Pick almost any city or town in your country, drive through any middle class neighbourhood or residential area on the weekend, and you are almost sure to spot a garage sale or flea market. What is being sold at many of them? The accumulated “junk” people no longer use or want – taking up space in or around their homes.
Are they making any money? You’d better believe they are! Is it hard to put up? Well, yes and no. It really does take some of your time and also requires an awareness of a few merchandising tactics, but the effort put into running a successful garage sale is small in comparison to the profits.
Who are the buyers, and how do you get them to come? Your customers are going to be “everybody” and you get them over to your garage with a little bit of advertising and promotion.
Let’s look at the background: Everybody accumulates the kind of items that other people are searching for and willing to buy. These items range from no longer wanted or outgrown items of clothing, to furniture, tools, books, pictures and toys. Many items are objects purchased on impulse, and later found not to be what the buyer wanted. He discovered too late that he really didn’t have a need for it. Many items are also gifts to the seller, but are the wrong size or incorrect choice for the recipient.
The problem with most people is that they do not have the time to gather up all the items “just taking up space” in and around their homes and having a sale to get rid of them. Many people don’t know how to do it and other feel a garage sale is just too much bother and work. This is where you enter the picture. Your enterprise will be an ongoing garage sale of items donated and collected from people who lack the initiative to stage their own.
Step one is education: Spend a few weeks visiting all the garage sales, swap meets and flea markets in your area. Find out what is being offered for sale, what people are buying, and how the merchandise is being sold. Generally, an item is tagged with a price, but the seller is open to almost any reasonable offer from the customer. Another thing you want to make a mental note of is the way the merchandise is displayed and how the customers are allowed to browse.
You start your own garage sale by cleaning out your basement, attic, closets and garage. Talk to your relatives and friends; tell them what you’re going to do and ask them for donations of no longer used or unwanted items. It’s here that you will get your first experience in negotiating, and finally, an agreement for you to display and sell other people’s merchandise for a percentage of the sales price. You will find people explaining that they really don’t have a use for a specific item or don’t want to keep storing it – but because of sentimental reasons, “just hate to give it away.” Once you have some experience with this type of seller, you will be able to advertise that you buy garage sale items, or take them on consignment for a percentage of the final sales price.
The advertising is quite simple, and shouldn’t cost very much either. You could run an ad in your area shopper’s newspaper a week in advance of and up to the day of your sale. Once you’re operating on a full-time, every day of the week schedule, you’ll want to change your ad schedule and the style of your advertising. However, in getting started, go with small classified ads simply announcing your garage sale, emphasizing that you have something of interest to everyone – everything from A to Z. To get ideas on how to write your ad, check newspapers. Cut out all the garage sale ads you can find and paste them up on a piece of paper.
Then, with a bit of critical analysis, you will be able to determine how to write a good ad of your own by determining the good and bad in the ads you have collected. Something to remember: The bigger and better your sale, the bigger and better your “getting started” ads should be. The secret to outstanding garage sale profits is in having the widest or largest selection of merchandise possible.
You should make an old-fashioned “sandwich board” sign to display in front of your house when your garage sale is open for business. This will pull in your neighbours if you haven’t already informed them and attract people driving by. Sandwich boards can be put up at key traffic intersections not far from the site of the garage sale to attract attention and point the way. (First check with local ordinances to see if this is permitted in your area.)
Another “sign idea” practiced by a few sharp operators is the old “Burma Shave” roadside pointers. Here, you simply tack a few pieces of cardboard onto power poles at about 200 yards intervals on a thoroughfare leading to your garage sale. You will create a lot of traffic this way! Simply visit the public library and check out a book on limericks, adapt the ones you find humorous, and start making signs. One word here though: Check your local ordinances before you start nailing signs to power poles.
You can also investigate and utilize the free bulletin boards in your area. Its better, and usually much more profitable, to make up and attention-grabbing circular you can post on these bulletin boards than just using a written 3×5″ card announcement. Any quick printing shop will be happy to assist if you do not have the means to do it yourself. Have 50 to 100 - 8×11″ posters printed. The cost should not be too excessive. If you make this “circular/poster” up with versatility and long-time usage in mid, you can use it over and over again, simply by pasting a new date on the poster.
Now let’s talk about the ‘insider secrets” of drawing people into your sale, and merchandising “gimmicks’ that will result in the maximum sales and profit for you. First, call attention to your sale. Don’t be shy about letting everybody for miles know that you are having a garage sale. Some sharp operators do the next best thing to having the Goodyear blimp overhead: They rent miniature blimps and send them up above the housetop where the sale is – with some sort of sign on the side of it, inviting people to visit! This is one of the strongest available advertising ideas for pulling “traffic’ to a sale of any kind.
You have to give your sale some flair. Put some posts up across the front of the property and run some twisted crepe paper or brightly coloured ribbons between them. Invest in some colourful pennants and fly them from temporary flagpoles. Do not forget the balloons! Make your garage sale a fun kind of event with clusters of balloons anchored to your display tables and racks. Be sure to “float” them well above the heads of your customers as they browse through your merchandise displays.
Cover your display tables with colourful cloths. Don’t hesitate to use bright colours with busy patterns. Regardless of what you sell, effective display is still predominately essential! You cannot “dump” items haphazardly on a table, sit down and expect to make great profits. The people doing the most business – making the most sales, are the ones with interesting displays, action and colour.
Try to have as wide a selection of colours as possible in your clothing racks, and mixes them for a rainbow effect. Make sure that your jewellery items shine and sparkle. Arrange them in and with jewellery boxes, jewellery ladders and other items for showing off jewellery while keeping it neatly organized. You can for instance arrange jewellery items in a battery operated Lazy Susan. Seeing this jewellery slowly turning never fails to draw attention.
Think about it, and then study the methods of display used by “rack jobbers” in the stores in your area. This kind of display rack would lend itself beautifully for anchoring a cluster of balloons. Keep these things in mind, and build your individual displays as part of the whole; make it pleasing to the eye as well as convenient for your customers to browse through and select the items that appeal to them.
Look for an interesting and unusual item to call attention to your sale – something you can set up or park in front of your house during your sale. Something like a horse-drawn surrey, a restored Model T, an old farm plough. Or a manikin dressed in an old time farm bonnet, long dress and apron. Anything of an unusual and interesting nature will do the trick. Wherever your imagination takes you, you have to be different and distinctive. If you will take the time to use a bit of imagination and set your sales up with this kind of flair, you’ll not just draw the crowds but will be in for a nice surprise when you count the profits.
It’s almost a compulsion of many women to go shopping, to search for the interesting and sometimes rare and valuable items. This fact will keep you as busy as you’ll ever want to be – staging and holding garage sales. The market is so vast, the appetite so varied that anything from a brass bedstead to a used dairy of somebody’s long-forgotten grandmother will sell. Put it all together, use a little imagination and you will easily make that extra money you want or need!
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Enjoy and all the best for your Garage Sale Enterprise!