Monday, May 2, 2016

Panoply Purging: How to Succeed in a Community Yard Sale

My Panoply sisters and I participated in a not-so-typical kind of yard sale to purge things this past week: a community-based, public yard sale, hosted by our local radio station. Our community yard sale is held on the parking lot of the local university's football field, where more than 70 vendors pay rent per parking space to set up and sell for one morning in each of spring and fall. This is just one example of how our morning show radio hosts work, organizing the event and collecting the rental fees, with those rent proceeds going back into the community.
My last post was all about the top things to look for at yard sales. This one is viewed from the seller's perspective, with tips on how to succeed in selling, particularly if you are just one of many in a setting such as ours. The venue for this community yard sale is great, and the advertising is handled for us by the radio station. However, it does take work to be successful at selling in a group setting. These are just some tips Panoply would offer for success in a community yard sale.

1) Organize, OrGaNiZe, ORGANIZE!: It cannot be stressed enough - the more organized you are, the better your chances of selling and doing well are! That means starting well in advance - if the frequency of the sale is twice a year (like ours), starting six months in advance is none too soon, especially if it's your first time. Put things aside that go with the season (outdoor & gardening items for spring; fall and holiday decor for fall). When the date is announced for the sale, sign up and reserve your spot(s). I keep my 'stuff' organized by type - glassware, metals, mantiques, china, etc. (tubs in photo below are labeled) - making it much easier for me to pull things for a sale. The week before the sale is critical for amassing your sale items, regardless of how you store them.
Organization also plays a role in setup. In the photo below, you see we had lots of kids' toys (front and center) and outdoor furniture (clustered on the side) - organized to catch shoppers' attention. We placed big items and 'mantiques' on the edges so the guys would stop (and so the bigger items could be easily hauled away), while the gals' things were set deeper inside (vintage textiles, hats, purses, etc.). Kids were drawn right into the center where the toys were.
Organization also applies to how you pack your things for the sale. We had to be ready to unload at 6:30 am for an 8 am start, so we had four vehicles (for three rented spaces) packed at least one day prior. The fourth vehicle was driven by sister M's husband, who carried all the tables, which we pulled out immediately upon landing our spots. We set up collectively, sharing the three spaces among us, which also facilitates us helping each other with sales. Below is a compilation of all the junk in our trunks (and then some!). The draped trunk in the bottom right frame is where all the tables were.
2) Price Everything in Advance, Carry Supplies, Make Signs: you won't have time to answer questions on pricing during the sale, you'll be so busy unloading and selling! Pre-priced stickers can be bought at the Dollar Tree - very handy - but you'll need blank stickers and threaded tags for things, too. Buy cheap plastic drop cloths ($2 or so at Lowe's) to lay on the ground in case it's rained the night before or it's damp from morning dew. Carry tape, markers, extra price stickers & tags - you'll need them - and wear an apron to put them in! Package things like cushions and quilts in clear plastic bags (our city provides clear waste bags, and they're great for this purpose), so things stay clean and so that it makes it easy for shoppers to see and take away conveniently. We brought paper and extra bags to assist shoppers with purchases, too. We make signs on the computer to increase pricing visibility for passersby, perhaps those a little timid to step into our space (until they read the signs!). We slip the signs into plastic sheet protectors and tape them to our displays. The photo below shows a couple examples of those signs, packed and placed with items, ready to go. It goes without saying you should carry a good mix of seed money, with plenty of Georges (ones) to start. Coins are necessary if you sell items for less than $1.
3) Prepare yourself for the day: like good scouts on an outing, you should prepare yourself for the day - a long day. Dress in layers according to the forecast, and pack drinks, some energy snacks (cheese sticks, apple slices, granola bars), and maybe sandwiches. The time will fly, but you may become miserable very quickly if not prepared. This spring sale surprised us - the winds kicked up unexpectedly, and we were cold, even with constant motion. I pulled vintage items out of the tubs to layer on, and sister M's husband later came back with jackets for all of us to put on (note: there's another example of signage in the photo below, on my lavender). Ibuprofen was our friend (which sister J packed, thank goodness!).
We saw shoppers in everything from winter clothes and jackets, to shorts and flip-flops, unsuspecting of the crazy weather. We even saw one lady shopping our space in her bathrobe - and her shower shoes - no kidding! See for yourself in the photo below, left frame!
Do ya think maybe she was shopping for a vintage hat to go with her robe??? If you notice in that same photo at the bottom of the frame, there's also a small, folding camp stool. I used that for a place to sit when needed, and it has a thermal, zippered pouch for packing a lunch - great, compact item for the snack prep I mentioned.

4) Play by the Rules: If there are rules to follow for cleaning up afterwards, do it! At our sale, a donation truck arrives just before closing, so if you choose, you may donate unsold items by placing them on the truck. Whether you take them home or put them on the truck, the work doesn't end until it's all off the lot - and all trash removed. We were pooped by the end of it all, and even though we did very well, our cars had display items and boxes that needed to be packed to go back home.
5) Reap the Rewards: Of course, the revitalization comes with seeing how well we do, and this is where the reward for the hard work comes in. We count our returns, feel good that we've purged yet again, and know that people were happy with the things they bargained for. Among the things we sold, many were vintage (frames, suitcases, purses, textiles, chairs and small tables, crocks and WV pottery), but we also sold household items (decorative pillows, bedding, small kitchenwares and books), and even some dried lavender from my garden. That's the beauty of a yard sale - it's a total mish-mash of offerings and potential, with price points from free to just under $100. One thing we do not sell is clothing (unless it's an occasional, vintage item or two).
6) Be Realistic in Expectations: Yard sales are a lot of work, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You have to own a certain amount of crazy to want to do it, it's true. If you're a reserved person by nature, it's good to team up with at least one other person who is outgoing, as there is a certain amount of salesmanship that goes along with the process, too. You have to be willing to negotiate, know how to close a deal, and be comfortable with setting your limits. In my experience, I have found that even though pricing for yard sales is approximately one-fourth of what you'd expect to pay for items new, you still only realize about one-third to one-half of the total amount of things you price and take for sale. In other words, if you price, say, items costing around $6,000 (at new, retail pricing), and price them down to $1,500 as used (25%), you should only expect to realize around $500-$750 in the end. That $500-$750 is the combined result of accepting lower, negotiated prices and being stuck with a few things unsold.

What are your experiences as yard sale hosts or sellers in a community setting? Do you have any points to add from a seller's perspective? Have you ever participated in a community yard sale? If you're only a shopper of yard sales, what are your thoughts after reading this seller's perspective? I've been on both sides, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Rita C. at Panoply
Sharing: Amaze Me, BNOTPShow & Share, The Scoop, Let's Talk Vintage, Thrifty & Vintage Finds, Vintage Charm,