Be Strategic with your Garage Sale
Tips and Hints for Success
There have been many articles written over the years about how to run a successful garage sale. I know because I have read many of them. I never thought I'd want to write an article on the subject, but after a very interesting conversation with some comedians I know I have acquired some information that I never read about in those "How-To" or "Helpful" articles of the past. I may reiterate some of the common knowledge or common sense of the past, but I think I've got some new information that might be very useful to you if you're considering or planning a garage sale.
Ok, so you've been hoarding for several years and your bank account is low and you've decided that it's time to have a garage sale and "kill two birds with one stone". Good for you! Great decision. You are thinking like a conservative, environmentally conscious entrepreneur. I want you to be successful. I want it to be a pleasant and lucrative experience because I am a cheerleader for the "little guy" and I don't want any poor Grandparents regretting their decision to run a garage sale.
When I lived in an apartment I could not have a garage sale because it was against the "rules" at that location and time. Some "deed restricted" neighborhoods may also have such "rules" so be aware of your location's legal parameters before you decide. Ask before you jump. Once you know you're safe and free to do so, I implore you to use the following tips that I am providing.
Begin by knowing your inventory. Don't waste a lot of time trying to come up with prices and values for each item. You don't know who is going to show up or what they are looking for. My advice is not to use stickers or prices at all. The best flea market vendors already know hagglers and negotiators are their best customers. Price seekers don't really belong at Yard Sales or Flea Markets, but some of them are just too naive to know that. Look over your inventory. If you have items that you think are "worthless" and you have items that you consider very "valuable" make a mental note and begin to map out where you will put the items when you set up the yard or garage-driveway. I recommend placing the "worthless" items towards the road, further away from your seat or "cashier spot". This way if you get any "Five-Finger-Discount" people looking for a "Forgivable Snatch" you have given them ample opportunity not to interfere with you and the legitimate customers. Some retail shops have already employed this method in smart boutique areas where they place a rack of clothes outside of the shop. All retail sales people must be aware that theft will occur. One must have a way to deal with it or not deal with it, but be prepared for it or your ship is sunk before it leaves the dock. Don't set yourself up for an argument that will ruin the whole experience or waste your time dealing with the hassle of calling the law. That's not what the Garage Sale is about. After you've placed your "freebies" at the strategic location, place the more valuable items closest to where you will be so you can keep an eye on them. If you're talking to a guest about a coffee pot your peripheral vision can still assist you with the used computer that's only a foot away. If you have an assistant that's even better. The more eyes on the prizes, the less you'll lose in profits.
In any business endeavor, one of the most important keys of success is driving traffic. You've got to get people there or no sales are going to happen. Signs, advertisements, and word-of-mouth are your best methods in my opinion. You can make your own signs. Make them large, easy-to-read, and visible at the place closest to the most traffic. Use arrows to direct them. You can place a classified ad in a newspaper or online. The habitual Yard-Sale shoppers already have a routine of looking at those ads, but most of those ads are not free. Free ads don't drive as much traffic as paid ads. It is not a fictional cliche in business when the ad salesperson states, "You get what you pay for." You might be able to dispell that cliche in regards to the quality of an item, but in advertising the cliche usually holds true. Word-of-mouth is always good in any business venture. To take it a step further, coupons and invitations can also drive traffic.
Once you know your inventory, how to arrange your yard, and how to drive the customers to your sale, the next step is running the sale. This is where you've got to be prepared for the money exchanges and the haggling. This can stress out new sellers who have no idea how shrewd the buyers can be. Let me provide a scenario for you to increase your understanding of possible failures.
Sally has her yard sale set up. She has a bunch of old clothes, old toys, and old books near the road. If a thief takes those, no big deal. She has some worthy jewelry and electronics near her seat and cash box. In between her most expensive items and the "freebies" she has miscellaneous items like art, extraneous household items, and whatever items she just didn't know what to do about. She has some starting point prices in her head for the "expensive" items such as a 14 karat gold necklace that she paid $300 for, but never wears because it feels too small around her neck. A wealthy shopper comes to have a look and likes what he sees. She does not know that he runs his own thrift store. He makes her a deal. "Sally, I'll give you $200 for the whole lot." Sally wasn't prepared for him. What should Sally do? Take the $200 and call it a day or haggle? "I really think the lot is worth $250," she haggles back. "No problem," he says and takes out three $100 bills. Sally only has $20 in her cash box. How is Sally going to give him his $50 change? You must be prepared for the outcome of your haggle.
Another scenario to be prepared about includes the haggler who isn't really there for the merchandise. "How much for that beach umbrella?" he asks. Sally remembers paying $10 for it and never used it. She starts the haggle at half price and tells him, "You can have it for $5." He pulls out a $20 bill. Sally gives him $15 in change and he takes the umbrella and leaves. When the garage sale is over, Sally has about $75 that she earned. She decides to go to the store and get some milk. She hands the cashier a $20 bill, and the cashier tells her it's fake. The umbrella guy gave her that counterfeit $20 bill. He made $15 off of Sally and got a free umbrella. Yikes! How could she have avoided that? My advice is to let your buyers know you don't make change before the haggling begins. For example, "If you have $5, it's yours," or "You can have this and that for $20." The less you have to worry about change, the less you have to worry about scammers. Even if they give you a fake bill for one or two items, you only lost the items, not the money. Be smart. You want to let go of that stuff anyway and the money is the goal. Don't stress yourself out about scammers or theft for a garage sale. The majority of thrift shoppers are a friendly and considerate bunch, but if you think they are all honest you will waste your time and money stressing out about how the scammers take advantage of naive or inexperienced business people. Retailers like Walmart have cameras and security to help them keep their prices low. Flea Market Vendors and Yard Sale Entrepreneurs don't have that luxury so they have to be wise in order to be lucrative. My best advice and final tip to you as you explore the business of garage sales is this: If you have any merchandise that would cause you to be nervous or paranoid during the day because it has a significant value, place that item for sale online and save yourself the headache. I wish you the best and most successful Garage Sale.
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