Monday, July 20, 2015

Garage Sale Survival: 10 Tips to Make This Your Best Sale Ever

Another sure sign of summer - the garage sale. They start popping up on lawns and driveways near you as soon as the ground dries and the weather warms. Our neighbourhood holds a huge community garage sale event every May, which is awesome for both sellers and buyers because of the pure volume of opportunity in a small area. We've participated a few times in the past and done really well. But this year we knew we had a lot to purge, and we just weren't ready in time - so we went it alone this past weekend.

Did you know the humidex was over 40 degrees Celsius in Toronto last weekend? Yeah. I think I sweated off about 5 pounds.

We had a lot of stuff
Hosting a garage sale is a lot of work. Hard, heavy, dirty work. It can also be a lot of fun. But you have to like people and you have to have a bit of a sense of humour.  And you have to be organised. Apparently we did a great job on that last one, as we had quite a few people compliment us and comment how easy it was to shop our sale. So I thought I'd share a few tips here to let you know how we approach the preparations and set-up.

Have enough stuff to make it worth their while. Have you ever done that slow drive-by of a yard sale and thought, "Wow. Why are they bothering?" If you don't have enough merchandise, potential buyers will be hesitant to stop. Save your stuff until you have enough to make your sale enticing from the road.

Have variety. While you can potentially have a successful sale with just one category (e.g., housewares, or music, or tools, or toys) you will need to work harder to target the one specific audience who will be interested. Variety gives you a broader base and will bring more people in with less effort.

Advertise. Regardless of how much or how great your stuff is, no one (other than your neighbours) will come by if they don't know about your sale. I checked into advertising in our local, free paper, but they are charging $40 to list yard sale ads in just one issue! Not happening. We got excellent traffic by posting free ads online with VarageSale, Kijiji, and Craigslist. We also bought bristol board at the dollar store and posted signage on telephone poles at major intersections leading in to our 'hood. Make sure your signs are clear and big enough to be seen from the road.

Have change ready. This one's a bit of a no-brainer or course. Be sure to have a float ready in the morning, and a safe and secure way to carry it with you. Don't leave money lying around! You will likely need at least one or two 20s and a couple of 10s and 5s. Lots of loonies, twoonies and quarters, and even a few dimes or nickels if you have some really low-priced items. We had a number of people pay with 50 dollar bills, and even one 100 dollar bill. A fanny pack, although a fashion faux pas, works great for this. Or if someone will be sitting at a table all day, they could have a box with them. Count your float so you know what you're starting with. Then at the end of the day you can subtract that number and know exactly how much you made.

Have enough bodies. Enlist friends if needed. Be sure you have enough people to cover you if you need to run to the bathroom or grab a beverage. You'll need enough coverage to be able to monitor the activity and make sure everyone is being helped and nothing is walking away unpaid. Judge your needs by the amount of merchandise you have out. Oh! And be sure to have some chairs for you and your helpers to take a breather as needed. Plus, having friends help makes the event more fun :)

Sort and Organise. Make your sale easy to shop.  If you can organise a night or two in advance, inside your home, so much the better. This time we were actually purging so much stuff that we ran out of room to organise it. Oops! But DH and I planned out where each category would go, and brought it out accordingly on the morning of.  Higher priced items, like electronics, should go closer to the house - loss prevention! Keep housewares together, create a toy/kid's items area, sporting goods, etc. Use tables wherever possible to keep items up where buyers can easily access them. This is especially important for anything breakable. Kid's toys are great on the ground to entice kids to play with them and thus their parents to purchase them. Avoid placing out boxes filled with items as it's harder for potential buyers to see what you have. The exception would be for very low value items - feel free to have a box or bin of 25 cent items for people to pick through. These items are not worth your time to display prettily.

Pricing. Price your items! You can buy sets of yard sale pricing stickers at the dollar store, print your own labels at home, or use masking tape and a marker. Whatever works for you! Feel free to negotiate, but give folks somewhere to start - they will feel more comfortable approaching you if they have an idea of what you want for something. Also it will cut down on the number of "How much do you want for this?" questions that will be thrown at you from across the yard. Related - it's wonderfully efficient to group items at the same price point and collect them on a table with an "Everything on this table $1 each" or whatever. Items you will price individually can be priced a night or two before to save time on sale day, if you have the room left to get at them.

Setting up. Be sure to factor in enough time the morning of your sale to have everything out and set up before your sale is scheduled to begin. Put you signage up the afternoon or evening before. Set your coffee maker to be ready to go when you get up, then just grab a cup and get at it. We needed two hours for ours this time - both because of the volume of stuff we were moving and because it poured rain the day before so we couldn't do our signage.

Be ready for the early birds. It doesn't matter what you say in your ads, the early birds will still come. Our sale started at 9, but the first people arrived about 7:45. I find this incredibly rude myself. I just told them politely that we weren't prepared to sell until 9am and would be happy to talk to them then. Not one of them caused a fuss. Most left and came back. A couple waited on the sidewalk and sized up what we were unpacking. Just be polite and firm.

Be ready for the latecomers. This one was an eyeopener for me. Our sale was slated to end at 1pm, and I expected people to still be arriving up to about 1:30 - great time to get deals since we really just wanted stuff gone. But people were still coming at 3:30!! And not only that, some of them had the gall to open up boxes we had packed to see what was there. Appalled! We were happy to have them look through anything still not packed up, or to ask us if we had a particular item they were looking for, but if we've closed a box, please don't open it. So be prepared with some patience, and don't put your float away too soon.

Oh. And I have a bonus tip for you - nothing comes back in the house! Nothing. Unless it's a higher value item that you intend to try to sell online or something like that. Or if you plan to have regular sales and will be pulling it out again next month. (More power to you if that's the case - once every couple of years is all I can handle!) If you were ready to part with it before the sale, you cannot change your mind now. Pack it all in the car and drop it off at a Salvation Army Thrift Store, or Value Village, or Goodwill, or wherever you prefer to donate. Then come home and enjoy your newly purged space. We treated ourselves to a restaurant dinner that night to celebrate our successful sale. Also we were too tired to cook. But it was a lovely way to end the day!

What do you think? What tips would you add to these? Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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