Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garage Sales part 1

Last weekend we had a garage sale. It was a rousing success! I know a lot of people that I am friends with have been posting that, "well, we made 24 bucks today holding a garage sale" and I just cringed knowing that they might have been able to have done better. I know we um, well exceeded that amount of money in two days. I want you to be successful and make it worth your time, so I'm going to write about what we did that helped drive sales. The part two of this will be how to be a good garage sale buyer (you wouldn't believe some of the people and what they did while there....)

Ok, so you have decided to hold a garage sale. Great. How are you going to make it worth the time you will be spending on it? Here are a few suggestions:

Pick your days carefully. Around here the biggest day for sales is Friday followed by Saturday. Also, steer clear of holiday weekends. The people in our area like to go out of town for them, which will shrink potential customers. Also pick a day far enough out to give you time to gather all the items you want to sell, get it all priced and borrow any tables and racks you may need.

Have a wide variety of items. Don't just sell clothes and house hold knick knacks. Try and have items for guys too. We sold some rims, car ramps and the like. We put those out to attract the men to stop. I don't know about your area, but on Friday's a lot of the retired men drive their wives around town so they can go to sales. Make the men want to get out of the car. Most don't want to go look at the collection of embroidered hankies you have for sale.

Price things reasonably. I know you want things to get sold to get them out of the house, but don't cheat yourself. I'm also not advising to over price as then things won't sell. If it is a high end item (like a recycled tire horse swing) that is going for close to a hundred dollars on EBay at the moment, don't price it for five. We had one, and had it marked at $45 and compromised with a customer for $40. We also sold an Oscar Schmit (sorry Hubbs if I misspelled it ) that we sold for $50. Those two items were priced lower than what they were worth, but not so low that we were cheating ourselves. Everything doesn't have to be marked ten cents for it to sell. We did have a lot of fifty cent items too. People have very few issues about adding a mere fifty cents to their totals so that helped out too.

Presenting your merchandise helps to sell it. Put all your books in the same area, and separate the genres. Place all the toys in another area (on a blanket on the ground is a great place as then kids are drawn to them, same principal as impulse buy items at the grocery store). Put as many things up on tables as you can so your customers don't have to bend over to look at them. I have driven past many garage sales where people just laid everything out on blankets. I don't want to have to to bend over to sort through their goods while keeping an eye on my children. I'm sure I have missed some terrific bargains in the process, but it is worth it for me. If you can get clothing racks, use those to hang up clothes. The clothes look nicer that way, and then you don't have to keep going and refolding them after people have unfolded them looking for that special piece.

Speaking of clothes, one thing that I found that helps, is to use a straight pin and a piece of paper to price them. It takes a bit more time to price them, but then you aren't left with sticky residue on the item. I have been to garage sales where people even used duct tape to price their clothes. Um, that doesn't come off very easily. Who wants to buy a new shirt only to have it ruined by the residue from the tag? Also, especially with children's clothes, safety pin the pieces together. Attach the bloomers with the dresses, the matching shirts and pants. It will help people find the sets, and you can price the full sets a bit higher. I was at a garage sale a few weeks ago, and found the cutest pair of floral pants for the Beans. I go to pay, and the lady there was like, didn't you see the shirt that went with this? I told her I didn't realize that was a set, so she went and spent five minutes hunting her overladen table to find the matching shirt. It is a very cute outfit, however, I had no idea that it was one when I found only the pants.

Have at least twice as much change as you think you will need. Trust me. We had started the morning with thirty dollars in change. Within 45 minutes of opening, my husband had to make an emergency change run. People don't think about getting smaller bills for going out rummaging. We even had a guy ask if we could break his one hundred dollar bill. We had to decline. He did come back and purchase what he wanted later after he had broken it.

Make terrific signs. Use a full sheet of poster board. And get bright colored poster board. Signs are easy. Lay the poster board down, use stencils and contrasting colored paint (we used neon poster board and black paint) and we stenciled the words Garage Sale and the address. We then free handed the days of Friday and Saturday and the times. After the paint was dry, we did the other side. Then, the morning of the sale, my husband used packaging tape to attach them to sturdy dowl rods and put them up on the major intersections coming to our house. Then, to really draw attention, we got one of those small helium tanks and added balloons (we then put balloons out by the road in front of our house). People commented on how great the signs were. If you want them to be noticed, make them noticeable. Using the small signs from the store won't catch people's eyes.


Speaking of signs, you may also want to make and post a sign stating that you are not responsible for accidents. We have to because of city code have one visible. It can save you headaches later just in case something happens.

We put ads in the local newspaper for the day before the garage sale and the days of it. With the ad, we listed some of our bigger ticket items to draw people in. Then, the night before the garage sale, I posted an ad on Craigslist. I listed nearly all the items we had on there. I really think that helped our sales. I know I like to read the ads and plan my route by what is listed in them. And the glory of Craigslist is that you can go back and edit the post as things sell or you add new items.

Finally, have a cooler with cold soda and bottled water in it. I honestly didn't think it would sell, but my husband insisted and WOW! The two days we held our sale were HOT (that's putting it mildly). If you have cute kids who can help, have them sell it. Who can say no to a cute kid, right? We sold it for fifty cents a can or bottle. The older ladies were very appreciative of being able to buy the water. And offer it as people are checking out. It does sell.

If you have smaller kids, it may be wise to get a babysitter for the days you are holding your garage sale. I didn't, but then my husband was home for most of it before he had to go to work, and we did a joint sale with a friend so she was there for most of it too. However, a babysitter would have been nice so I wasn't worried about my kids dashing out into the street or anything (though, they were great, and I had nothing to worry about with them). If you can't get a sitter, put a DVD in for them using a portable player and have a few special things for them to do.

So, there you go. A few ideas to help you hold a garage sale. Coming soon, things I wish the customers hadn't done.

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