholesale furniture. She may be reached at




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