Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Organize a garage sale

Having a garage sale is a great way to kick start a clutter purge. Here are some steps and tips for a successful sale.

  1. Gather the stuff
-       Use a staging area (such as guest room, dining room, garage, basement) to gather the items for sale.
-       Your garage sale inventory should consist of general household items, clothing, books, kids stuff, hobby supplies, low priced furniture, home decor, garden equipment, board games, recreational equipment, etc.  Separate out belongings that are highly specialized and unlikely to appeal to the general public.

  1. Research
-       Garage Sale, Craigslist OR EBAY. If you have any collectables or rare items for sale, research the value and decide if the garage sale is the best marketplace to sell these.  Craigslist is a good marketplace for bulky items with value that are best sold locally.  Ebay is the best marketplace for rare, specialized or collectable items that are reasonably easy to ship.  The Ebay auction format is likely to yield the highest possible market value for the rare or specialized item
-       Does your city require a permit? Call your municipality to find out.
-       Are there sign regulations? Check with your municipality.

  1. Sort items in staging area, putting similar items together.
    1. Board games
    2. Kitchen items
    3. Hobby supplies
    4. Garden equipment
    5. Camping equipment
    6. Clothing (separate out by size, ie. Girls size 4, Boys size 8, etc. Ladies size 6, Mens size XL).
    7. Baby items
    8. Housewares
    9. D├ęcor

  1. Set the date
-       Saturday or Sunday are best.  Choose one day only, because all the good stuff is normally sold in the first few hours of day 1 and customers know this.
-       Avoid holiday long weekends.
-       Choose a start time that is consistent with start times with other garage sales in the area – usually 8am or 9am.  Die hard garage salers plan their route to visit all the sales in the neighbourhood first thing in the morning.  12noon start is not recommended for this reason.
-       Plan an end time early in the afternoon, ie. 1 or 2pm 
-       Have a plan B date incase you decide to cancel due to weather.

  1. Exit strategy
-       Some ideas to accelerate sales towards the end of the day:
a.     Half price items after 11am
b.     $1/bag after 12pm
c.     Free items during pack-up at 1pm
-       Call your favourite charity in advance, and arrange pick-up of all unsold items at the end of the sale.
-       Alternatively, load up your vehicle with the unsold items and drop it off at your local charity, thrift store or shelter. Make sure you research in advance what items each facility accepts and would find useful.

  1. Pricing
-       If the goal is to get the BEST price for your item, try selling it in a different marketplace (Craigslist, Ebay, antique consignment, etc).  If your goal is to get rid of it, then sell it in a garage sale.
-       What price should you ask for your items?  Consider what you would pay at a garage sale for this item.  The general rule of thumb is 1/3 of retail (MAX).  This doesn’t always apply however.  You may have spent $20 on a souvenir ball cap from the Grand Canyon, but you’ll probably only get $1 for it at the garage sale.
-       Price EVERYTHING!  Buyers are more apt to buy if they know the price is in their ballpark.  It’s OK to tag an item “Make me an offer”, and bundle all kitchen gadgets in a bin marked “$1 each”. 
-       Prepare to negotiate the price, it’s the name of the game, and it is part of what makes garage sales fun.  Build in a small buffer to your asking prices, and prepare to give buyers bulk pricing if they are buying multiple items.
-       Know your pricing and don’t overprice. Garage salers are looking for bargains, and they know the going prices for things.  Remember, the goal is to get rid of stuff.
-       Write “FIRM” on a price ticket for items if that is your bottom price.

  1. Give back
-       Consider donating a percentage (or all?) of the proceeds of the sale to a charity.  Advertise this in your online postings and with a big sign onsite on event day. It’s a great way to give back in your community or to your favourite cause. 
-       People are happy to pay full price if they know some proceeds are going to charity.
-       Include an extra donation jar by the cash table for people to give some extra coins, and for people that browse but don’t buy.
-       FOLLOW THROUGH – it’s important to make the promised donation shortly after the garage sale ends, and proceeds are calculated.

The success of your sale rides almost exclusively on this step. If you don’t have customers, you won’t make many sales. Invest some time and a little bit of money on the marketing of your event.
-       Craigslist – post for free on Craigslist and Kijiji.
-       Facebook and Twitter - Social media is another great FREE way to get the word out.
-       Your online listing should include the Date, Start time/End time, Address/City, and a brief description of items. Photos of the sale items in set-up mode.  Include photos of any large ticket items (furniture, electronics, home gym equipment, etc).
-       Prepare neighbourhood signs well in advance of event day.  Your poster signs should include: GARAGE SALE, Date, Start/end time, address and directional arrow. Do not include any other information on the poster signs. Send a helper to post them throughout the neighbourhood EARLY in the morning of event day.  Prepare in advance where all the signs should be placed and send your helper with a map with sign location instructions.  See my separate post on the dos and donts of garage sale signage.  I have some strong feelings on the topic of garage sale signage.  All of the effort you put into the preparation of the sale can be lost if your signage is poor.

  1. Check list before event day
-       Newspaper for wrapping breakables
-       Grocery bags
-       Stickers for pricing (or use painters / low tack tape
-       Sharpies/Pens/Markers
-       Hangers & clothes rack / clothes line
-       Boxes for sorting or grouping
-       Calculator
-       Tape measure
-       Extension cord to plug in electronics for testing
-       Schedule some helpers
-       Float - ensure you have a selection of small bills and coins to make change
-       Garage sale signs are prepared and ready to be installed around the neighbourhood.

  1. Setting up on event day
-       Get everything sorted, prepped and priced prior to event day.  Lay everything out for easy set-up the morning of your sale. 
-       Set-up in your garage, car port, yard and/or driveway. Make sure people can see the sale from the road.  If they can’t, place a few large items visible from the road.  Add balloons and/or large colourful signage to mark the spot.
-       Remove or cover non-sale items in the sale area.
-       Use fold-up tables or plywood on sawhorse stands for display. Try to display as many of the items as possible, customers won’t always spend the time to dig to the bottom of boxes to find out what you are selling.
-       Hang clothes as much as possible.  Use a rope strung between trees, or portable clothes rack.
-       Display books with spine out/up.
-       Label items that are unclear ie. King sized sheet set, accessories for certain brand of electronic device.

  1. Make it fun
-       Music -  pick a selection that is likely to appeal to the general public, and don’t play it too loud.
-       Theme – consider having all the merchants (all family members, or point person for each area if having a multi-family sale) dress in a theme costume, so customers know who to pay or ask questions to.
a.     Hawaiian grass skirt/Hawaiian shirt
b.     Crazy hats
-       Concession – such as kids selling lemonade & cookies and/or free ice water and coffee.
-       Free stuff – put your broken, unmatched, incomplete items in a FREE box.  Such as single earring, chipped mug, puzzle with missing pieces, etc. If someone can use these items for crafting or repurposing, it’s better to give them for free than send them to the landfill.

  1. Be safe
-       Lock the doors to your house during the sale. 
-       Don’t let anyone in to try on clothes or use the washroom inside.
-       Place valueable items close to the house or cash desk to ensure supervison.
-       Don’t take personal cheques
-       Ensure cash is kept safe – use a fanny pack or apron with pockets.  Don’t leave cash box unattended

  1. At the end
-       Pack up and dispose (donate?) unsold items.
-       Take down neighbourhood signs

Brought to you by:
Heather Fulcher
Professional Organizer for Hire
Vancouver, BC, Canada

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