Garage Sale Success

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Jul 29, 2009 1:21 PM
Holding a garage sale is a great way to recycle, de-clutter, and make some extra cash while you're doing it. But what good is a garage sale if frustrated shoppers can't find the items they're looking for, they have nothing to carry their purchases away in or - worse yet - nobody shows up? We've compiled tips that will help you hold a successful garage sale, from planning to clean-up.

Prepare in advance
Choose the garage sale date carefully. Try to ensure your sale won't be competing with a community event that many people will be attending, or a long weekend, when many folks head out of town.
Collect bags and boxes so shoppers have something to carry their purchases in, and save old newspapers, which you can use to wrap fragile items.
Ask your neighbours, friends or relatives if they would like to contribute to your sale. Extra "stuff" will bring extra shoppers. Decide in advance how you will split the profits.
Clean everything. That means washing clothing, stuffed toys, and cleaning and dusting electronics, dishes, furniture, etc. Cleanliness will encourage shoppers to buy.
Check out other garage sales in your area to determine what certain items typically sell for.
Have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather. If it's raining, can you move the sale inside your garage? Under tarps?

Advertise your sale
Place an ad in your community newspaper and inquire about advertising in church bulletins. Include the sale date, start and end times, your address and highlight any especially attractive items you'll be selling. For instance, are you selling furniture? Antiques? Collectibles? Is this a moving sale? Are several households contributing their wares? All of these factors entice potential buyers to stop by.
If you don't want shoppers dropping by early (even hours before the sale is due to start), specify "No Early Birds" on your ads/signs.
Advertise your sale online. The folks at Craigslist advise individuals posting a garage sale ad on that site to provide clear directions as well as a link to a map showing your address. Don't use @#%$$ excessively - such symbols annoy users. Take good, clear photos of any hot-ticket items you're selling and upload them to your ad and write an honest description. If the items are well worn but still very useable, say so.
Place eye-catching signs with large print and few words in convenience stores, grocery stores, libraries and anywhere it's permitted.
On sale day, place large signs with bold print at the nearest intersection, closest busy street and at the entrance to your street. And, of course, place a large "Garage Sale" sign in front of your house, plus balloons and streamers to attract drivers just passing by.

Organize your wares
Shoppers know they aren't heading into a department store setting, but a little organization can go a long way. For starters, group similar items together (electronics on one table, toys on another, books on another, etc.). Place clothing on hangers and hang on a fence or string a rope between two trees and voila! Instant clothes rack.
Place small items, like dinkies, balls, tiny plastic toys, etc. into a 25¢ box. Children, especially, will love to pick through the new and exciting finds - and satisfied kids mean Mom and Dad can stick around and shop longer.

Sale day
Be approachable and friendly. Don't ignore your customers by chatting on the phone or reading a book during the sale.
Don't go it alone. Garage sales can get extremely busy, so you'll need at least two people available to work at all times. One person should be solely responsibly for handling cash and making change, while at least one other should be available to answer questions.
Hold onto the money! Never let the cash box out of your sight, lest it be stolen. Remove large bills throughout the day.
Lock all doors to your home. Thieves could enter easily while you're busy counting change.
Be prepared for haggling. Don't be intimidated into selling an antique dresser for $5. Be firm, but polite.
Have easy access to an outlet and extension cord. Shoppers will most likely ask to test appliances and electronics.
Keep a measuring tape on hand so shoppers can measure furniture if need be.
Halfway through the sale, put out a sign that says "Everything 1/2 Price." This should get things moving faster.
At the end of the sale, put items you really want to be rid of in boxes marked "Free" and give them away.

After the sale
Remove all signs that you've posted at businesses, on street corners, etc.
Donate to charity. Many charities will send a truck to retrieve the items leftover from your sale. Contact charities in your area at least a month in advance to ensure they can pick up soon after your sale.

Ashley C.

FYI: Check out the August 2009 issue of Downhome for a list of products Health Canada says should not be resold.