“How did your garage sale go this weekend?” It’s a common question I get on the Monday after one of my successful garage sales. And when I report my earnings, my co-workers look at me in amazement. “How do you do it? I never have garage sales like that.” Well, here are some tips to improve sales at your garage sale.
- Commit: Garage sales are hard work, but can be worth it in the end, if you do it right. So commit to it and start looking around your house. Is clutter piling up? Is it time to get rid of some things?
- Timing is everything: Is your town about to have a town-wide garage sale or are several of your neighbors on your block planning on having garage sales? (If you don’t know, then initiate talks with your neighbors about having a neighborhood garage sale.) Your sales will be boosted if there are several garage sales going on in your area. I have even had garage sales in cloudy weather and rain that brought in $1000 and I contribute it to the combined effort of other garage sellers in close proximity to mine.
- Location, location, location: People who get up specifically for going to garage sales and head out before the sun is up will find your garage sale (if you publicize like you should – to be addressed in a moment). But because I live close to a main road and am easily accessible, that sign on the corner pointing to my house brings in several buyers who were just passing through. My point here is that if you have a friend with a better location, you should consider teaming up with them and have the sale at their house (remember though if you talked people on your block into having a neighborhood garage sale, baling so you can be at a better location may not be the best decision this time).
- Invite: People go to garage sales with friends, and since everyone has different tastes, it helps to have a diverse garage sale. Therefore, if there is more than one person contributing to the sale, then there is more selection and that means more people. (So when it comes time to advertise, it is better if you can say “4 Family Garage Sale.”) So invite friends and family to participate in the garage sale – but be sure they will be there to help handle the crowd. I call the following people:
- My mom who has tons of expensive designer clothes size 10-12 and shoes size 9 narrow (a hard-to-find item). My dad also has many tools and farm stuff.
- My mother-in-law who has tons of antiques and lots of dishes.
- My sister-in-law who wears a size 6 in clothes and a 6 shoe. She also has a son, so she has boy’s clothes and shoes; and her husband is a cowboy, so they have a lot of western stuff.
- My friend who wears a size 4 and has daughters so she can contribute with girl’s clothes and shoes.
- And then I have toys, boy’s clothes and shoes, brand name shoes, size 8 and designer clothes size 6-8.
- Supplies: You will need material to price your items. Some people use masking tape, a marker, write their price on the tape, tear it off and put it on the item; some people buy either the preprinted or blank garage sale labels and use that to put on the items; and then there are some people who use the colored blank garage sale labels, put them on their items and put up a sign that says the yellow dots are $1 items; the red dots are $2 items and so forth. BEWARE: It is my experience that buyers do not respond well to this method. So I prefer buying printable labels and I make my own labels. I like making my own labels because if you have more than one person contributing to the garage sale, each of you will need to initial your items. By using printable labels, I make one row $1, another row $2 and put my initial on each one, then print 25 copies: Much simpler and saves time!
- More Supplies: Other items you will need are tables and something to hang your clothes on (clothes hung up sell better). I had a friend build me portable clothes racks that come apart and store very easily. But before that, I used my imagination, and found all kinds of things around the house and in the garage that I could hang clothes on. Card tables are good for placing items; boards braced at each end are good for placing your items. You just don’t want your buyer to have to bend over much to look at your items (you will have a lot of older buyers and they will just move on).
- Prepare: Weeks before the event, find a corner in your house where you can start piling up your items. Usually my corner is in my dining room, which gets a little cluttered for a week or so, but I keep telling myself it will all be over soon; it will all be gone and I will have money in my pockets.
- Start Pricing: Ahh, the pricing. What should you price your stuff? Some things are going to sell better than others. Kid’s clothes and shoes are hot items. Books are hot items, too, but won’t go at a high price – put 25-50 cents on books (unless they are a signed, limited edition, of course). I won’t price my good stuff like Gymboree and Nike kid’s clothes that are still in very good condition lower than $5. On the other hand, women’s clothes and shoes can be a hard sale, so be careful pricing those items too high (always remember, though, you can always come off the price). My sister-in-law prices all her stuff to sell. Everyone does it a little differently. But in the long run, I end up making a little higher profit with my higher-priced items than my sister-in-law with the lower-priced ones.
Anyway, start pricing your items as soon as possible. It sure beats doing it the night before or the day of. Buyers go to other garage sales and they talk to each other. “Don’t go to 555 ABC street; they don’t have anything priced and aren’t ready.” It will kill your garage sale. As I am putting stuff in my corner, I usually put them in piles according to what price I will put on them. That makes it much easier when I start putting the price labels on them.
- Advertise: Be sure you put a classified in local newspapers. Yes, NEWSPAPERS. Don’t just advertise in your town’s paper; put it in surrounding papers, too. But do check prices because some paper’s classifieds are outrageous so you will want to edit your ad for each paper according to cost. Highlight your HOT items like girl’s clothes and shoes, strollers, couch, printer, tools – put brands if you can, and be sure to put 4-family garage sale or 6-family garage sale, whichever fits your sale. Show diversity in your items and be sure you put your address. I also put something like 7 am to ?? – that way I can close shop at 2 pm or at 5 pm, whatever suits my needs. You will have to pay for the classifieds up front – keep track of this amount and take it out of the money box at the end of the day before distributing everyone’s profit. Make BIG signs to put on corners around town to direct traffic to your house.
- Organize: The day is quickly arriving, so clean the garage and start setting up. I pack my stuff in my garage with the intention of pulling at least half of it out in my driveway in aisle-like format the morning of the garage sale. Create departments, so to speak: Boy’s clothes together, girl’s clothes together, women’s clothes together, tools together – you get the idea.
- Final Details: You will need the following items:
- Money Box Starting Cash – Usually $100 in small bills and coins.
- Pens and/or Pencils Extra labels (for additional pricing)
- Notepad with columns drawn for each person who is selling something in the sale. This is where you will keep track of each person’s sales. Some people put the actual sticker in the column, but I have found it to be more efficient to write the amount in the column.
Garage sales are hard work and are not for everybody. But if planned, organized and run like a business, I have found that I can more than double my sales. Also, don’t think garage sales are just for summer. Garage sales can be planned most anytime, with the exception of bitterly cold seasons. So fall, spring and summer are a go. So start calling your friends, clean house, make some extra cash and most of all, have fun.