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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yard Sale Tips

When a friend of mine heard I was doing a yard sale, she asked what tips I had for a successful yard sale, so I will give you mine, if you have good tips you believe increased your sales, leave a comment.

  • Have very large specific signs, I've only done one yard sale with an ad in the paper, and I'm not sure I had a better turn out because of it. I have always been given compliments on my signs, which I assume means they came because of them. I know when I see a yard sale sign there are a few things that determine whether I follow them or not (excluding if I have time or money in my pocket):
  1. Very Large Print. I made these last signs out of 2' x 4' scrap lumber and spray painted black lettering. I have also used very large cardboard moving boxes or large brown grocery sacks written on the side and rocks in the bottom to keep them from flying away. I use the biggest signs I can at the start of the trail. If I can't read it until I've driven pass it in the car, I'm most likely not turning back.
  2. There is a date on the first sign, not just "Saturday" but the actual date, I don't want to go down the road and find out that it was last Saturday.
  3. Post a time on the first sign. If you plan to be open past lunch put it on there. If you don't, your traffic will start to disappear at lunch, too many close at noon, so they won't follow unless there is a time. Don't put "8AM - ????" That tells me nothing. Hang out an actual time to end. If you want to change your mind later, just staple a piece of paper over that time to the new time.
  4. Distance on the first sign. I don't want to wander down 5 miles and not see any signs and wonder if it was last week. When if I had known ahead of time it was 6 miles, I would have crested that hill and seen your sign instead of turning back.
  5. Signs at every intersection. Even if they shouldn't turn, tell them to go straight, otherwise they may give up. Start from every nearby busy road and lead them in from all directions.
  6. Homemade or Unique Signs. For some reason, I don't like following the premade ones, unless there is an embellishment like balloons, probably because I have found that these are often the ones that are left up forever or are so vague or so few that I can't follow them to the sale, so unless I really want to go yard saleing, I am more likely to follow the homemade signs with distinct signage, bubble letters, etc. And don't do a hodgepodge of signage, make them all the same, all have blue bubble letters or all have balloons or all are made from boxes. This keeps me following your trail.
  7. Be Ready. As soon as you put those signs up, people follow you home, I don't care how early it is. Once I put them up at 5:30 AM thinking I had 30 minutes to get ready for the early birds, nope, they saw me put up the sign and since they had nowhere to go for 30 minutes, they followed me home. So don't put them up unless you're ready.
  • Work with a Partner. I would recommend getting together with a friend and doing the sale in one yard, "2 yard sales" on your sign will entice drivers. Separate your stuff by some kind of obstacle, the driveway, a barricade or something to keep money gathering simple if possible. If you can't hold two or more sales, still have a friend or spouse or child work with you. They can change, take down, or put up your sale signs, get you lunch, cover for you for potty breaks etc. And they are there to chat with when the traffic hits a lull. I did one sale completely alone, and I can tell you, it was absolutely not easy and no fun.
  • Coordinate with other sales. At the beginning of summer, ask the neighbors if they intend to have a yard sale, try to find a day to do it all together. More signs on a curb entices drivers more than a single sign. If your city plans city-wide sales, do it then, catch people when they are already yard saleing. You'll get more traffic.
  • Set up before hand. The more stuff you can get out the night before, the better. You aren't missing sales by still carting out stuff or arranging it. Buy some shower curtains or dropcloths at the dollar store to drape over your items to keep them from getting dewy overnight.
  • Accommodate Early Birds. I know there are a lot of ads that say "no early birds", but rethink that. Some of my best sales are to the early birds, these are the shoppers who mean business and are out to buy stuff.
  • Accommodate the After Work Crowd. If you do a Friday sale, seriously think about staying open for those that pass by on their way home from work. They have a paycheck, and they are happy because it's the weekend. 5PM to 6PM on Friday had high traffic for me this last weekend.
  • Tables. Use whatever you can to get stuff off the ground. Every spare table in your house, borrow tables from a church, rec center, etc. Make makeshift ones, I have made do with plywood propped up on a wagon, propped up with 5 gallon buckets, propped up with cinder blocks. I have even cut up really large moving boxes and used that as the table surface. You may not be able to get enough to put up your stuff, but get out as many as possible.
  • Hang adult clothing. People will rifle through kid clothes since they grow so fast, but they usually won't with adult clothes. I have hung them off the edge of my porch roof, took out my portable clothes rack from the laundry room, tied rope between two trees and even set up two ladders across from each other and sat a third ladder between them across the top to use to hang clothes on.
  • Kid's stuff low to ground. If you are making tables, put kid toys on the lowest one (like those on cinder blocks) or if you don't have enough tables, choose to put the kids stuff on the ground (if you don't want it to get wet, place it on wood, cardboard, plastic dropcloths or shower curtain). You want the kids to see Stuffed Snoopy and ask Mom for it, it's only a quarter! Don't put kid stuff above their heads were they can't ask for it.
  • Spread it out. Piles and stuffed boxes don't sell unless someone is desperate for something and will dig for it. Spread things out as much as possible, so they can glance at it. Maybe they don't need any more movies at home, but they saw your copy of Dirty Dancing and got nostalgic and can't pass it up for $1. (R.I.P. Swayze). If you can't get it all out at once, spread it out throughout the day as people buy things and create space.
  • Arrange and Rearrange. Put things out in categories. Guy stuff, home decor, baby clothes, etc. That way people with particular interests will spot that you have what they want and look. People will rifle through things and mess up your arrangements. Constantly monitor and put it back nice and neat. Also, if you have stuff on the ground, bring it up onto the tables when room is made. People don't like ducking or crouching and might miss it on the ground.
  • Put guy stuff and home decor stuff out front and prominent. If you have guy things, put those out on the curb, so that the husband driving the wife around sees you have guy stuff and gets out of the car. I tell you, guy stuff sells like hotcakes, I rarely keep guy stuff around for long (must be because it's so hard to get guys to let go of stuff, there isn't much to be had.) Also, if you have decor/junk, put it out front. Don't put it in back, obscured by kids clothes. Not everyone needs clothes, don't let them drive by thinking that's all you got. Everyone is enticed to look through the junk.
  • Spread out the movies and price them for less than a rental. I price all my movies at a $1, even VHS. It's cheaper to buy it off of me to watch at leisure then to pay for it at a rental store. Everyone likes to watch movies.
  • Price tag as much as possible. People in America are leery about haggling. They won't often ask you to come down in price, nor will they ask you what something costs unless they really want it. This last yard sale, I had too many clothes to price, so I made a sign, but I have to say that didn't work, no one looked. I priced everything in my yard sale that I wanted more than a quarter for and said to every customer "If it doesn't have a tag, it's a quarter." This worked, my sign was ignored. If you have the time, price everything.
  • Make it all even money. 25 cents, 50 cents, $1, $2, $3, $4 etc. don't bother with ten cents, quarters are cheap enough. Make it easy on yourself and everyone with simple pricing. Don't bother with putting change after dollars. You can haggle down to $1.50 is you want. Also, be ready for lots of $20s in the morning. Go take out change (bills) from the bank. You'll put it back in after the yard sale, none of it gets lost, but if you can't change a $20, you could easily lose morning sales.
  • Give them a deal. If someone asks you for a deal, go down in price! Do you really want the stuff back in the house? The only thing I wouldn't do it for is stuff you want to sell on ebay that you have had success selling before that way or maybe nice children's clothes that the consignment shop will take and you intend to take it there. Otherwise, go down in price if they ask! If you don't, they are less likely to ask about any of your other stuff they are interested in. And maybe no one else will want that particular piece of junk, so you get to take it back home at the end of the day.
  • Clothing Pricing by the Bag. If you have a lot of clothing, bring out plastic sacks and offer anyone who starts picking up clothes this line: "All clothes are (50) cents, but you can stuff as much as you want in a bag for $(5)." This gives someone a deal and an incentive to take away your junk.
  • Greet People. This goes back to my work in retail. Greet people when they step into your yard, it lets them know you are approachable (they might be more likely to ask you about an unpriced item or have the guts to ask for a deal on something they want). Also, if you see they are interested in things, give them a price run down of the items if they are unmarked or the bag deals you have going or tell them that the prices are negotiable.
  • Say Prices are Negotiable. Watch your customers, if they finger that vase for awhile or talk about it with their spouse for a bit but put it down, hurry up and say, "The price is negotiable." The word "negotiable" seems to work better than saying, "I'm willing to haggle." "I'll make a deal with you." "Shoot me a price if your interested." etc. I don't know why, but it seems like the magic word. More people will actually offer me another price if I say "negotiable" over any other combination of words I've tried.
  • Have an extension cord ready. If you are selling gadgets, have an extension cord out for people to test things rather than making them take your word for it that it works. When they ask you if it works, offer them the plug in and test it themselves. They will less likely try to give you a lesser price on the item if you prove it works and therefore they feel it isn't a risk to take it home and find out it doesn't work like they wanted it too.
  • Offer free stuff. I don't particularly know if this improves sales, but it makes people happy. If no one is wanting quarter items, you might want to replenish the free box with these items throughout the day. Also, if you include kid stuff in the box, a whiny kid who wants something can get it from there and not distract mom from looking through the stuff she is going to buy.
  • Saturday end sales. Unless you want to do this again, lower your prices as the day wears down. Are you just going to dump it at the thrift store? Then after lunch or once you see a lull in the traffic, slash prices. Tell people when they walk up that everything is half off, or everything is a quarter, or everything's two for a quarter or fill a bag for $1. (If you do this and there are a few items you would rather keep or sell to a consignment store, gather these up and put them somewhere special or take them inside before starting the end of day sale). Why give it to the thrift store and get nothing, when you could get a quarter?
Hope that helps inspire you to think how to sell your stuff to the best advantage and have a better sale than you've had before!


Erin said...

you can also post on craigslist that you are having a sale, include a list of items and a picture if possible.

if you are going to coordinate with neighbors try to get a spot right off a relatively major neighborhood road. we have one in our neighborhood - in front of the school, where tons of people put stuff out, it's almost guaranteed every saturday you can go yardsaling!

Heather - said...

A ton of good tips - thanks!

dani' said...

Kids love grab bags! We put a bunch of our dime/quarter toys into lunch bags and separated them by boy/girl and sold almost all of them for 50 cents each. We never would have gotten rid of that many of the little items if we hadn't put them in bags.

Amanda XOX said...

Fabulous ideas! You've inspired me =o)

WorkingMaa said...

Wonderful tips Melissa ! I should have found this before I had my Yard Sale. I have saved this article for the next time ! Thanks so much ..

WorkingMaa !