Sunday, July 10, 2011

10 tips for hosting a successful yard sale

Whether you're hosting a yard sale or shopping at one, there are several things you should keep in mind in order to be successful.  Today I'm going to share some tips about hosting a yard sale.  There's more to it than you'd think ... if you want to be successful at it, anyway!

1. Plan Ahead

Pick a date when the weather is most likely to be nice.  If there's a large neighborhood or non-profit near you that will be hosting a sale, plan to host yours the same weekend.  It will help boost your traffic!  Decide on a time frame for your sale.  The most popular is 8am-12pm on a Saturday.

Gather the supplies you'll need so you're not scrambling the night before.  In addition to various items I'll list below, you'll need to get cash and coins from your bank so you can make change for shoppers.  I usually start with a seed of around $100 -- a $20 roll of quarters, $40 in ones, $40 in fives.  Or something like that.  You just don't want to be caught with a buyer who wants to make a purchase and you've got no way to make change.  Ouch.  You'll also need a waist apron with pockets or a fanny pack (horror of horrors) or a cash box to keep your money in.  I prefer a waist apron because it stays with me so I don't worry about a cash box walking away.  I would only recommend a cash box if you're having a large sale and you have someone whose job it is to man a checkout table at all times.

It's also a good idea to gather some grocery bags for those customers who purchase lots of small items or clothes.

2. Have Help

Unless you're hosting a sale with only a small table of items, you'll need assistance.  If you have large items, a shopper might need help loading his or her car.  Or you might be answering a question in one area while you have others waiting to check out.

Ask friends and family and neighbors if they want to participate.  I grew up participating in multi-family yard sales every summer that included my own household plus all of my aunts and uncles and some extended family.  We saw some of the same customers come back year after year because we always had such a huge sale with lots of items.  People who are going to shop several yard sales in the same day are most likely to hit the sales advertised as multi-family or neighborhood-wide first.  Our old neighborhood was very large and the association scheduled a neighborhood-wide yard sale in the spring and fall every year.  Boy, did we have a lot of traffic! 

3. Include Your Kids ... Or Not

Depending on their ages and their willingness to part with treasured items, your own kids can be a great addition to your yard sale or they can cause trouble.  If you have small children that need a lot of attention, have a babysitter to keep them inside the house during your sale.  If your kids are a little older and wouldn't freak out every time a shopper eyes something they used to use, include them!  I grew up selling drinks and snacks at a table near the checkout station at our annual multi-family yard sale.  It's a great way for your kids to participate and make a little money on the side!  Depending on the weather, cold drinks and popcorn or cookies, or hot chocolate and coffee may be a hit!  Or, encourage your kids to put more items in the sale by telling them they can keep all or part of the money when their items are purchased.

4. Advertise

You'll need to post lots of signs at high-traffic areas around your sale.  Post signs at the busiest intersections all around your house, plus some directional signs as needed.  You'll of course need a sign at the end of your road and at the end of your driveway (if the sale is not obvious).  If you're participating in a multi-family or neighborhood yard sale, be sure to advertise that on the sign.  Put your signs up a couple days to a week before your sale, with the date and location clearly marked in large, legible print.  A light background with black marker works best.

Gone are the days when signs and newspaper ads were the only ways to market your sale.  Now there's Craigslist and also online newspaper and other ads you can buy.  I don't recommend sinking a lot of money into ads, but a few dollars should be more than worth it!  When you're running online ads, if you can, post lists of some of your best items, plus photos if possible.  That will get people interested enough to put you on their list of stops.

5. Gather Items to Sell

Why wait until the last minute?  You can be building your yard sale pile up all year long.  Any time you come across something that you no longer use or need, put it in the yard sale pile.  If you haven't used something in a year, you can probably get rid of it.  (I could do a whole separate post on decluttering.  But that's for another day.)

When the yard sale date is approaching, go through every room, cabinet, and drawer in your house and liberally pull out any item that you can part with.  Whether your goal is to declutter or just to earn money, the more items you have in your sale, the better!

6. Price Right

Every item needs to be priced.  For pete's sake, don't make your potential buyers ask you what the price is.  Honestly, if you're having a successful sale, you're not going to have time to keep answering that question because you'll be too busy with customers at your checkout area!  Besides, most times people would rather just walk away than ask you for a price.

Start at least a week ahead of time to get everything priced.  Believe me -- it takes a lot longer than you'd expect!  As you price things, start separating them into categories so that you can display like items together during the sale (more on that below).  If you're not an experienced yard sale shopper, you might feel uncomfortable naming a price.  Keep in mind the item's original value, how old it is, what the current condition is, and especially how appealing the item is in today's market.  For instance, your acid-washed jeans from the 1980s may still be in great condition, but would people be rushing to pay top dollar?  Probably not.  (Or let's hope not.)  Items should usually be priced at about 10% of their original value, depending on their condition.

I've had the best luck using masking tape to label prices.  The bright little circle stickers marketed as yard sale tags don't usually stick very well to most items.  If you have a bunch of items from a particular category (like hardback books) that you want to price the same, you can just put them in a bin or box together and make a price sign on a piece of paper and tape it to the box.

If there is more than one family unit participating in the sale at your location, be sure there is some sort of mark on each price tag, indicating who gets paid for that item.  Have one checkout station but keep a log of how much goes to each seller so you can sort it all out at the end of the sale.  It's easier for shoppers to pay at one place rather than having to track down multiple people.

7. Create Organized Displays

You can make it easier for shoppers by sorting items into groups, such as boys clothes, kitchen stuff, jewelry, home decor, etc.  Some people aren't skilled at scanning through piles of stuff, nor would they want to spend the time and effort, so the better organized everything is, the more likely someone will spot an item he or she is interested in.

You'll need lots of tables to display your wares.  People don't really want to crouch down on the ground to see things.  Plus the neater and cleaner your display is, the better people think you took care of the items when they were in your possession.

For clothes, hang as much as you can.  It's so much easier for people to sift through clothes when they are hung, plus it keeps your display nice looking.  Anything folded is going to get picked up and possibly put down again, and you can bet it won't be folded nicely when it's put back down.  You can purchase wardrobe racks, but you don't want to invest too much money in overhead because it eats into your sales profits.  Instead, use the spreaders on each side of a step ladder to hang some items.  And you can probably find a place to hang a long, strong pole.  We hang a pole across one of our open garage doorways.  Just be careful that you distribute the weight of the clothes properly.

If you have any items that require a battery or electricity to run them, most likely a shopper will ask you if they work.  Often they will want to see that the item works, so have batteries or outlets available, or be ready to take a shopper inside your home if need be.  (Of course you'll need a helper keeping an eye on the sale while you're inside, or vice versa.)

To draw shoppers in, put the larger, pricier, or most popular items out at the front.  These include furniture and large kids toys.  Many yard sale enthusiasts have a whole list of sales they want to get to, and they know that the good stuff goes quickly, so they might just do a drive-by and if nothing entices them from the road, they'll move on to the next stop.

Most likely you've got a bunch of really little items that are pretty much junk, especially if you've got kids with Hot Wheel cars or small figurines, or if you buy fast food kids meals often.  Make a quarter bin and put that kind of stuff in there.  Or, have that bin but let each kid that shops with his or her parent have something for free if the parent buys from you ... or just if the kid looks bored ... or is cute ... or whatever.  By all means, you want to get rid of that junk!

If you're using your garage, rather than just space outside, try to have as much set up the night before.  Even if your sale is supposed to start at 8am, people will show up as early as 7am, and they get irritated if you make them come back later.  They will most likely just leave and they may not return.  (Yes, those people drive me nuts, but they do it because they know the early bird gets the worm.)

8. Negotiate

Be prepared to negotiate.  But not 10 minutes into your sale.  (Unless your prices are outrageous.)  No matter how well you priced your items, yard sale shoppers like to haggle.  You want $10 for this weed eater?  How about $5?  If you are afraid the item may not move otherwise, negotiate.  If you feel like an item is worth the full price and someone will surely come by a little later and scoop it up, stay firm.  Of course, the later you get into your sale, the more willing you should be to negotiate.  After all, you should not be bringing this stuff back into your house if it doesn't sell!

If you've had lots of traffic but nobody is buying anything, either your stuff is total junk or your prices are too high.  And, really, people will buy anything for the right price!  If you're not seeing cash come your way, start marking down your prices.  You can even post a sign that reads "Everything is 1/2 off sticker price" or something like that.

It's customary to mark prices down during the last hour or so of a sale.  Again, I would recommend posting one general sign.  If anything is excluded, put a disclaimer on your sign.  During the last half hour, don't wait for someone to negotiate with you -- if you see that a shopper showing even a slight interest in an item, approach the shopper and offer a deal!

9. Donate Any Leftovers

You're going to have stuff left.  You just are.  Even if you think all your stuff is great.  Puh-lease don't bring it back into your house.  Either post the items on Freecycle (most likely there's a group in your area -- you can check here) or load them up and take them to a non-profit.

If you have towels and blankets or other clean animal-related items, animal shelters can usually use them.  Professional clothes can be donated to Dress for Success or a similar program.  Some non-profits will even work with you to schedule a pick-up if you have a lot of stuff.  And, of course, you can always stop by your local Goodwill or other thrift store.  Whatever you choose, donations can usually be a tax deduction, so be sure to get a receipt.

10. Enjoy the Spoils of Your Success

When your yard sale is over, hopefully you consider it to be a success!  For some, success means more space and less unnecessary junk inside their homes.  For others, success means extra money that can be used to pay bills or to invest in something fun!  Either way, if you're glad you did it, plan on hosting a yard sale again when you've gathered up enough stuff.  I typically host a yard sale every couple years, but it may depend on the size and needs of your family, or how much storage space you have.


I hope you enjoyed these tips.  As you can probably tell, I have lots of yard sale hosting experience.  Good luck with yours!  If you host a sale, be sure to let me know how it went!


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1 comment:

  1. Wow! You've got so much creativity and I'm admiring them all. Can you please share your creative posts at the Creative Bloggers' Party & Hop? Hope to see you there at the party :)


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