Spring is here and so are the rummage sales. Wondering how to get the most bang (and bucks) from the weekend you are about to spend in your garage and driveway? Using personal experience and the advice of avid rummage sale shoppers I have put together a list of ten tips for those about to embark on the adventure that is: HAVING A RUMMAGE SALE.
Tip No. 1: Have a goal in mind. Your goal may be to clean out your house of unwanted, unused and outdated stuff. Your goal maybe to make enough money to buy or pay for _____ (fill in the blank). Each goal results in a very different thought process. For example, if your goal is to rid yourself of clutter and get back to a fresh start in your house, you may care less for pricing or bargaining with customers. If they take it away, you figure you are accomplishing your goal. The fact they paid you $1.75 is just a bonus. If your goal is to make some money, you may think differently or more carefully about pricing, and making deals during the day of the sale. I would also recommend that if your goal is to make money that you DO NOT buy anything from anyone else at your sale, or the sale down the street or the sale across town. You worked long and hard to organize, price and sell your items. Do not give even a penny of that hard earned money away on someone else’s rummage items, because you have a goal… to make money. And spending money, even $5 here on this and $7.50 there on that, detracts from your goal. (Even if it is a good deal.)
Tip No. 2: Have your sale early. Early in the season, early in the month, early in the week, early in the day. There are people who get a real buzz off of rummaging. I work with a lady who goes on her lunch hour sometimes… “just to see if there are any treasures.” I can guarantee you after a long winter she is all fired up to see what people have to sell, but come mid-summer, that flame has dwindled. Also, having your sale at the beginning of a month, when people are paid and still have money before paying bills, is a good idea. Another idea to consider is opening your sale Thursday afternoon. I know plenty of people who give friends the heads up to stop by and check out merchandise “before the sale”, and more times than not, upon seeing an open garage piled with stuff, passersby stop… and buy. Open early in the morning. Rummagers are early risers. They can’t wait for their first stop (their first stop after getting their coffee that is). Again, why not capitalize on the frenzy of those ready and willing to part with their cash?
Tip No. 3: hang and/or label clothes. Many people are looking for specific clothing items and sizes. Take the extra time to throw out a sign saying “boys’ clothes, sizes 7-8” or “baby clothes 0-12 months.” It will let those mission shoppers know they have hit the jackpot and found exactly what they were looking for. When it comes to adult clothes, hang them up if possible. Treating the clothing nicely during the sale, says to the customer that you treated it nice while you owned it, and therefore it is in good condition (and worth buying). It is also easier to view this way, and will keep you from having to refold tables full of clothes in order to maintain good appearances.
Tip No. 4: mark items clearly and in a way that won’t fall off. It lets customers know quickly the cost of an item. Also, for the ease of the customer mark similar items the same way. For example, put all clothing prices on the inside tag by the neck, or all toy prices directly on the top. Make sure to affix the price in a way that will not fall or be pulled off. No one wants to think that people will cheat them out of money (especially on a $2.00 item), but at my friend’s sale last year, we saw a woman switching stickers with cheaper items before coming to pay. Protect your merchandise and dollar by taking the little extra time to mark it well. If you are unsure of what to price your items, check a site like garagesaletracker.com for suggested prices and other ideas.
Tip No. 5: have a power strip plugged in near the cash box. People can feel iffy about buying electronics used. If you have a way to show them it definitely works, and works well, you have a better chance of selling it. Also, include the manufacturer’s manual or original warranty paperwork with the item if at all possible.
Tip No. 6: don’t over price shoes. I learned from experience last spring that shoes do not sell well. I think it has something to do with the smelly foot factor… that people just don’t want to share that small space where someone else’s sweaty feet have been. For example, I had a pair of $80 Doc Martens that I barely wore a dozen times. They just didn’t fit my feet right, but they were a gift, so I held on to them. I tried to sell them for $15, and ended up practically giving them away for $7, less than 10% of their original cost. Take my advice, if you want shoes to go, mark ’em low, or just donate them to Goodwill and consider it a good deed done.
Tip No. 7: spend the time and money to advertise in an effective way. Putting an ad in the newspaper specifically listing your address, hours of operation and any big ticket items will definitely pay off in the end. Also, go for the pre-made plastic signs to post on corners rather than your home-made tag-board art work. It if rains, the purchased signs don’t wither and run with ink the way the others would. Also, they often come with nice metal wires that push nicely into grass so you don’t have to deal with wooden stakes and a hammer.
Tip No. 8: work with a friend, neighbor or family member. Combine your sale items at the house with the best location (preferably one with a lot of residential and foot traffic). Location is important, but this is a good tip for other reasons as well. First of all, people are turned off by sales that don’t appear to have much to offer them. Rummagers want lots to look at. Unless you are going for a complete clean sweep of your house and your garage is overflowing with just your merchandise, it is a good idea put a few families’ items together for a sale. Just make sure to mark items clearly so you know who the money goes to after a sale. Color coding is fine, but I have found initials are easier for this. (Nothing is more annoying than running out of green dot stickers at 10:30 the night before the sale.) Another bonus of working together is sharing the work hours of the sale. You can take turns and not be completely tied to the garage all weekend. A final bonus of working with neighbors is that more sales in a condensed area attract more customers. People are more likely to visit a neighborhood having multiple sales that those with only a single sale.
Tip No. 9: have bags available for customers to take home the treasures they purchased. You know that overabundance of plastic Wal-mart bags clogging up the hall closet? Put them to good use. It’s something small, but it is very helpful, especially to those who purchase a lot from your sale. Go one step further and offer to carry purchased items to the customer’s car if their hands get full, or if they buy a bigger item like furniture.
Tip No. 10: whatever comes out of the house (shed, garage, etc.) stays out. If it doesn’t sell, try a consignment or pawn shop. If you can’t get anything for it there, drop it off at Goodwill. Even if your goal was to make money, there was a good reason you thought you could part with the item in the first place. Stick with your gut reaction, and leave it out of your house.
I hope these tips prove helpful in your rummage sale endeavors. Whatever your goal may be, I hope you find your house clearer of clutter and your wallet a little fuller.