Successful Yard Sales
Got lots of junk piling up in the basement? Or a student about ready to hit college? Now may be the perfect time to unload your home of unneeded "stuff," and what better way to do it than a garage or yard sale?
With a little planning and some insider tips, you can have a successful sale that's fun for the whole family – and you just might make a few dollars while you're at it.
Planning the Big Event
"The first thing to do when throwing a yard sale is to take a deep breath!" says yard sale veteran Mary Waggoner of Norwalk, Conn. Then, according to "The Garage Sale Guru," Jean Callum of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and author of the soon to be released The Garage Sale Guru: How to Go and How to Throw, start planning at least two weeks ahead to allow time for sorting and pricing your items. "You also need to consider your advertising time frame for the local newspaper," says Callum.
What's the best day for hosting a yard sale? "While you will find some areas that seem to consider weekdays the 'norm,' sale days should run together, and remember, Saturdays are the day for garage sales," says Callum.
To make sure you get lots of activity at your garage sale, be sure to take advantage of advertising tools. While the actual advantages of newspaper ads may vary according to area, signs are an absolute must-have to get customers to your sale.
"Place signs from the nearest busy intersection to your door," says Callum. "Basic directions are all that is needed. Never put what you're selling on a sign! Not only do you immediately lower your chances of having someone come to it (nope, not what we're looking for), it is annoying to drivers to have to stop and read the fine print."
Callum also cautions against using your computer to make signs on paper. "They can't be read from the road, and you have to wrap them around a pole," she says. "Who knows what it is? Could be a "lost cat" sign." Before placing signs, however, check with your neighborhood to be sure there are no restrictions. Some may have ordinances against signs and sales.
Waggoner suggests putting a box near the road that is marked "free" with items you're willing to give away. She says it attracts people, and "it is the one 'F' word everyone loves to see."
"For the early birds, have some coffee and donuts," says Waggoner. "Customers will be willing to pay a bit more and not haggle with you so much if you fill them up and make them feel cared about."
Preparing the Sales Floor
Arranging your goods in an attractive and easy-to-access manner, just as any good retail store would, is important to maximize sales.
"Whenever possible I have everything ready to go on tables or just inside the garage to be rushed out first thing in the morning," says Callum. "Clothes should be hung up whenever possible. If unable to hang items, be sure to keep sizes together and neatly folded. Try to keep the pile neat, even though people will paw through it." However, she discourages putting clothes in a box where they will likely be ripped through.
Callum also suggests keeping like sizes and age-appropriate items together. She also recommends that hair bands, belts and bags that go with an outfit be pinned to the label or shirt front to avoid being lost.
Keep items on tables if possible, says Callum. But if you have a lot of one item, like toys, "...you can spread out an old sheet on the grass to put them on," she says.
Be sure to place breakables out of the reach of children and away from toys. Also remember that a customer is more likely to buy glassware, knick-knacks and other breakables that are clean.
When attempting to sell wood items such as furniture and shelving, it is best to have these items out in the open, where customers can examine them, instead of in a dark corner of a garage.
There are different ways to price items, and it is up to the individual to decide his or her preference.
Waggoner suggests using colored dot stickers and a poster board. "Price things according to the color of the dot," she says. "That way you aren't writing prices on everything. That is too time consuming. Your poster board will have the color of the dot and the corresponding price." Some prefer to use a strip of masking tape with the individual price written on it, but remember it can be difficult to get glue off certain items.
Keep your accounting simple by marking everything in either $.25 or whole-dollar increments.
Don't expect your customers to feel guilty over an under-priced item. A mint condition 1960 Barbie sold for a quarter is your loss. You must know the value of everything you sell. Remember, however, people go to yard sales looking for a bargain, so don't over-price. For example, while there is a big market for clothes and baby items at yard sales, they must be reasonably priced. "I won't pay more than $2 for an outfit unless it is really nice," says Bonnie Manning of Cincinnati, Ohio. "I recently walked away from a yard sale that had clothes priced for $5."
Callum recommends using a newspaper ad to bring a better price for antiques, collectables and like-new furniture. Books are another favorite, and she recommends $.25 to $.50 for a paperback or $1 for a hardback.
At a yard sale, you're bound to get some hagglers, but don't be offended -- they're there to get a bargain. Haggling over prices at a yard sale is expected but don't feel guilty because you aren't willing to give an item away. Decide the lowest price you will accept on items and stick to it. Even though you want to get rid of unnecessary items, you also want to make a little money doing so. Otherwise, why not donate everything to a charity and be done with it?
You're also sure to run into a rude customer or two. How do you handle them? "This is your home," says Callum. "People either have respect for you and your things, or they can hit the road."
Yard sales should be fun, so keep the tone light and enjoy the people you meet. Let the kids pitch in and give them a cut of the items they've sold. It can be a fun lesson in money management and help you pare down some unneeded items in your household. Remember, one person's trash is another person's treasure.