Monday, June 24, 2013

How to turn your garage sale into the hottest spot in town

Read my column from The Holmes Bargain Hunter

Oh ye that love preparing garage sales little, take heed of my words: They are a goldmine.

I know. Preparation for a garage sale isn’t fun. There is lots of digging out of the corners of your closet, dragging clothes out and wondering why you bought them and finally coming up with a price that people won’t walk away laughing at. It’s hard work, but the payoff is immense. It’s pure profit and there are tried and true tricks that keep people coming year after year to your garage sale. You want to be the one that people say, “Your sale is next week? What time? I won’t miss it.” As I prepare for the annual Benton garage sales at my Aunt Fern’s house this week (they will be over by the time you read this) my mind goes over the myriad of garage sale tips I’ve gleaned over the years. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – if I could, I would hold garage sales for people every week. That’s how much I love it. The set up, the banter of negotiation, the entire process is pure magic for me. Read on to find out what YOU should take heed of at your next sale.

1) Mind the time of year. Sales, at least here in Ohio, start as soon as the weather gets nice so we’re looking at April when they begin, though I’ve seen them pop up in March already if it’s nice. April is the best month to have one, we had our annual Junk Fling sale at the end of April and the crowds were big. May can be a relatively dead month because of the end of school year activities, graduation, etc. June and July pick up again, while August is slower because of the heat and back to school preparation. September and October are HOT garage sale months. Some of our biggest sales have been held in October. Time of year is key. 

2) Take the time to advertise. Sometimes you get lucky if you throw up a sign, put stuff in the yard and people stop. By and large, though, advertising gets you that crowd you want. Local newspapers are good and used to be the only way to get the word out. With social media handy in this technology age, posting a status on Facebook a week before usually does the trick. Tantalize people with what you will have, but don’t list every little detail. Twitter can get the word out, as can sites like Craigslist. Post pictures to Facebook, and tweet tweet away. The more you reach the better. Your ad can go something like this: Leather couch, picnic table, patio table and chairs, funky garden junk, books, fun household wares, lots to dig through! It can be longer, but words are key. Bring them in with the thought that there is much to dig through and discover.

3) If you’re having a sale, make sure you have enough STUFF. To me, there is nothing worse than pulling into a driveway and seeing two tables set up sparsely. Combine your sale with relatives or friends because it will not be worth it if your tables aren’t groaning.

4) When you set up, don’t be perfect. Let it spill out of your garage enticingly in a pleasing jumble. In England, garage sales are called “Jumble” sales. That’s because everything is in a nice little mess. You don’t come to a garage sale to shop like you’re in a retail store. Frame wonderful vintage items in a pleasing array, but don’t make it perfect. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the best sales are the ones that contain a bit of mystery. For instance, you can display your vintage glassware set on rusty piece of garden junk. Those used wine bottles look great sitting inside that old basket. Put things together for surprise and wonder. If every glass you own is sitting together primly, then there is no discovery to the sale.

5) Do not overprice. I’ll say it again – DO NOT OVERPRICE. This is a garage sale, not a consignment shop in New York. We all know what we paid for those jeans in a moment of madness. They will not sell for even half what you paid for them. A good rule of thumb is to think about what you paid for them, then think half, then go about half of that yet. If they are new and are in fabulous condition, you can TRY for half but be ready to dicker. Don’t keep your expectations so high because you will be disappointed. I will chuckle to myself when I go to a sale that thinks so highly of itself and its prices – and I will leave empty-handed unless there is something I want to negotiate for. Having a garage sale is a way to get rid of items, not let them look pretty in your yard with a high price tag.

6) Move your items around. The first couple hours are usually the busiest, but after that things can look a mess. I’ve found time and time again that moving things, even bigger things, into a different area makes them sell 10 times quicker. Things you stashed under the table should be moved and displayed, as well as what you have sitting outside the sale. Moving things around makes your sale look different and people will stop twice. I can’t count the times people come back the second day and say, “Is this all new stuff?”

7) Lastly, post and tweet pictures the second day of the sale to the last. Let people know what you still have and if it’s going, going gone at half price. Move things out the door.

Having a yard, garage, tag, jumble or rummage sale is a highly profitable way to have simplicity in your life and a jingle of cash in your pocket. Take the time to follow these steps and your sale will be well worth your time. Don’t even waste your time and energy if you’re going to set up and tear down early. Stay open until six and you will get the going home crowd. If you dislike having garage sales ask a friend to hold them – or ask me…because I love them.