RW Learning Center – Checklist for a Successful Garage Sale

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Checklist for a Successful Garage Sale

I love checklists because they help me get organized and stay on track. It’s spring time in Wisconsin and garage sale signs are starting to sprout up all over the city. Garage sales are an ideal way to get rid of “junk”, as part of our spring cleaning ritual, and make a little money at the same time. Here, then, is my checklist for a successful garage sale and I intend to use it for my own garage sale next month.

Plan Your Garage Sale

  • Schedule a date for your sale, but give yourself at least two to three weeks to plan and organize the sale. You may want to set an alternate date, in the event of rain.
  • Set a specific time for your sale (e.g. 8:00 AM), but be aware of earlybirds — some are dealers.
  • Try to hold your garage sale on weekends for maximum traffic, but avoid conflicts with long weekends, when many people are away.
  • Contact your family, friends, and neighbors to see if they want to join you in the garage sale.
  • Obtain a garage sale permit, if it’s required in your area.


Look For Things to Sell

  • Prepare for your garage sale by doing some spring cleaning. Check your attic, basement, closets, garage, and other storage areas for items you no longer need or use.
  • Ask your friends and relatives to see if they have any items they no longer want or need.
  • Children’s clothes, toys, books, antiques, appliances, and furniture usually sell the best.


Advertise For Success

  • Place a classified ad in your local newspaper (and of course on Rummage for FREE!). Specify a “rained out” date, if you wish. Ask for your garage sale kit, if it’s available.
  • Advertise “cash only” if that is your preference. In addition, post a “cash only” sign in a prominent location at your sale.
  • Put up posters at the local laundromat, grocery store, or other community bulletin boards. List key items that may attract customers.
  • Investigate use of online classifieds or messages on your local freenet or newsgroups.
  • Put up signs at strategic locations, on the day of your sale, to direct customers to your sale. Be aware of local bylaws regarding sign postings on public property.

Price Your Items Appropriately

  • Be realistic when pricing your items. Check out other garage sales to get a feel for prices. As a general rule of thumb, start pricing at 30% of retail, but be prepare to discount prices — if you really want to get rid of the item.
  • Label all items with self-adhesive price tags. Use different color labels for each family, or highlight with a color marker, if more than one family is involved in the sale. For joint sales, keep a log of all items sold, according to your color codes.
  • Be prepared to bargain with your customers or reduce the price, if you really want to get rid of your items.

Set Up Your Items For Display

  • Make sure that all items are clean and in good shape.
  • Arrange display tables for easy access and viewing. Make it attractive.
  • Group similar items together in one area. Make it interesting.
  • Rope off an area or put up a “Not for Sale” sign for those things you want to keep.
  • Hang up clothes in a temporary rack and sort by size.
  • Provide an electrical outlet, if necessary, for customers to test appliances and electrical tools.
  • Display books, CD’s, videos, and record albums with spine up for easy readability.
  • Set up a “freebies” box for items you wish to give away.

Tips to Generate Sales

  • Greet people who come to your garage sale and engage them in conversation.
  • Encourage shoppers to return during a two day sale. Post signs to say that new items will be added daily or that prices will be reduced on the second day.
  • Have a silent auction on expensive items. Ask customers to submit bids along with their name and phone numbers. Put in a reserve bid, if you wish.

Success on Sale Day

  • On sale day, put up signs at strategic locations to direct customers to your sale. Tie colored balloons or ribbons to attract attention. However, be aware of local bylaws regarding postings on public property.
  • Involve your kids. Let them set up their own table for their personal items.
  • Ask your family or friends to help with the sale, collect cash, or just to give you a break.
  • Have plenty of change on hand for sale day. Most people come with $5, $10, and $20 bills.
  • Have a calculator on hand to total up purchases.
  • Have grocery bags and newspapers on hand, in case you need them.

Above all — have fun!!!


Kim M. Fong

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