We had a garage sale over the weekend. I guess that’s not really that newsworthy, but if you want to know how to have an uber successful garage sale, you might want to read on. You’ll find some helpful hints along the way.
I read an article by an “expert” at garage sales before we held our weekend sale. It said that men’s and women’s clothing do not sell. Children’s clothes, on the other hand will sell very well. We didn’t have any children’s clothes, but we did have 27 men’s shirts, many of them never worn. My friend brought them. I told him I just read an expert’s article about garage sales, someone who had written a book about it and the article said not to waste your time selling men’s or women’s clothes in garage sales. It would be better to donate them and take the tax credit. No, my friend says, I’ll bet you $5 that I sell at least 50% of those shirts. The bet was on. I’ll tell you how that turned out later. Here are my expert suggestions for having a successful garage sale:
Signs. Signs are hands down the most important element to a successful garage sale. Professional looking signs draw traffic. Just like “Open House” signs do. We actually used A-frame open house signs, the two-sided tent signs, and taped garage sale signs with arrows, days, times and address on both sides. We had them at every major cross street and no one had any problem finding our sale. The other garage sale advertised in our neighborhood, had a poster board sign taped to the stop sign pole. The remnants of it were on the ground this morning. Anyway, you get my point…spend some time on the signs.
Traffic. How do you get traffic to your garage sale. (By the way, shouldn’t it be called a “driveway sale” because they are rarely held in the garage, and most of the stuff for sale didn’t come from the garage?) We conducted an unofficial study and determined if there was a lull in the traffic, and you’re a smoker, just light up a cigarette. We have plenty of data to prove that every time one of us lit a cigarette, a car would drive up followed by several others. Craigslist helps too.
Engage Your Customers. Can’t emphasize enough how important it is to engage your customers. The expert I mentioned earlier said that you should acknowledge them and let them shop. Our method was to engage. I’m pretty sure only five or six people left our sale without buying something. And, damn, we even had repeat business. I’ll give you some examples.
Almost everyone who walked onto the driveway was asked how they were doing, and “what do you need?”
“I don’t need anything,” they would inevitably answer.
“Well, then, what do you want? We’re not letting you leave here until you buy something.”
My friend, who is a sales professional, would ask every woman how she was in the same manner, “How are you young lady?” They always seemed to enjoy it even if they were obviously in their 90s. One time a mother and teenage daughter walked up and he said, “How are you young lady,” and the daughter answered automatically. “I was talking to her,” he said. I think the lady bought $10 worth of stuff.
We had a swing bench that garnered a little attention from two women. The price on the item was $20. The one woman said she’d give us $10, because the cushions were a little rough and she didn’t know “what people had done in that swing.” The sales professional said, “Split the difference, $12.50.” The other woman walked up.
“Wait a minute. I’ll give you $15 for it,” and, turning to the other woman said, “You don’t know what I’m going to do in that swing,” which offended lady number one. “Why are you selling it to her for $10?” We explained that we weren’t accepting $10, the current offer was splitting the difference to which lady number 2 apologized for offending lady number one because she said the look on her face made her think she had offended her.
“That’s okay you’re friends with them,” lady number one said.
We didn’t know either one of them and said so. Swing went to the highest bidder.
Lady number one had bought several items, only had a dollar left and wanted to know if we would take $1 for a salad bowl set. Lady number two yelled from up the driveway, “I’ll throw in a dollar since I offended you earlier, take the bowls, they’re on me.”
Lady number one said to me before she walked to her car, “This is the funnest garage sale I’ve ever been to.”
One woman was so impressed by the sales professional’s techniques that she wanted to know if he was for hire. “How do you think he got here,” I asked?
We had a nice tent for sale and we had a lot of people looking at it but no sale. A couple came up to the table where we sat most of the day, sipping cocktails, and asked how much the tent was.
“Sticker on it says $40,” I says.
“I only have $30.”
“What, you don’t have a quarter or some change in the car?” the sales professional says in disbelief.
“Yeah, I probably have a quarter,” the girl said.
“Sold for $30.25.” We never sold the tent. It’s advertised on Craigslist if you’re interested.
One girl who had a dachshund that barked at everyone that came close to it, said, as she was leaving, “You made me want to buy things.”
Many people said they had never had so much fun at a garage sale ever. Engage your customers.
Pricing. No matter what you price your item, be willing and obvious that you will negotiate. Here’s an example:
“We have Mozart for ten cents!” the sales professional calls out to no one in particular.
An elderly woman with her head in a box of purses popped up. “I’ll take Mozart for ten cents, if you can find it, and no one else takes it first.”
“Oh, I can find it.” Sold. Mozart for ten cents, a CD and informational booklet about the immortal composer.
It became a challenge to sell a bag of used cabinet hinges. We started asking everyone that walked up if they needed a bag of hinges. It evolved into a “Bag ‘O Hinges,” and the price continually dropped from $3 to its current 65 cents. “You know you’re going to need one of the those sometime, and you’re gonna say to yourself, ‘Damn I should have bought that Bag O Hinges’.” We still have the bag of hinges if you’re interested.
I had an old music stand from when I was a kid (So, yes, it’s an antique.) and I priced it at $2. I kept saying “I can’t believe no one has bought the music stand. Doesn’t anyone use music stands anymore?” Apparently they don’t. Maybe we priced it too high.
“I can’t believe the music stand is still here,” I said at the end of the day. Not much else was.
Our hours were 8-3 and we sold our last item at 2:50, then it started to rain. Something it had threatened to do all day. So do our methods work? Try them the next time you have a garage, yard, driveway, thrift sale. We cleared a little over $1,000 in 7 hours sitting in our chairs, sipping cocktails…until we sold them. The chairs, not the cocktails, although that might not be a bad idea. Make a little extra money on refreshments.
The Bet. Several people looked at the shirts, but no one was buying, even at $2. Like I said, many of these were new, name brands, with the tags still on them, some $24 or more. I was thinking my $5 bet was a sure thing. Then a BIG diesel flatbed truck pulled up in the cul-de-sac and two guys jumped out. I remember commenting, “Now that’s how to come to a garage sale.”
Immediately they start checking out the sales professional’s shirts. “The whole rack of shirts, twenty bucks,” he tells the guy. I couldn’t beleive it. I never expected him to try that. They don’t seem to understand, so I figure I’m still good. “This whole rack of shirts, you can have them all for twenty bucks.” They smile and walk away. After looking around for a few minutes, and buying a TV and some other things, they go back to their truck. I went into the house to refill my drink.
When I came back I was out $5. It seems they talked about it, and came back, maybe figured out what a good deal it was, and bought the rack of shirts for $20. The sales professional quickly figured out that he had made a $1 a shirt with my $5 which was what he was expecting all along, and sold 100% of his shirt inventory. So much for the expert.