So, a few Saturdays ago, I hosted my very first yard sale, which was a community-wide event. How exciting it was for me to take on the role of an amateur businesswoman for a day! With a cache of vintage 2000s era items, signs, snacks, cold drinks, and music, I was ready to seize the day.
For my first experience, here are a few take aways:
Get out early!
One of the bigger setbacks that I had was getting outside a bit later than the start time. The community yard sale began at 7:00 a.m. However, I didn’t start setting up outside until around 8:45 a.m., almost two hours afterwards. As my father put it “the early bird gets the worm”, and I believe he was right. Our neighborhood was booming with buyers during those wee hours, and with my street being near the entrance, those hours lost could have been very valuable in terms of increasing profits for the day. More preparation the night or even a few days before could have made a bigger difference.
Organize, organize, organize!
Having order to your sale can be very instrumental when it comes to attracting customers. You want to make a good first impression as they are driving or walking by. Making sure that all or most of your items are visible and easy to sort through will help put consumers’ minds more at ease when determining whether or not they will stop in. On the other hand, as a seller, it will be a bit more difficult to sell an ipod (which may be one of the bigger-ticketed items) if it’s buried in a mix of nick-nacks that all look the same. Have a section for clothes, a section for electronics, a section for housewares, and on. Depending on the size of the space that you are working with, you may have to get a little creative in terms of how you can best organize. Yes, throughout the day, customers will come by, pick through clothes, and sometimes get things out of whack. I am not suggesting you be a neat freak and go behind someone every time something is misplaced; that would be exhausting. I am merely suggesting to periodically straighten things up if need be (like every 15-20 minutes). Though a little clutter is okay, too much clutter can cost you a sale.
Make your big-ticket items visible
What do I mean by big-ticket items? Hot selling items such as the clothes that are more trendy (perhaps the name brand ones), electronics (music players, cell phones, etc), and large items (furniture, ride-on toys, etc). My big-ticket items were a car stereo that was purchased but never taken out of the box, a gently used Nextbook 7″ tablet, a double jogging stroller that was in excellent condition, several nerf guns, a crock pot that was lidless but had otherwise never been used, and a hoard of snacks and drinks for a hot-spring day. These items were my ‘front-liners’, which I used to help draw customers in. They were the first things that they saw, and it appeared to intrigue them to want to explore more, perhaps discovering something else along the way that suited their tastes. The tablet actually sold as I was walking out the door to set everything up that morning, which was a very pleasant way for my day to start! 🙂
Three dollars is yard sale blasphemy!
I am so not kidding! When it comes to clothing, books, dvds, cds, small toys, and nick nacks, going above $2.00 is almost always a danger zone. For me, I should have known better having been on the other side of the spectrum. As a consumer, one thing I definitely look for is the ability to buy and multiply, racking up a lot of items for a relatively low cost. Two multiplies a lot better than three. I lost several customers once they heard the prices of certain items (books and clothing in particular), which I eventually lowered incrementally as the day progressed. By then, however, it was almost too late.
Things such as electronics, appliances, big toys, furniture, and the like are OK to place higher prices on, and I would def encourage it. Several of said items that I sold were in great to excellent condition, gently used, and were certainly worth the deals that I had offered for them.
Be prepared to bargain!
Particularly at a venue such as a yard sale, you can very well expect that people will try to negotiate prices. Geez, I wish I would have learned this beforehand! I expected that people were just gonna come by, see the prices, pay full price, and that I would walk away with an set amount of revenue. But nooo! It seemed like some people’s minds were set on “survivor” mode because on average, approxiamately $1-5 was shaved off the asking price for several items. At first I felt like I was being taken advantage of, but later on, I realized that it was just the ‘nature of the game’ and that everybody wanted to win. When it was all over, my mom suggested the idea of pricing things (particularly the big-ticket items) a tiny bit higher due to this normality of yard sales. I will most definitely be taking this advice in the future!
Greet as you meet
People generally enjoy a pleasant smile and a warm salutation. Be sure to greet every customer, even the kids! This will help enrich the atmosphere, making you more approachable for questions, comments, and conversation. What I learned in hindsight is, that it can also be helpful if you introduce yourself by name and express to customers your willingness to assist them, even if they don’t ask for it.
Signs are a help
Signs can be helpful for a number of reasons. 1) They can help maintain order. Having signs can help direct customers to the right section. Less mess can be created if people don’t have to dig too hard to find something. If they are solely searching for toys, they would know where to look; for clothes and you get the picture. 2) They can give detailed information about a product as far its condition, price, and etc, potentially saving you and the customers time when you may not be available to answer questions. 3) They can attract attention to your yard sale and maybe certain items you are trying to sell. 4) They can help increase customers’ confidence in you as a seller and your level of professionalism, which is always a plus, in my opinion. If you have the time and the tools, I would definitely encourage you to make a few!
I made the decision to play music during my yard sale, with the goal being to lighten the atmosphere, set my unique thumbprint in the community (I love music), and pique the interests of those who had never heard quality music that talked about Christ. I started off with a mixed cd, which featured the artists Shai Linne, Stephen the Levite, David Crowder Band, Trip Lee, and Jackie Hill with select tracks from their most recent projects. The reception? Meh. Some people bopped their heads and even sang along a little bit to songs with familiar tunes like with Shai Linne’s “Nothing But the Blood” from “Lyrical Theology Pt. 2”. Other people seemed to be turned off a little bit by it and maybe even a little offended. Though nothing was said by those customers in particular, I could read somewhat on their faces that they may have been a little at odds with my music selection, either simply because it was rap or because it was theological or a mixture of both. Towards the end of the day, I switched cds and popped in Jamie Grace’s “Ready to Fly” and later on Robin Thicke’s “Something Else”. All I can say is next time, I may try a softer approach or just include no music at all.
Food is a good thing!
I chose to sell snacks and drinks, anticipating that it would be a hot and sunny day and that people would be willing to pay for something cold or sweet as relief from the hot sun and all the walking. Sales with that were modest. Certain items sold better than others, such as honey buns, nutter butters, and oreos. It was surprising, however, that the drinks didn’t sell as well, especially since it was about 80 degress outside! My theory is that because they were under the table (to shield from the sun) they may not have been as visible to the customers and that’s why they may not have sold. Regardless, refreshments are a good choice to have and may very well bring in more customers. For the future, I have even considered having a George Foreman grill, selling hotdogs and hamburgers made to order or perhaps having coffee and pastries in the morning. I can be a bit ambitious at times :).
Keep Good Track of Sales
Another important aspect of having a successful yard sale is being aware of how much money you are bringing in and which items are selling. To help myself keep track of these things, I made a list the night before of everything that I would be selling, and the prices I would be selling them forI Included on that list were groups of items that were both unique (i.e. tablet, stereo, crockpot, stroller, etc) and not unique (i.e. dvds, clothing, nerf guns, snacks, etc), which were then priced respectively. This saved me a future headache and helped me to stay organized, since I could record exactly what was being sold and for how much. As people bought things, I would simply tick items off of that list and make corrections and notes where needed. For easy access, I had it positioned within arm’s reach of me at the table where I sat. Additionally, keeping a list helps to bolster a greater sense of security throughout the day knowing that if something goes “missing” or unaccounted for, you may have a better chance at tracking it down; either that, or it may prevent theft from customers who know you are keeping an eye on everything.
There will be some setbacks, unmet expectations, and maybe even some “change-my-minder” buyers, but def don’t let those put a damper on your morale. If one sale doesn’t go thru for one, hold on to the hope that someone else may come along and take it. I didn’t sell out as I had hoped, but I did make a lot of the important sales I wanted to make and even a few unexpected sales. There’s much room for improvement. Be honest, be warm, be knowledgeable, and I wish you the best success for your next yard sale!