I’m not going to lie: I don’t do garage sales often, so in no way am I an expert. I have, however, been in retail for more than half of my life, and garage sales are essentially a retail environment. You set up what hours you’re open, people come and look around, and they either end up purchasing something or not. There’s always the chance of thievery, and just like in a retail store, the best deterrent for theft is to interact with people and essentially let them know you’re watching.
Garage sales also have their differences. There’s an implied, unspoken level of haggling, “limited quantities,” and all sales are final. All of which happen in your home about items or things you personally own. Rarely is there any staff; it’s just you or your family, and the garage sale only happens a couple of days.
Well, I just had a garage sale, and I must say I learned a lot. Here are a few tips I would like to share to help make sure your garage sale will be a success, and some ridiculously sarcastic tips for ultra, added success.
No one is going to come if they don’t know about it, so get it out there and BE OBNOXIOUS about it!
I recommend making a Craigslist posting about a week before, specifying what days it will happen. Craigslist has an amazingly awesome search tool for buyers to find posted garage sales on specific days and locations. Don’t be afraid to allow people to contact you; they may have questions about specific items being sold, hours, or location, so don’t be afraid to respond.
Make sure to take photos of the items you’re selling, especially the high-end items you’re looking to part with sooner than later. Don’t forget to update your photos throughout the day on your Craigslist posting, and be sure to specify when they were updated. This will help assure buyers that there are still things for them in case they don’t make it there right when you open.
Signs also play a big part, because not everyone is going to be on Craigslist every day, searching for your post. You can buy generic signs from almost anywhere, but I recommend rigid signs that come with wire posts. It is also very important to make sure all your signs match, i.e. same color and font.
The store I bought signs from ran out, so I made my own sign for the front of the house. This “unity” really reassured shoppers because I was only asked “Is this the garage sale I saw signs for, or is there another one down the street?” about 50% of the time.
I put the one of the bigger signs on the corner of my street, and another big sign at a stoplight at a fairly busy intersection. In the opposite direction, I had a smaller arrow sign at a 4-way stop sign intersection.
About 500 feet away from my street in either direction I placed the two other, smaller arrow signs that say “NEXT RIGHT” and “NEXT LEFT,” respectively. Those who weren’t browsing Craigslist and were more compulsive buyers said they were very helpful navigating them to the sale.
Pick your sale day(s)
No matter which days you choose for your garage sale, your busiest will always be your first day, because those bargain hunters want to be the first to see what you’re selling. It is found that Thursdays are traditionally the busiest Garage Sale days, and I can back that fact up. Despite the fact it was our first day, we saw almost 3-times the people and made 4-times more money than the other two days combined.
The other thing I recommend is finding an Almanac to pick the hottest, and most humid day of the summer to have your sale. If not that, pick a day that will most likely rain and/or storm. If you’re lucky like me, my sale started on the hottest day, ended on the second hottest, and sandwiched in the middle was that rainy/stormy day. Humidity ranged from 98%-100%; talk about wet clothes and damp cash!
The other expert-advice I may give is to be sure to pick a day you have to watch your son by yourself, especially if he’s two years old. He can sure be a lot of help, especially when you’re selling his toys right in front of him! Luckily, I had lots of snacks, drinks, and a tablet that could play movies to distract him.
Make it Retail
Due to the fact that people are coming to your establishment to buy your goods, you should treat it like a full-blown retail experience. Clean. Cut the grass. Keep things tidy and well stocked (or “faced” for those in the retail world). Yelp and Google reviews are probably the only thing you don’t need to worry about, but at least focus on these:
Music inspires purchases
Get that music bumping! I had Alexa in charge of tunes all day, which got the shoppers more comfortable and helped maintain my sanity throughout three straight days.
Imagine yourself in a department store and you find a product that isn’t priced. Well, if you’re not a guy, you go and ask someone. If you think you’re clever, you decide to make a witty joke that since there’s no price, it must be free (and if you think ANYONE in retail hasn’t heard that before, you’re dead wrong, and it’s NOT funny). So price EVERYTHING you’re planning on selling, and price it to sell (not to pay the mortgage) with just a little wiggle room to haggle. Most people will likely pay asking price, but the more expensive something is, the more people will want to negotiate. But here’s why you price everything:
It just looks cleaner and more organized. Putting forth that little bit of effort shows, and shoppers appreciate it. An added level of awesomeness comes by having those plastic fasteners holding the price tags, as my wife meticulously did with all the clothing we sold. Knowing that all you need is a cheap tagging gun takes the witchcraft magic away from the mystery behind them, but still lends a “like-new” quality to the buyer, as several asked me about it.
The price tags can help remind you what you actually want to sell the item for. This becomes exceptionally useful for when you’re selling other people’s items, as I was basically selling my wife’s old things. This also helps the customer establish a starting point for when they decide to haggle. This also helps identify things that AREN’T supposed to be sold, like the rack you’re borrowing or the shelving unit you are using for displaying items only.
Create bundle deals. It promotes more of your stuff to get off your premises.
Lastly, you price everything so you don’t have to hear that stupid joke people think they’re clever telling. If they decide to still say it, don’t say anything; just flip the glass that they’re holding upside-down to reveal the price, then hold out your hand expecting payment. I stifled THREE jokesters’ smiles over the weekend that way.
Displaying everything is essential to success. If it’s not raining, get things OUT of the garage. Get the toys you’re selling out on a tarp in the lawn for the youngsters who come with their parents to play with (they’re more likely to sell if they end up in the hands of the end user). Have a power strip on display to demonstrate items that need to be plugged in. Hang clothing on a rack.
To be fair, not everyone has a clothing rack. We fortunately did, but it wasn’t nearly large enough for all the outgrown children’s clothing we had, so we did something a little clever: we put a ladder on two saw horses, and hung all the children’s clothing off that in the center on the garage. It was the most popular thing at our garage sale, and I’d be lying if I said it was all my idea.
So call me a liar.
Another thing to bring up is that you won’t be handing out receipts (if you ARE, don’t). That said, buyers might be confused about the return policy since there’s no receipt to refer to. Place a sign that says “ALL SALES FINAL” somewhere very visible to let them know, there won’t be any returns.
Have fun with the Haggle
Ah, the haggle. The act of negotiating an item being sold to an agreeable price by both parties. In a retail setting here in America, this rarely happens, but in many other countries, it is very common. It can and should be expected at garage sales. Yes, the buyer has the money and will be the one who ends up with the item and you will want a fair price, but think of it this way: you’re looking to clean out your house, and you will probably have to pay to bring said item to the dump. The fact that someone is actually at your home contemplating removing the item for you, you should make it more and more attractive for this person to do so. The price tag is essentially giving the item more value in their eyes. If they simply took it for free, they would more or less be doing you a favor. So negotiate, build value, have fun, AND GET RID OF THE DANG THING!
Hide those dogs
Before I start receiving all the hate mail, I totally get that your dog is super well behaved and the most attractive animal to walk the earth. That said, not everyone thinks that. In fact, dogs can ruin your sales. Barking, peeing on things, pet hair everywhere, and their overall greeting of guests and dare I say jumping up can drive people away.
I had a guest come up to my sale and start asking me how much I would be selling a rack that I was displaying things on for. This particular rack was not for sale, but she started to get eerily persistent and belligerent about buying it. A neighbor was out walking his dog off leash, and the dog ran up to say hello. This guest went straight into primal flight-mode and sprinted away from the dog. She ended up getting back into her minivan and driving off moments later. My neighbor grabbed his dog, apologized, and went on his way. Not all stories involving dogs at garage sales have a benefit like this one, but for the most part, they all end the same: the guest running away.
As much as I didn’t like it, I had my dogs cooped up in my bedroom during the sale hours. I couldn’t hear them, and it was one less thing to worry about, considering I had no additional help other than Freddie, I had to watch Freddie, and I had to be attentive to the shoppers.
In the End
We didn’t sell everything; in fact we have a couple of large things left. We are, however, pleased with what we did sell. I was doing this thing on my own, with the exception of having Freddie all day on Thursday and Saturday, with my wife being home the last hour on Saturday. That made for ultra-brief bathroom breaks and diaper changes, trying to get those done then back out in the garage between shoppers was nerve-racking.
I had three ornery people complain and lecture me about my sign placements.
I had two very needy buyers who latched on to my kindness and drained it from me for nearly an hour each. I am grateful of them as they purchased some of the larger items, but they reminded me how much I hate retail.
I had about a dozen people slowly drive by, looking at the garage sale, then drive off.
I had one person notice that a larger item was sold, look at the price tag saying $100, then try to haggle me for a much lower price. When he said, “I’ll take it for $60,” I chuckled a little and clearly pointed out the “SOLD” sign on it. He looked at me with a straight face and said, “$65?”
I greeted everyone, even my neighbors walking or biking by. I tried to maintain a positive and cheery attitude. Yes, I had a permanent glaze of sweat over every square inch of my skin, and yes, Freddie may have fought with some of the people taking his toys. I earned about 20 more white hairs in my beard. But I had fun, and I will NEVER do it again.