Six (6) Tips for Sellers to Improve Your Garage Sale (from an addicted shopper)

Having a garage sale can be a lot of work – all that sorting and hauling and displaying and haggling… Let’s face it, this summer pastime is a commitment!  As a long-time garage sale shopper, I came up with six tips to make sure people will shop your sale.

  1. Advertise smartly
  2. Team up.
  3. Use your yard like a storefront.
  4. Plan a smart layout.
  5. Price competitively.
  6. Prepare for early birds.

1. Advertise smartly.

Get the word out:  newspapers, social media, Craigslist, specialized garage sale websites.  People use all of these media to scout out sales.  Try to pick out items that you think will sell well and put them in the ad – you’ll catch the eye of people who are looking for specific things, as opposed to the generic “we have so much stuff, come buy it!” approach.  Think furniture, collectibles, clothing size ranges (ex. women’s medium – 2XL, juniors) or any special big-ticket items you really want to move.  Put ads and signs out a couple of days ahead of time so people will plan to come. And don’t forget to retrieve your signs after the sale is over!

“Brand” your signs in a very simple way.  Put out a unique, eye-catching sign that stands out from all the plain-jane competitors’ signs.  It helps to have a symbol, style, or color scheme that helps shoppers follow the trail to your house, especially if there are a few turns from a major road.  Skip the storebought signs and opt for a homemade one – the bigger the better.  Your sale signs will stand out from all the similar-looking realtor signs or a cluster of average garage sale signs.  If you have an annual sale, all the more reason to brand it – people will remember and loyal customers will return.  Consider creating a reusable sign to use from year to year and just changing the dates.

It doesn’t have to be fancy – you can use something as simple as fluorescent yellow signs with bold black lettering, and if all your signs look the same, people will be able to follow your bright yellow breadcrumbs.  One sign that I saw this weekend had a big smiley face – this symbol allowed the sign to stand out from the pack and it was easy to identify.  When I got to the sale, I said, “Oh, this is the smiley face sale!”

Don’t choose fancy lettering that is hard to read from a distance or a moving car; instead, go with a stencil with simple block letters.  Don’t cram too much info on that sign either – just enough to get people to your sale at the right time.  (Exception:  if your sign is rather large, you can include some of the items at the sale to make it identifiable to any newspaper/Craigslist/website readers.)  For example:


{House #, Street}

{Date} {Time}

Do not forget the weather when considering what kind of sign to use.  Wood-based signs are preferable to paper or cardboard, especially if it is windy or rainy.  (Posterboard signs tend to fold in half when it’s windy and the corners are not tacked.  Paper is hard to read when it gets wet.)  If you don’t have time to paint a piece of wood, try using packing tape to affix a paper sign to a sturdy wooden backing (cheap plywood will do the trick) – nail or staple a couple of cheap garden stakes to the bottom and you have yourself a weatherproof sign.

The addicted shopper says:  I have a lot to say about advertising because I’ve seen a lot of it — good and bad.  How many times I have seen signs that I couldn’t read, or there weren’t enough signs to find an off-the-beaten house, or worst of all, no sign at all!  A few times, I have had a wild goose chase trying to locate a sale, and then realized maybe the sale sign was weeks old (no date – just “Saturday”.)   I missed out on a potentially great sale because of these factors, and I always appreciate sellers who take a little extra effort to put their advertisements out there.  Advertising is one of the most important factors to the success of your sale.  People need to find your sale in order to shop it; make it easy for them by putting out a creative, readable sign and using the same color scheme to leave breadcrumbs along major roads.

2. Team up.

Combine sales with friends, family, or other neighbors if possible.  Bigger sales are more visible and if it looks like a diverse selection of merchandise, you’ll likely get more customers.  If you don’t really have that much stuff, use visual tricks to make it look like you have more than there really is.  Try a wide table with graduated shelves/stacking (like stair steps) on top so that your display has both depth and some height.

The addicted shopper says:  If I see a bunch of baby stuff out front and not much else, I don’t even stop at the sale.  If it’s a smaller sale that looks a little scant, I rarely stop.  As a shopper, I’d rather invest more time at a larger sale because I’m more likely to find what I’m looking for.  It’s also easier to spot your sale from the street if it’s larger.  Let’s face it, it’s also more fun to shop a big sale:  stuff + stuff + STUFF = happy good garage-sailing times 🙂

3. Use your yard like a storefront.

Put your best stuff out front like a storefront window, visible from a distance.  One clever method I saw this weekend was clothes hangers hooked at varying heights in the net of a basketball hoop.  It was easy to see from the road, rose above the fray of shoppers in the streets, and enticed me to come to their sale.  Let showstopper pieces face outward toward the shoppers, drawing them into your sale.  Think bright, shiny, eye-catching.  Display clothes as best you can.  I find that clothes on hangers (on a sturdy clothesline or a metal bar) look the neatest and are the easiest to peruse.  If you opt for folded clothes in piles on tables, don’t make the piles too high:  no one will look all the way to the bottom of the pile or they’ll topple over and make a mess.  Occasionally go back to refold, straighten, and even out the piles – it’ll give you something to do during a slow period and the neatness will lure more shoppers to peruse your wares.

The addicted shopper says:  I’m very likely to stop at your sale if I see something that catches my eye from across the street.  Even if that item is something like a hideous sequined top, it will catch my eye and intrigue me!  I will think, What a crazy sequin top!  What fun-loving person owns that?  I wonder what else they have over there…  Even though a blinged-out sequin top might not be exactly my style, it is interesting enough to make me wander over to see what else you have.

I’m likely to stay at your sale if the clothes are semi-organized and easy to look through.  I don’t expect department-store-like perfection, but if the piles are huge and messy like a pit of fabric, I’ll pick through the top few pieces and then take my business to another sale.

4. Plan a smart layout.

Make the layout clear and easy to navigate.  Make the most of your space and allow a lot of room in the aisles so as not to create jams and bottlenecks.  Select a comfortable space in the shade to set up checkout – when a lull hits, you’ll want to be out of the sun as you wait for more shoppers.

The addicted shopper says:  If your sale is too crowded (narrow aisles + lots of people = unhappy shopper), I am likely to leave.  I am only willing to push past so many people until I get tired and want to go to another sale where it’s easier to browse.  Clear, wide paths through the tables and to the checkout station make your sale accessible and easy to browse in peace.  (Bonus points if your sale is mostly in the shade!)

5. Price competitively.

Bargain pricing is the name of the game.  Think at least half list price for brand new items, and up to a quarter or even a tenth of the original price for used items.  Even if your prices are fair or even rock-bottom, prepare for hagglers anyway.  Keep in mind that there are different kinds of shoppers.  Some prefer to know the price up front to decide whether or not they’re interested and would rather not haggle or make an offer (I fall into this category.)  Other shoppers like and expect haggling to be part and parcel of the garage sailing experience, and will make an offer even if you declare your prices as firm.  Decide in advance about your “haggling” policy.  It is customary to offer lower prices or lot deals near the end of the shopping day.  Use your best judgment on when to lower prices (i.e. half off after 2pm, etc.) or when to sweeten the deal for a reluctant shopper.

The addicted shopper says:  I know that you want to get a good recoup on your investment, but garage sailers are bargain hunters.  If your stuff isn’t priced to move, it won’t — you’ll still be stuck with it at the end of the day!  If you are planning to donate to a thrift shop at the sale’s conclusion anyway, why not make that shopper’s day by cutting them a sweet deal?

6. Prepare for early birds.

Hardcore garage sailers set out at the crack of dawn to scoop up the best deals.  You may get some visitors arriving at your sale even before the posted opening time.  For the best shot at selling your stuff, plan on being ready early — even if your posted time is later.

The addicted shopper says:  Personally, I am not an early bird — but I decided to include this tip because I know a lot of other shoppers are.  If this is your first time hosting a sale, don’t get caught off-guard by the early risers!

There you have it!

Did I miss something?  Are you planning to have a garage sale for the first time, or are you a seasoned veteran?  Do you prefer shopping the sales instead of hosting them?  Share your best seller’s (or shopper’s!) tips & strategies in the comments below!

3 Responses to “Six (6) Tips for Sellers to Improve Your Garage Sale (from an addicted shopper)”
  1. Crista says:

    yes! so many garage sales are no good. there is nothing like walking up to a garage sale that is set up like shit, knowing you’re not interested in looking around, but feeling obligated to because it’s too awkward to walk away immediately!

    • natfee says:

      Haha, I LOVE this comment so much, Crista! Yes, I feel that way so often, and it always feels awkward to me. I usually just glance around, say something friendly like, “Good luck with your sale” and walk away quickly to get to a better one. Better yet, if there’s more people, I can just leave without guilt! Thanks for reading!

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