You wouldn’t think there would be any art, science or psychology to having a successful garage sale, but there is. It involves all three, believe it or not. If you are even pondering the idea of putting on a garage or yard sale, think first about the things that can easily make it unsuccessful.
Rural roads, long driveways, busy highways, no parking, and gated communities do not encourage garage sale customers to find you easily or even want to bother. It’s too much work, and there is too much unknown. If you live in one of these areas, find a friend in a busy family neighborhood and offer to co-host the sale.
2. It’s Been a Bad Day
Choose your garage sale days, dates, and times carefully. Saturday and Sunday together used to be the best days for a sale, but not anymore. Sundays become one long, dragged-out day with little or no sales. You will need Sunday to recover from your hard work. Fridays are the new Saturday. Keep your sale to one day so that buyers will not have the option to “think about” a purchase and come back the next day. Stay away from spring and summer holidays (Easter, July Fourth, etc.) when potential customers will most likely be spending time with family. Don’t try to sell things like “dorm room“ furniture in the late spring when college students are headed home for the summer.
3. What Sign?
Garage sale signs with small print, faint lettering, a dull cardboard background, poor placement, or any one of these elements will have you losing more customers than you want to know about. If you skip using just large directional arrows on a bright background in favor of your handwritten tiny address, how do you expect a shopper to be led to your garage full of goodies? Notice the very unreadable sign in the picture that I took to demonstrate this very common mistake.© Eliminate Chaos
4. Garage Cave
Take your sale outside. Most shoppers don’t want to step into your dark garage and paw through your stuff. The driveway or sidewalk is much safer to them psychologically. Many people do drive-bys to see if you have something that catches their eye before they park the car and peruse your goods. If you place everything inside your garage, then those “cruisers” may miss something that they really need and you are anxious to sell.
5. Pricing and Bargaining
Sky-high prices equal low sales volume. Experienced garage sale shoppers know their prices, so don’t try to fool them. A good rule of thumb is to price your goods at about 20 percent of current retail, maybe a bit more or less depending on the quality and overall condition of the items. Books and clothes need to be priced much lower as the supply usually outpaces the demand. Just as there is a science to pricing, there is an art to bargaining with your customers. Don’t bargain at all within the first two hours, and when you are willing to start, “sell” the benefits of an item to encourage the customer to pay as much as you’d like to receive for it. Bargain away in the last two hours!
Bonus Mistakes to Avoid
No fixtures, no fun and no merchandising make for a poor garage sale scene. Get those treasures shined up, off the floor and displayed nicely with like groups of items on flat tables. Hang clothes, tablecloths, drapery, and bedding front and center, on a rolling garment rack or a tall stepladder instead of lumped in piles. Once you’ve got everything out and are actively selling items, start almost immediately to fill in the holes created by the things that have sold. As you are staying busy helping customers or creating new displays, greet newcomers and start a friendly chat or make a joke, even if they show little or no interest in buying. Talk is cheap, and it is a great way to deter a would-be shoplifter. Sometimes an innocent conversation can lead to the most unexpected yet profitable transactions.
Laura Leist, CPO
Organizing with Laura