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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Surviving A Garage Sale

Having survived my first garage sale this weekend (hosting one, that is) I learned quite a lot. Although I shopped with my parents at a few garage sales during my childhood, I haven't shopped at or hosted any as an adult, so I'm quite the novice. After a few hours of rummaging through my closets in preparation for the sale and labeling everything with price tags, I felt prepared for a long, hot day in the sun.

Not surprisingly, garage sales take a lot of preparation, work, and energy. The one that I participated in consisted of a couple of neighbors and a childhood friend. Luckily, we had several pairs of eyes to keep an eye out for potential thieves. In the first hour, I was surprised that I made over $100 by selling small household items such as picture frames, candle holders, a shredder, and a photo printer. Later in the morning, the majority of items that I sold were clothing, shoes, and accessories. Kid's toys and furniture were also big sellers at our sale. Unfortunately, I didn't sell any of my old books or textbooks. Based upon my one day as a seller, here is what I learned:

1. Timing is everything - It's a good idea to plan your sale on a day that's forecasted to have good weather, and a non-holiday weekend, as many people tend to travel on holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. Additionally, people like to show up bright and early - as early as 6:30am for a sale that's advertised as beginning at 8am. (We turned away about two dozen cars before our sale, which officially started at 8am.)

2. Promote yourself - Decide what methods you're going to use to promote your sale. We had success posting about our sale online, but others may prefer advertising in a local newpaper. Also, posting signs (with arrows or bright/bold print) around your neighborhood with the address, day, and time of your sale can really boost traffic and help buyers find you.

3. Label, label, label - It will save you a lot of time by cleaning and then labeling your goods with price tags or stickers, and by taking inventory on a list, so that you can keep track of what you're selling and for how much. Inevitably, there are people who will ask for the price on something at the same time as they are looking at the price tag. These people probably want to haggle over prices, so I labeled my prices a little high to give buyers more room to bargain.

4. Eyes open - I had been warned that garage sales are prime places for thieves to snatch your goods. Keeping this in mind, I was more vigilant about people who picked things up and wandered around without any intention of paying. It's unfortunate that there are dishonest people out there who have the nerve to steal from you in your own driveway, but you have to be careful and keep your eyes open. If you're selling valuable items at a garage sale, I recommend putting them in a place where you can monitor them or perhaps consider selling them elsewhere. I had a rack of designer denim that I placed near the house, and I sat near it so that I could make sure nothing was stolen.

5. Change is good - I advise having lots of small bills and coins (quarters, ones and fives) ready to give as change. Many of my early morning buyers had twenties, so it's a good thing I sarted off with about $40 in small bills to use as change.

6. Bag it - As much as I dislike plastic bags, I have to admit that a few buyers who bought multiple items requested bags for their purchases. Next time, I'm going to bring a dozen or so bags, as they make it easier for people who buy in bulk.

7. Merchandise it - When it comes to shopping, sometimes presentation is everything. We set up an area on the driveway with a desk that had some books, a printer, some picture frames, and other small items arranged on top. The display looked like a small office area, and we quickly sold almost everything in that area. The rest of our merchandise was arranged by type: kid's clothing, toys, adult's clothing, tools, books, shoes, etc. Although things will get messy, it helps to group your items, as it makes the sale easier to shop.

If there are tips you'd like to add or personal experiences you'd like to share, feel free to add your opinions in the comments.

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