Have Your Best Garage Sale Ever by Following These 9 Retail Secrets


It's that time again. De-clutterers unite! After a big spring cleaning of your house, it's time to unload your unwanted items and put some extra cash in your own pocket. Why not sell like the big boys do?

1. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise

Big box retailers know the power of advertising when it comes to the big one day sale. But you don't have to take a full page ad out in the Sunday circular to attract a crowd full of buyers to your next garage sale. Classified ads in hard copy can eat into your budget, so unless you're splitting the cost and having a giant multi-family sale, consider free advertising instead on venues such as Patch.com, Craigslist, estatesales.net, and estatesales.org.

In addition to your personal Facebook page, many towns are now sprouting community Facebook pages where you can advertise your sale as well as post photos to attract friends and neighbors. Or, do things the old fashioned way — call or write.

Send a blanket email to everyone in your contact list advertising your sale and include photos of big ticket items, with lots of descriptive keywords. (I thought I'd never get rid of old albums from the 60s and 70s, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many people responded to my email blast).

Helaine Fendelman, a nationally recognized authority in the arts, antiques, and collectibles field recommends sellers pick up the phone and call buyers who might be interested in the items to be sold, and invite them specifically to come to the sale.

Of course, posting signs on telephone poles never hurt — and may attract impulse buyers out for a Sunday drive. Just remember to take them down when the sale is over.

2. Presentation Is Everything

A well-organized (and clean) store makes for a pleasant shopping experience. The same is true for your yard sale.

Assemble larger or higher end items in front and group similar items together. Designating areas for furniture, clothes, toys, electronic devices, and books will make it easier for customers to browse. Have a few power strips handy to test electric devices such as stereo equipment. (Or have them plugged in and working, with pleasant music playing.)

Attract last-minute shoppers to your sale towards the end of the day by tossing several items into a very large box marked "free." Display stuffed animals or other miscellaneous toys in baskets or colorful bins.

Remember, neatness counts. Items covered in dust from the attic or basement will sell faster when cleaned or polished. Put loose parts into clear storage bags. Arrange smaller pieces attractively on multiple levels on tables by placing them on top of shoe boxes or other sturdy small boxes.

If you have a friend who has a knack for displaying items in and around his or her home, chances are they can do the same at your garage sale. Ask for her or his help and in return, offer to sell some of his or her unwanted items.

3. Pricing: Become an Expert

Do a quick search on eBay for the exact same items you have. If you find a match, print out the information with prices and attach to the goods, so customers can see their "potential" worth (and what a great bargain they are getting!). And if you watch enough Antiques Road Show episodes, you'll know you should probably open an old book to see if it's a first printing before tossing into a box for a quarter. (I almost did that with a John Steinbeck novel at my last tag sale.)

However, if the purpose is to get rid of all the stuff you don't use or need any longer, and you're just as happy to see someone get a real bargain rather than spend time researching, set your prices as low as possible (and be prepared for even more haggling). I once went to a garage sale that had a sign that read "Name Your Own Price Yard Sale."

4. Add Ons — A Profitable Selling Tactic

Scoring a great deal on a designer dress at your favorite retailer's one-day sale allows more money to be freed up for matching shoes and a new bag, and perhaps some jewelry.

When personal stylist Madeline Gerris is hosting a Stella and Dot trunk show, she sizes up what a client is wearing and then coordinates accessories accordingly. "If jewelry or accessories are on your yard sale table, have mirrors handy. Observe what folks are wearing and let them know you have the perfect bag, necklace, earrings, etc. that would match that outfit they are wearing quite nicely. If you have clothes for sale as well, pair up accessories with clothing items when the buyer is ready to purchase."

5. The Art of the Deal

Practice your negotiation skills! If someone is interested in an item, deal with them on the spot. This might be the only person who expresses interest in that item the entire sale.

Have plenty of single dollar bills on hand and don't sell any item for less than a buck, even if it means selling two or more items for a dollar. The time you spend looking around for nickels and quarters will eat into your valuable time (not to mention patience). Wouldn't you rather spend your energy striking a bargain with someone interested in a piece of furniture or sports equipment?

Be firm with bargain hunters and run your garage sale as if you were the owner of a discount retail shop. Be prepared for low ball offers and don't take things personally or become insulted with customers looking to get everything for a quarter.

Be kind with children — if there is a toy you don't mind parting with, hand it to the child in front of the parent and offer it as a gift. A small gesture may make a customer more inclined to make additional purchases.

Don't accept checks from anyone you don't know. Prepare for those low on cash by using a mobile app like PayPal to accept credit card payments.

6. Organize Pre-Sales and Post Sales

Ever notice some back to school sales start in July? While you may not need that much lead time before Saturday's big event, Barry Izsak, past president of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) recommends you start your sale on Thursday or Friday and get a jump start on the weekend garage sale games.

Afterwards, and about two hours before you're about to call it quits, slash prices in half. Make one large "50% off everything" sign, and post it in front of the sale. Combine items for special discounts, or offer the "buy one get one free" items.

7. Those Darn Early Birds

Businesses don't open before the crack of dawn, so why should your garage sale?

Some experts in the industry say do not allow any pre-selling the morning of, as that will lead to cherry picking, or worse — catching you off guard before your first cup of coffee. If you're easily distracted, a poor decision could cost you later.

The presence of the family dog, no matter how friendly, also tends to ward off folks looking to go through your items before they are neatly arranged.

Be firm with early birds, or consider adding the words "early birds pay double" to your advertising campaign.

8. Take a Tip From Successful Non-Profits

Consider donating a portion of your profits from your next tag sale to a local charity.

Rick Ostberg, General Manager for a New Jersey Habitat for Humanity's ReStore says, "When folks know profits from the sale of goods will be put to good use, they tend to buy more — especially when the prices are sold at deep discounts."

9. Snacks and Refreshments

Nothing puts people in a better mood than food. And while you don't have to provide free hot dogs and rent a popcorn machine to rope folks into your yard sale, you may want to consider offering or selling snacks.

Enlist the help of your children (or grandchildren) and encourage them to set up their own side business at your garage sale, selling lemonade and cookies. Or provide or sell small bags of popcorn, cookies or bottled water for your customers. The added benefit of selling or providing snacks will also put your shoppers in a better mood, and bargain hunters may just linger a bit longer at your sale.

What worked for you at your last yard sale? Please share in comments!

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