Saturday, September 1

Tips from a Pro - Having a Garage Sale

Today we're taking another look at having a yard sale of your own -this time with tips from a pro! A big part of my love of yard sales comes from aunt Cha Cha who loves both shopping and selling, and has an outrageously successful sale of her own every year. Here are her tips for success. Take it away, Cha Cha!

I live for garage sales, and I get almost as excited about my annual garage sale as I do going to others.  Even though I have been holding an annual garage sale for the last 18 years in the very small town in which I live, many of my regular customers call me as early as February asking for my garage sale dates.  In fact, when I open my garage door on the first day, I usually have a crowd waiting.  The following tips work for me, and I hope something here will help you, too.

 (I want need these purses. -Georgia)

1.  Timing matters  I hold my garage sale at the same time every year when the weather in my area is just starting to get really nice, for me this means mid-April.  My theory is that avid garage sale shoppers are just itching to get out after a long winter and buy something, anything, they don't care what it is as long as they buy something.  I have found that having my garage sale start on Friday night at around 5pm, just as a lot of people are getting off work and most getting paid seems to make a difference too.

2.  Advertise  This is an easy one.  Depending on your area, listing online with places such as Craigslist or other sites works well.  I choose to pay to advertise in my local paper that sends a free supplement which contains the classified section to everyone in my area.  In my case, I find it's worth the little money that it costs to place the ad, many of my shoppers mention my ad.  My thinking is most garage sale shoppers are looking for a bargain and won't want to pay for a newspaper.  If things aren't too crazy during my sale, I will often ask a shopper how they knew about my sale.  I also will forward my ad by email to friends who then forward it on to other friends.  I know a lot of people will post on facebook that they are having a sale.
        Signs  I purchased a few heavy duty plastic signs from a discount store and I re-use them every year.  They have more than paid for themselves.  I wrote my address in big bold letters.  The less writing the better, it's hard for a motorist to pick out the address with too much writing.  The only exception is that if you have items that you think will be desirable and make someone come to your sale, you may want to add that to your sign.  For example "BOYS CLOTHES", "XBOX". 
        Ad  I believe this is a big factor in the success of any garage sale if you don't live in a busy section of town or your neighborhood does not hold all-neighborhood sales.  I keep my garage sale ad saved to my computer and each year I just have to tweak the dates and items in my ad.  It's a good idea to try to choose key amount of a variety of items that will draw a crowd.  These types of things might be antiques, tools, a specific brand of type of toy-such as a famous brand of toy trains, brand names seem to make a huge impact.  I know that when I have someone show up literally running up my driveway asking if I have any "name brand" stamp sets left that they read my ad and didn't just happen to be driving by and saw my sign.

3.  Make it pretty  What I mean by this is organize your sale, put like items with other items, have a kitchen section, toy section, etc.  I know that garage sales are a lot of work, but if you have to set up why not make it look nice.  For example, make sure that the clothing is folded neatly or hung on a rack.  Use baskets to "display" items or draw attention to certain areas.  Also make sure that your merchandise is clean.  If you think that someone might have trouble figuring out what an item is or what it is used for, make a sign and explain it.  Once I was selling a highchair that attached to my dining room table, I quickly went to the website that I bought it from and printed out a page with a description of the product that described how the chair worked, the brand name, and retail price.  By doing this I believe I was able to get more out of that item; rather than three dollars, I was able to easily sell the chair for twenty dollars.

4.  Clearly price merchandise  I make sure that everything at my sale is priced.  If you want someone to know that prices are negotiable, make a sign or tell someone that offers are welcome.  This doesn't mean that you have to price each individual item, you could have tables that are labeled, everything at this table $1 or all books 50 cents each, etc.  I just know that when I go to a sale, I will rarely make an offer on something that isn't priced because I am afraid of insulting someone by offering to pay twenty-five cents for their great aunt Ida's crocheted afghan that they are hoping to get fifty dollars for.  Also I try to price things in easy ways, I always price things in increments of twenty-five cents, it makes adding up purchases so much easier and faster.  I have a friend that uses the flat type hangers, and she put her price tags on the face of the hanger and each year just reuses those hangers by hanging her items on the appropriate priced hanger.  Related to pricing is payment methods.  I only accept cash.  No exceptions.

5.  Packaging This may sound strange but I keep a small tote that doesn't take up a lot of room in my basement of empty packaging.  If I purchase a new quilt with the plastic package with the zipper, I just store it away and when I wish to sell the old comforter at my sale, I fold it and put it in that bag and you would be amazed at how fast it will sell.  I also save clean zippered gallon storage bags that I will use to bag up small toys or other items and price the whole bag.  I also will use a small box to make sure all parts of the merchandise are kept together.

6.  Always be honest  If there is an issue with an item you are selling, you should clearly state the issue.  If the couch you are selling has a wobbly leg that won't stay on, make a note of it.  If you are honest even in the little things, customers will have a greater confidence in everything at your sale.

7.  Be prepared  It is a good idea to have plenty of change, especially plenty of ones and quarters (see above #4), notebook and pen, as well as a calculator.  Set up a table just for customers to make
their purchases.  I always keep empty boxes, plastic grocery bags, and newspaper for wrapping breakable objects close to the table to box or bag everyone's purchases.  It is a also a good idea to have a friend help bag items as you add them up.

8.  Helpers  Having friends help at your garage sale can be wonderful, but have a plan.  Who is adding up purchases, tracking who sold what, and making change?  (Can be the same or different people.)  Who is keeping the tables looking organized between customers?  Does anyone need to keep a special eye on big-ticket or easy-to-swipe items?  Does everyone understand the pricing, such as "Everything on this table is 50 cents"?  Clear communication ahead of time can save headaches when you are busy.

After reading through my list of tips, I realize that my obsessive compulsive tendencies come in handy for some things!  ;) winking  I look forward to my garage sale every year.  It is a lot of work but having a goal helps motivate me.  I have used the money from my garage sales for a variety of things from everything to a new washing machine to paying my house insurance.  I love getting rewarded financially for doing something I enjoy.  The work you put into it will not only pay off this year but also for years to come, because once you build a reputation for having great garage sales, people will look for your ads and change their schedules to be there.  I guess my last piece of advice is for you to consider what kind of garage sale you would like to visit and how would you like to be treated.  Then do that.

Thanks so much for all the tips, Cha Cha! Anyone else have a yard sale tip to share?

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