Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Practical Advice for Folks Planning to Hold a Yard Sale (Part II)

This is the second part of the yard saling post I started last week!  Enjoy!

11. Everyone who comes into your yard is your customer.

Customer service is one of those areas where many yard sales fail.  Sometimes this is due to poor planning.  It's hard for one person to manage a yard full of stuff and people alone.  I saw a seller at an estate sale fussing at a buyer to "make up her mind" because she "was taking too much time" once.  That's a dealer whose sales I avoid now.

Say "Hi!"  Acknowledge their presence.  Offer help if needed, including helping to carry stuff to the car.  Stay friendly. Have bags and paper to wrap ready.  Have change ready.  Treat folks the way you would want to be treated at a yard sale.  Answer questions. Offer to hold stuff or make piles. It's really pretty simple.

If your plan is to stay seated in the shade, talking to your friends, and only look at the customers when they come to pay, then you don't get it.  You'll have some sales that way, but not as many as if you'd actually gotten involved in the selling.

One of the sales we pulled into just last weekend was being held by three guys who were more interested in swapping ghost stories than selling their (unpriced) stuff.  I left without buying anything.  Don't make the customer work to give you money.

12. Have a sense of humor about things.

It's going to be a long, hot day.  The more you laugh, the better you'll feel. Mistakes are going to happen.  You may have periods of an hour or more where no one comes.  Play music to keep yourself entertained.  Make sure you have people to talk to.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  You'll be doing enough sweating as it is.

13. Plan to eat, drink and use the potty.

Arrange with someone to bring breakfast and coffee at the beginning and lunch around midday.  Keep a supply of drinks on hand.  Spell each other for shade and bathroom breaks.  Plan to take care of yourself and you'll have a lot more staying power.

14. Have clearly identified people to take money.

Having lots of workers is a good thing, but it can create confusion when it comes to the money.  It's better to have only two or three people taking care of that.  Get some cheap carpenter's aprons from the hardware store and give the money handlers each one.  This will make them easier to identify.  They can also circulate and take money on the spot, decreasing waits and lines.  Make sure they do cash drops to a secure location in the house from time to time as well.

15. Take care setting up.

Organization is the key to a good sale.  Grouping like items makes things easier to find.  Keep the valuables together and near someone who will be responsible for watching them.  Spread out, so that it looks like you have more stuff and it looks less cluttered.  Use as much of the yard/driveway as you can.

Your goal should be to get as much of your stuff spread out as possible.  Items left in boxes or piles may be missed by buyers.  Not everyone likes to dig.

16. Set up doesn’t stop. It goes on all day long.

When something sells, put something else in its spot.  Keep rearranging your tables throughout the day so that they look full and fresh.  Condense as the day goes on.  A sale that looks like it's still overflowing with goodies attracts more shoppers than one that looks picked over.

If you didn't have room for everything in the morning, then put the extra stuff out as space opens up.  Condensing and tidying is also a great way to show yourself how much you are selling.  Every little bit of self-encouragement helps on a long, hot day.

If you keep working it, you can have sales and shoppers late into the day.  I love pulling up to sales at 3 or 4 in the afternoon!

17. If it didn’t sell in your antique booth at that price, it’s not going to sell in your front yard for that price.

Do I really need to say any more?  With the rise in popularity of vendor malls, it's becoming more and more common to see failed vendors unloading their stuff at yard sales.  This may be you.  That's okay.  If you've closed the business down, there's no need to keep looking at all the leftover stuff.  Just remember one simple rule:

Your yard sale is not the place to recoup your losses.  Seriously.  It's not.

18. After you’ve assembled your stuff, but before you have your sale, take a good look at everything.

If all you can see after you’ve put everything together is baby/kids stuff, holiday decorations, craft and scrapbooking stuff or clothes. Take a step back and rethink. You might be better off waiting a while or trying some other route to get rid of your stuff.

Everybody sells these items. I mean everybody. And while some folks do go out to sales looking for these things, there are a lot more that don’t. My time and money are limited, even on weekends. Why would I want to stop at your sale if it looks like everyone else’s or seems like it doesn’t have anything I want/need?

For a lot of buyers (me included), these are the items that over power everything else and make it look like there’s nothing of interest at a sale. You want to avoid this at all costs. I don’t have kids or babies, so why am I going to stop at the yard that seems like it’s overflowing with baby stuff? Your goal is to attract as many people as possible into your sale.

If you can see that you have a ton of the above items, plus a lot of other, more interesting stuff, you need to plan. You don’t want the rest of your stuff to be overshadowed and miss sales. Go through the piles of kids stuff, clothes, etc and edit. Pull out only the very best items for your sale. Donate the rest somewhere. You should reduce your mound by at least a third, if not by half.

When you set up, take care that the baby stuff, holiday decorations, etc aren’t spread all over the yard and aren’t front and center dominating everything else. Put them in the back or off to the side. Folks who want them will look for them. Those of us who roll our eyes at them and pass by will be more likely to notice the other stuff.

Consider not putting all of your craft stuff, etc. out at once. Put out some of it and replenish it as it sells. This reduces the impact on the rest of your sale. And many times, people who are interested in this kind of stuff will ask if you have more, at which point you can bring more out.

Also, consider pricing in bulk, which will clear items out more quickly.

19. At the end of the day, if you’ve not sold much or anything, the primary person responsible is you.

I've heard sellers bitching about buyers not buying lots of times.   Usually, it's the sellers who are disorganized, unpriced, with very little to sell.  And whose fault is it that people aren't buying things again?

Seriously, I cannot repeat this enough.  This is a lot of work.  All day long.  If all you want to do it sit in the shade and drink beer, go fishing.   You get out of your sale what you put into it.

20. I don’t care what your little book, or anyone else says, your item is “worth” what I’m willing to pay for it.

If you really, really want book value for your little dimmy-doodle, put it in an auction and pray.  Your front yard is not the place to try and get it.  Seriously.

21. Stick it out!

Too many sales these days only go for two or three hours.  Most only advertise until noon or so.  To me, that's hardly worth the effort of hauling out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn and hauling all that stuff outside.  You've put a lot of work into this thing.  Don't give up until you've wrung every last drop out of it.  The longer you stay open, the more you can sell, especially if you keep cleaning up as the day goes on.

We've never ended a sale before 4:00 pm.   There are always at least two good waves of customers in the afternoon.  At least, that's what we've found.  Start having your half-price between 2:30 and 3:00.  Make outrageous bulk deals at 3:30.  You'll get your stuff gone.  And have fun.

22.  BE CAREFUL!!!

Sadly, you can find thieves, grifters, and con artists everywhere these days, including yard sales.  Be careful and keep your guard up.  This is one reason why having help is so vital.  One person simply cannot keep watch on everything.

Don't let people in your house. Keep the front door shut so they can't see in.  Cover items in the garage that are not for sale.  Better yet, close off the garage entirely.

Don't keep all the money on you or outside.  Do a large bill drop to a safe spot in the house every so often.  Don't give out a lot of personal info to buyers.  Check through clothes and books for cash and receipts before putting them out for sale.

Every so often, you read about someone that got ripped off during a sale or shortly after by one of the "shoppers."  Use your common sense and keep your guard up.  Don't let the assholes out there spoil a good day.

That's it for my words of wisdom, folks!  I make no guarantees about success, of course.  But, I do think that putting some thought and planning into what you are doing will make you a lot more likely to succeed than just throwing some crap out in your yard and calling it a sale.  Give it a try and see what you think.  Maybe I'll meet you on your lawn some Saturday morning!


We are: Clamco said...

You should publish all this great advice. Seriously. :)

EM said...

Thanks! I appreciate the compliment.