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Monday, April 30, 2012

Ten Tips for a Glorious Garage Sale

Hey everyone! Storage Heroes here, and we're writing a book currently on "How to Have the Best Garage Sale Ever" that should be out at the end of May. We just had a really kick-butt sale this past weekend and wanted to take this moment to share with you a few of our sure-fire garage sale tips. Some of them seem super straight-forward, but they're worth repeating. Some you probably haven't even thought of before. Either way, do most of these things or all of these things to make your garage sale count. No one wants to wake up at 6am for less than a few hundred dollars!
This is a typical size of our crowd at any given moment... follow our tips and you'll be just as successful!

Who are we to be garage sale experts? Well, I guess no one is officially an "expert" at anything without some type of paperwork proving it, but I will tell you this: over the last 15 months we have had 1-2 garage sales per week. That's somewhere between 80 and 120 garage sales in a year and a half. I'm pretty sure that after doing anything 80 times, you can pretty much consider yourself an expert. Our average sale brings in the $600-$800 neighborhood, but we've done far better. And we want you to make the most bang for your buck as well. So, here goes:

1. Organize your items before the sale - This sounds like a simple thing to do, and one that doesn't seem like it needs repeating, but definitely do it. I've seen so many people just throw stuff in rubbermaid bins (us included) thinking that you can "put it out the morning of and people can go through it" - wrong. People WILL dig, but they don't like to, there's a reason why only a few of us are Storage Hunters to begin with. Put it out and make it easy for them to find things so it's easy to buy things. You wouldn't buy something at Walmart if it took you over 30 minutes to find it and the same is true for garage sales. A good tip if you don't have a covered space to set up the tables the night before, is to put similar or like items in rubbermaid totes, and mark them with chalk (which comes off) which bin is which- that way in the morning you can just put each bin out on it's own table.

Arrange like items together


2. Price your items - You may not need to put stickers on every single item (especially not if you're like us and you do this every single week) but you definitely at least need to have an idea of what your prices are. Make a matrix, write it down, remember it, stick to it. If you're charging 50 cents for a paperback book and 1.00 for a hardback book, make sure you know that in advance. If you seem unsure about your prices your customers will use that to bulldoze you on the day of the sale. They also may pick up a bunch of things thinking they'll get them for far cheaper and when you disagree just throw them down on the ground leaving your garage sale looking like a bomb went off and discouraging future customers from buying (see #1).

3. Label your tables so that people know what's what - Again, it might seem obvious, but it's not. We have professional signs that are laminated that we can just tape to a table or prop up. It's also super helpful to write down with sidewalk chalk (maybe even the night before) the layout of what is where so that people don't have to guess about where to find something.

Label the sidewalk with chalk underneath tables and on containers for easy pickup



Chalk is also good for showing people which route to take through your sale

4. Provide bins or boxes for customers to keep their items in - Have you ever been to a store that handed you a little basket on your way in? I bet you spend a lot more there than you would have somewhere else- it made carrying everything convenient, you felt like a VIP customer, and it didn't seem like you had quite so many things as you actually ended up purchasing. The same is true for garage sales! If you're in the storage unit business, it's a safe bet that you have hundreds of rubbermaid totes and cardboard boxes and there will be hundreds more where that came from-- give them out!


5. One word: balloons - It may seem strange, but it works. Trust us. Putting balloons out the day of a sale increases our final profit by over $150. We will definitely put some directly in front of the sale, but if we're feeling super enterprising, we'll even put some out on the corners leading to our sales (with the signs with the arrows). It makes the sign eye-catching, it helps people pick our sale over other sales (because we're clearly richer and more high class, and therefore have better items), and it gets everyone in a cheerful party atmosphere.


6. Advertise, advertise, advertise - you cannot over do it enough. The balloons help, make sure you have some really good signs that are visible from the street. Include the address and the time so that people don't a** you end at, say, 11, when you go until 1 or 2. Lime green and blue are two of the most effective colors for being noticed and followed. Sandwich boards are helpful because you don't have to worry about breaking city or neighborhood rules (many of which ban stapling signs to city poles or trees), and they stand up on their own. You can also try parking your vehicle and adhering the sign to it. Make sure you have a newspaper ad AND a craigslist ad. Craigslist is free, the newspaper ad will typically run you $20-$30 and it's WELL spent. The majority of your customers will find you through this ad. You can also be creative and advertise on twitter, Facebook, through flyers, and word of mouth.

Our standard color scheme on signs

Our double sided sandwich board- chalk on one side and dry erase on the other. Notice the balloons!

7. Figure out who your primary audience is and cater to them - did you advertise your sale at a ladies church meeting? Perhaps put sewing and craft items near the front. If you live in a neighborhood with lots of children, put the toys in a visible spot near the street. If you have a eye-catching piece of furniture, make sure that faces the road. You want to attract whoever is going to be passing by, and more importantly, whoever is going to buy the items you have for sale. If you only have one wheel, don't display that- people will stop by looking for tools or automotive things and you won't have anything else to offer them. Use that front space with something you could sell a lot of that day.


8. Make your customers feel special - greet everyone. Learn your frequent customers names and use them. Offer soft drinks, water, or baked goods. Play fun music. Think of things you appreciated while shopping and replicate that experience. A fun thing we always do is that we offer one free toy to every single child that attends our sale. It goes back to when I (Rebecca) was a child and was dragged around to garage sale after garage sales by my grandmother. It was a miserable experience and I only had fun when I was allowed to take something home. Plus, you're entertaining the child (by letting them walk around and shop) so that the parent is free to purchase more items. We also offer discounts to military, students, and on occasion we will give a discount to someone wearing New Orleans Saints colors on game day, or patriotic colors on the fourth of July, etc.

We provided this customer a discount because of his New Orleans Saints attire!

9. Mo' money less problems - offer customers a break on multiple purchases- just like they would get on eBay or at certain stores. We tend to do $1 per item, or 6 for $5, 12 for $10, 15 for $12, 20 for $15 and so on. Perhaps let someone fill a bag for $10 or a box for $20. Above all else, refuse change. Don't sell items for 10 cents, 25 cents, it just opens yourself up to misery (and heavy pockets). If someone wants something that's 50 cents, tell them two for a dollar, and that you don't carry change. It works every time. And on the off chance that they do insist on paying in pennies or dimes, make them feel as ridiculous as possible and make sure your coins aren't worth something! We've had many a person pay us 50 cents less than we asked for only to get a quarter worth $3 in silver.


10. HAVE FUN - Remember, this is part of your income and therefore your job, but it's also a weekend and is your leisure time, so there's no reason why you can't have a ball too. Your customers will be difficult, just let their rude attitudes and ridiculousness roll off your back (or tell them off and have fun doing THAT) - enjoy yourself! Try on costumes, play with toys, after all- you're going to sell these items today right? You'll never see them again after that!

Brian goofing off at a sale!

Rebecca having fun at a sale!

For more Garage sale tips, our book "How to Have the Best. Garage Sale. Ever." should be out in late May! E-mail us at to pre-order.

This blog is cross posted on Storage Treasures.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. We don't have garage sales here in the UK, We have car boot sales which are basically hundreds of people load thier cars up and take them to a field where they sell all their old stuff. They take them quite seriusly as well with antique dealers and etc trying to muscle in on the bargains.



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