A yard sale – often interchangeably called a “garage sale” or “moving sale” – is a great way to shed outdated or used-up household clutter while picking up some extra spending money. Even in this era of online auction sites and resale message boards, the yard sale remains a favorite of bargain hunters everywhere.
Experts say that with the right setup your yard sale profits could grow two or three times what you might otherwise expect to make. Here’s what the pros and veterans advise:
Plan Early, and Get Ready Early
Early birds get the worms, and bargain hunters show up early – really early. Be prepared by making sure everything is ready to go just after daybreak. This will mean taking some special precautions to deal with morning dew and humidity, however, which can wreak havoc with sale items like books, magazines, clothing, and even electrical appliances.
Make sure any sprinkler systems are covered and sheltered. This will keep them from spraying the merchandise, and keep shoppers from tripping on them. Set up canopies to shield items from the heat of the sun, both out in the yard and as a “checkout stand” where you can preside over the sales area as well as conduct sales.
As much as possible, keep everything off the ground to prevent damage from morning dew, kicking, and jostling. Use card tables, picnic benches, relocated patio furniture – whatever’s necessary. Shoppers are more likely to pick something up if they don’t have to bend down to get it.
Run electrical cords and power strips to the electronics and appliance displays. Customers will appreciate the chance to “test drive” your items. Make sure the appliances are plugged into a grounded, insulated source.
Keep plenty of cash with you, in small bills: ones and fives. If you don’t want to accept personal checks, keep a sign clearly posted explaining as much.
Use Your Whole Front Lawn and Driveway, but Not Your Garage
Your front lawn and driveway make better exhibition space than your garage for several reasons. You get plenty of natural sunlight to show off your goods, you keep guests a safe distance away from your house (privacy, safety, etc) and you can keep the garage as a place to store items that aren’t actually for sale.
Make Your Garage Sale Like A Department Store
Just as department stores organize their products according to type, set all of your various goods together and apart from others. Make sure fragile or breakable items are on secure tables and under durable cover, where they’ll be better protected..
It’s vital to have everything that’s for sale in ready-to-go condition. Shoppers are less inclined to buy items that are dusty, mildewed, or seemingly neglected. If possible, wash any clothes you plan to sell, or at least air them out before setting them out for sale. Keep glass and crystal dust-free, and alphabetize your records, tapes, and DVD’s.
Advertise Before – And During – Your Sale
Just as department stores have window displays, remember to put your most interesting items closer to the street, to lure passersby. This includes the most glamorous or fashionable items including electronics (game systems, televisions, etc) and designer clothing as well as kitschy items you might have found in the back of an attic or closet (vintage clothing and bric-a-brac, conversation pieces, any object d’art.)
Make sure all prices tags are clearly visible and legible. Don’t be afraid to list what you paid for an item on the tag, too. Shoppers like to feel certain they’re getting a bargain, and a yard sale is no place for you to be modest.
Advertise in the newspaper, of course, but also online, especially Craig’s List. Set up signs and banners through your neighborhood, but remember to observe local posting ordinances. Many city and municipal government prohibit posting handbills or advertisements on public signs.
Not Everything Must Go – So Don’t Confuse Your Shoppers
Shoppers will expect that everything they see is for sale, so if you’re not willing to part with it, don’t have it out. This applies to anything normally used to decorate your house and yard’s front exterior.
Welcome Your Shoppers, and Create a Wholesome, Family Atmosphere
Offer refreshments including snacks and beverages to your guests as an enticement to stay longer. In cold weather months, provide free hot chocolate or coffee. After all, guests are more likely to stay and browse when they’re getting something for free. Background music also helps create a relaxed, pleasant atmosphere.
Old toys and storybooks can make great entertainment for children waiting while their parents shop. For their part, parents will appreciate getting to browse without having to manage their kids at the same time. You’ll get shoppers to stay longer and browse more, boosting your chances of sales.
Finally, remember to take care of yourself, and to serve as a perfect host. Keep books and magazines with you to prevent boredom (which can lead to fussing over the displays) and drink plenty of water to stay cool. Stay under shade whenever possible, and use sunscreen. Take breaks if you’ve got help, and don’t be afraid to announce that the sale is closing at the end of the day. Good luck!