Consumer Watch: How to best conduct a yard or garage sale

Consumer Watch: How to best conduct a yard or garage sale

July 12th, 2019 by Ellen Phillips in Business Around the Region

Ellen Phillips

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

In referencing the "summer" theme, it's been awhile since this column featured yard/garage sales. And since summer is the primary time for many folks to hold these decluttering and (hopeful) money-makers, it never hurts to both iterate tried-and-true methods, as well as new suggestions for a successful event. Freelancer Kristen Pope on ThePennyHoarder site, among others, is chock full of ideas to help us in the planning.

» Try a new timetable. Most people traditionally hold their sales on the weekend, thus involving their project with a lot of competition. Lots of estate sellers have the right idea; they often begin the activity on a Wednesday or Thursday. Buyers – especially serious individuals - scan the paper and seize the opportunity to attend an early sale, often the only one or one of a very few to be held during those days or even earlier in the week. Another method is to piggyback on a nearby estate sale. These sales are usually heavily advertised and extremely well attended so jump on their band wagon to ensure browsers and buyers at your own house.

» Heavily advertise. Don't simply place an ad in the local paper or online nor just hang a few signs. If we really want to line our pockets (think about that vacation kitty), it's important to use in-your-face advertising. For instance: 1) Buy up at least 20-30 pieces of colored poster paper at the dollar store – money well spent, trust me. Forget a pile of text; rather, the stark info written in magic marker. The day before, put up a few closest to your home/neighborhood with a simple (large) arrow that points to your location with the word SALE. If certain pieces are specialty items, write that word in, such as "ANTIQUES," "COMPUTERS" or post a photo. Mentioning appealing items in your ads will entice would-be buyers to your spot. 2) Utilize social media, including Facebook yard/garage sale groups or local venues, such as NextDoor to reel people in.

» Group similar items together. For example, all garden supplies in one corner and all books in another. (To set an even better mood for the latter is to fill a bookcase to look more like a library.) Along this same line, bundling is a great idea, too. "5 books for $2," for example draws the eye (and the opened wallet).

» Plan a neighborhood yard sale. Again, the bigger event, the better so far as potential customers are concerned.

» Be prepared for all eventualities. For example, if you're selling clothes, have a full-length mirror on hand so the customer can see how he or she looks. If selling TV's, radios, small appliances, or even toys, have an extension cord and batteries on hand. Better yet, if selling a radio, CD player, etc., play some catchy music. Not only does this let prospects know the gadget works, but also induces a better mood, which in turn encourages more purchases.

» Have plenty of change. Unfortunately, the first yard sale some people hit, they'll try to pay for a $5 item with a $100 bill so it's imperative not to shortchange (pardon the pun!) yourself at the beginning; it's always better to have too much than too little. A couple of hundred dollars with lots of ones and fives kept in a secure location is your best bet. (Speaking of location, I've found an apron with deep pockets is the best idea around to store change and sale money.) So far as that C note is concerned, if the item sold is under a certain amount – say $20 – just explain you don't have that much change, although if the customer buys more merchandise, you'll be delighted to break the bill.)

» Speaking of money, never leave it unaccompanied for a single second! It's always best to sell with another, trusted person. And never allow anyone in your home to try on clothes or to use the bathroom. Sorry, but my glass-empty self thinks that's asking for big trouble.

» Neat and tidy is the phrase for the day. Always tidy up behind browsers. Place as much merchandise as possible on tables or up high so folks don't have to break their backs bending over to inspect. Again, group items together, such as kids clothing and toys in one area, kitchen articles in another, and so forth. Be sure to use tables so shoppers don't have to bend over or crouch down to inspect articles on the ground. I always place large or more expensive pieces, like furniture, near the street.

» Station "grab" boxes. "EVERYTHING 50 CENTS" or "$1" is a great enticement. Statistics show that once most individuals start to buy, they'll continue to do so particularly if the sale employs other gimmicks. "ALL CLOTHES: BUY 1, GET 1 FREE!" will draw customers like flies. Promise.

An hour or two before closing (depending on the number of sale hours), post a "EVERYTHING half off" sign. This technique saves a lot of packing up at the sale's end.

» Finally, make customers comfortable and willing to hang around longer. Depending upon the temperatures, have coffee or iced tea available, along with some packages of dollar store cookies. I've even seen sales where kids are selling lemonade or cold bottled water.

Here's to a successful sale where readers make tons of cash (to buy more stuff to put back in their now-clean homes!).

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.