Pick almost any city or town in the country, drive through any
middle class neighborhood or residential area on the weekend, and
you're sure to spot at least a half dozen garage sales.
What's being sold at these garage sales? The accumulated "junk"
people no longer use or want taking up space in or around their
homes. Are they making any money with these garage sales? You'd
better believe they're making money! It's not at all uncommon to
make $600 with a weekend garage sale. It is hard to put on a
profitable garage sale? Well, yes and no. It really does take
some of your time, and also requires an awareness of a few
merchandising tactics. But the problems in running a successful
garage sale are small in comparison to the profits.
Who are the buyers, and how do you get them to come to your
garage sale? Your customers are going to be "everybody," and you
get them over to your garage with a little bit of advertising and
Let's look at the background: Everybody accumulates the kind of
garage sale items that other people are searching for, and are
willing to buy. These items range from no longer wanted or
outgrown items of clothing, to furniture, tools, knickknacks,
books, pictures and toys. Many garage sale items consist of
merchandise purchased on impulse, and later found to be not what
the buyer wanted. He discovered too late that he really didn't
have a use for it, or he no longer has a need for it. Many items
found at garage sales are gifts that have been given to the
seller, but are the wrong size or incorrect choice for the
The problem with most people is that they haven't the time to
gather up all the items "just taking up space" in and around
their homes and stage a garage sale to get rid of them. Many
people don't know how to stage a garage sale, and many other
people feel that putting on a garage sale is just too much trouble
This is where you enter the picture. Your enterprise will be an
ongoing garage sale of items donated and collected from these
people who lack the inclination to put on a garage sale of their
Step one is education: Spend a few weeks visiting all the garage
sales, swap meets and flea markets in your area. Find out what's
being offered for sale, what people are buying, and how the
merchandise is being sold. Generally an item is tagged with a
price, but the seller is usually open to almost any reasonable offer
from the customer. Another thing you want to make a mental not of is
the way the merchandise is displayed and how the customers are
allowed to browse.
You start your own garage sale by cleaning out your basement,
attic, closets and garage. Talk to your relatives and friends;
tell them what you're going to do and ask them for donations of
no longer used or unwanted items. It's here that you'll get your
first experience in negotiating, and finally, an agreement for
you to display and sell other people's merchandise for a
percentage of the sale price. You'll find people explaining that
they really don't have a use for a specific item or they really
don't want to keep storing it, but because of sentimental
reasons, "just hate to give it away."
Once you've had a little experience with this type of seller, you
will be able to advertise in the newspaper that you buy garage
sale items, or take them on consignment for a percentage of the
final sales price.
It's best that your wife handle the garage sale itself---greet
potential customers, "show them around,"and generally engage
them in conversation. If it's a woman staging the garage sale,
then arrangements should be made to have another woman "mind the
store" while she's out digging up more items for sale.
The advertising angle is really quite simple, and shouldn't cost
very much either. You should run an ad in your area shopper's
newspaper for about three days in advance of, and up through the
day of your sale. Once you're operating on a full-time , every
day of the week schedule, you'll want to change your ad schedule
and the style of your advertising. But in getting started, go
with small classified ads simply announcing your garage sale,
emphasizing that you've got something of interest to
everyone--everything form A to Z. To get ideas on how to write
your ad, check your newspaper for a week or so; cut out all the
garage sale ads you can find; paste them up on a piece of paper.
Then, with a bit of critical analysis, you'll be able to
determine how to write a good ad of your own by determining the
good and bad in the ads you've collected. Something to remember:
The bigger and better your sale, the bigger and better your
"getting started" ads should be. And the secret to outstanding
garage sale profits is in having the widest or largest selection
You should make an old-fashioned "sandwich board" sign to
display in front of your house when your garage sale is open for
business. This will pull in your neighbors, if you haven't
already informed them, and attract the people driving by.
Sandwich boards are sometimes set out at key traffic
intersections nor far from the site of the garage sale, to
attract attention and point the way. (Check local ordinances to
see if this is permitted in your area.)
Another "sign idea" practiced by a few sharp operators is the old
"Burma Shave" roadside pointers. Here, you simply take a few
pieces of cardboard and tack onto the power poles at about 200
yards intervals on a thoroughfare leading to your garage sale.
You'll create a lot of traffic for yourself! Simply visit the
public library and check out a book on limericks, adapt the ones
you find humorous, and start making signs. One word here Though:
Be sure to check your local ordinances before you start nailing
signs to power poles.
By all means, search out and use all the free bulletin boards in
your area. It's better, and usually much more profitable, to take
the time to make up an attention grabbing circular you can post
on these bulletin boards than just using a written 3 by 5 card
To do this, pick up some "transfer lettering," go through your
newspapers and old magazines for interesting illustrations,
graphics and pictures, then with a little bit of imagination,
makeup an 81/2 by 11 poster type announcement of your sale. When
you've got it pasted up, take it to any quick print shop and have
them print up 50 to 100 copies for you. The cost should not come
to more than six or seven dollars.
If you make this "circular/poster" up with versatility and
long-time usage in mid, you can use it over and over again,
simply by pasting a new date. In case you were puzzled when we
talk about "pasting" this is simply pasting another piece of
paper on to the overall page. Say you have a circular with a date
of Wednesday March 1st, and you want it to read Thursday, July
16th. Rather than do the whole thing over, simply write out the
new date with your transfer letters on a separate sheet of paper,
cut it out to fit in the space occupied by the old date, and
paste the new date over the old date. A good paste to use for
this purpose is rubber cement. That's all there is to it; the
printer does the rest.
Now let's talk about the 'insider secrets" of drawing people into
your sale, and merchandising "gimmicks' that will result in
maximum sales and profit for you. First, call attention to your
sale. Don't be shy, bashful, or self-conscious about letting
everybody for miles around know that you're having a garage
sale. Some sharp operators do the next best thing to having
the Goodyear blimp overhead: They rent miniature blimps, send
them up above the housetops, and tether them there on their
sale days. Of course this giant balloon or miniature blimp has
some sort of sign on the side of it, inviting people to the garage
sale! this is one of the strongest available advertising ideas for
pulling "traffic' to a sale of any kind. For more details, write to
Pie-In-The-Sky Company, PO Box 5267, San Mateo, CA 94402.
You have to give your sale some flair. Put some posts up across
the front of the property and run some twisted crepe paper between
them. Even better than crepe paper, run some brightly colored
ribbons. Invest in some colorful pennants and fly them from
temporary flag poles. And don't forget the balloons!
Make your garage sale a fun kind of event with clusters of
balloons anchored to your display tables and racks. Be sure to
"float" them well above the heads of your customers as they are
browsing through your merchandise displays.
Cover your display tables with colorful cloths. Don't hesitate to
use bright colors with busy patterns. Regardless of what you
sell, effective display is still predominately essential!
You cannot "dump" items haphazardly on a table, sit down and
expect to realize great profits. The people doing the most
business---making the most sales--are the ones with interesting
displays, action and color.
Try to have as wide a selection of colors as possible in your
clothing racks, and mix them for a rainbow effect. Make sure that
your jewelry items shine and sparkle. Arrange them in and with
jewelry boxes, jewelry ladders and other items sold for the
purpose of showing off jewelry while keeping it neatly organized.
We know of one lady who regularly arranges jewelry items in a
battery operated lazy susan. Seeing this jewelry slowly turning
on the lazy susan never fails to draw attention.
Think about it, and then study the methods of display used by
"rack jobbers" in the stores in your area. These are the wire
racks that usually hold card packaged items. This kind of display
rack would lend itself beautifully for anchoring a cluster of
balloons. Keep these things in mind, and build your individual
displays as part of the whole; make it pleasing to the eye as
well as convenient for your customers to browse through and
select the items that appeal to them.
Look for some kind of interesting and unusual item to call
attention to your sale--something you can set up or park in front
of your house during your sale. Some of the displays we've seen
along these lines include a horse-drawn surrey, a restored Model
T, and old farm plow. But anything of an unusual and interesting
nature will do the trick for you. One couple we know put up a
display using a mannequin dressed in an old time farm bonnet, long
dress and apron. The display depicted a farm woman of old,
washing clothes with a scrub board and two steel wash tubs. You
have to believe this drew crowds and made people talk!
Wherever your imagination takes you, you have to be different and
distinctive, or you'll get lost in the hundreds of garage sales
going on all around you. If you'll take the time to employ a bit
of imagination and set your sales up with the kind of flair we've
been talking about, you'll not just draw the crowds, you'll end
up being the one holding the most profits.
It's almost a compulsion of many women to go shopping, to search
for the interesting and sometimes rare and valuable items. This
fact will keep you as busy as you'll ever want to be--staging and
holding garage sales. The market is so vast, and the appetite so
varied, that anything from a brass bedstead to a used dairy of
somebody's long-forgotten grandmother will sell, and sell fast at
garage sales. Put it all together, use a little imagination, and
you'll easily make all the money you want!
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