Create a Buzz
If you sell it, they will come. That's true of garage sales if enough people know about your event. The key to a good turnout is promoting the heck out of your sale well in advance. Start by promoting your sale via an e-mail to your network of friends. (Who knows, they may want to join in with you, which can only make the sale better!) Next, identify local blogs and other social media sources to advertise your upcoming yard sale. Some examples include weekendtreasure.com, garagesalehunter.com, yardsalesearch.com, craigslist.com, and facebook.com.
Don't forget to post signs at your local grocery store, coffee shop, etc., suggests Jamie Novak, author of Stop Throwing Money Away: Turn Clutter to Cash. In all of your promotional efforts, be sure to note the date, time, address, directions, and any other pertinent details such as you'll accept cash only, you're selling special heirlooms or collectible items of interest, etc.
Use Good Sign Language
A few days before your sale, create signs that will have maximum impact. Write the signs in big letters in bright colors that are easy to read (don't use a yellow marker on a white background). Attach balloons and make sure your arrows are pointing in the right direction, says Kathy Peterson, a design expert and featured guest on HGTV's Longest Yard Sale.
Think Like a Store Designer
To make your sale as organized and as appealing as possible, group like objects together (glassware/kitchen items in one place; toys/children's books in another; and tools/lawn equipment in still another, for example). And think about how you're displaying each group to its best advantage. "Cardboard boxes filled with stuff or clothes stretched out on tarps on the ground (or worse yet, bare ground) look tacky, dirty, and unappealing," says expert Judy Woodward Bates, The Bargainomics Lady. Hang up items for maximum visibility and so people can go through "your racks," just like they do at the store. "Consider stringing wire or rope between trees and then hang your clothes from up high," Bates says.
Once your items are on display, walk to the street to get a sense of what your event looks like. Rearrange until everything looks as inviting as possible. Check signage again, and you're ready!
Tease Their Attention
Grab a guy's attention by putting stuff he'll want to sift through—golf clubs, tools, workout gear, and your nearly new grill—near the curb. This ups the probability that more couples will stop at your sale, says Novak. After all, if a guy sees something he likes, he'll be more patient while his wife browses at your sale! Big items like furniture also draw customers in. Place them near the entrance to your sale (whether that's a sidewalk or driveway) so furniture shoppers can see them first.
Selling china and glassware? Don't just stack dishes on a bare table. Instead, bring out your most elegant tablecloth, cut some flowers from your garden and set a beautiful table, suggests Marilyn Santiesteban, a regular yard sale-thrower. Selling books? Create a reading nook and display the books attractively. Best of all, attach cards to groupings of items. "For example, you can write something like 'These five books were my children's bedtime favorites,'" she adds. "This gives your for-sale items instant history and great karma." TIP: Leave plenty of room between tables so shoppers don't bump into each other or breakables.
Yard sales are all about the spin, says Santiesteban. "Create a unique ambience by putting a checkered tablecloth on a small table. Set out a pot of coffee and some muffins in a basket with a gorgeous napkin," she recommends. "You can charge for those goodies but giving them away for free sets a nice tone." You want your shoppers to feel like they're having a unique experience—not just sorting through someone else's stuff. Small bags of popcorn are also an inexpensive way to keep people munching up and down your aisles and piles of good stuff.
Or, on a hot summer day, make it a party. There's nothing like a cool pitcher of lemonade or iced tea to encourage shoppers to linger (and stay hydrated). Offer these drinks for free, set your iPod on shuffle and you may even meet a fun new neighbor (or two). That neighbor might want to co-throw a sale with you in the future.
Post Prices Prominently
Guaranteed success: Pricing items with easy-to-read signs. For example, if you're selling each item of clothing for $1, make sure there's a clearly visible sign that says so, Bates says. "Nothing turns shoppers off quicker than having to ask a price for every item they pick up." Always mark chipped or cracked items "as is" so buyers know the price is for the item, flaws and all. Whatever the condition of the items, make sure they look their best—press the linens, wash and wipe dry glasses and china, etc.
Add On Sales
Treat your sale like a business, advises Linsey Knerl, a blogger at FinancialHighway.com. "For example, if you see that someone is buying 20 pairs of baby socks for $2, throw in a few extra for just a quarter more," she says. "Take a lower price on some of your wares to help them move when someone is already actively buying."
Put On Your Haggling Hat
Your browsers aren't looking to spend a fortune at your sale. Be ready to negotiate by pricing items slightly higher to leave room for price-haggling. When you set prices, factor in price breaks of about 20 percent to 30 percent off the price you'd like to receive, suggests Peterson. Toward the end of the day, consider marking all the remaining items down to half-price or $1 each. TIP: Have plenty of ones, fives, and coins so you can quickly make change and carry that money (safely) in a fanny pack or carpenter's apron. And always have bags, boxes, or newspaper to wrap items to-go.
Entertain Small Shoppers
Those tag-along kids can't help but want to get "hands-on" with your valuables, especially if you've been foolish enough to put them at a child's eye level. Make sure you place only sturdy items or toys on the ground or at the eye level of very small children, Knerl says. "If you are selling something especially valuable, look into getting shelving, or put a photo out for shoppers to see—leaving the original in the house." Another crowd pleaser: Have a table with crayons and coloring pages for little kids to keep busy while parents shop.
Join Forces the Smart Way
If you think you'll get better foot traffic if you partner with another family, stay organized by giving each family its own colored price-tag stickers, suggests Carrie McLaren, a mom of two, who blogs at carriewithchildren.com. "During our last garage sale, my family had hot pink stickers on all of our items and my in-laws used yellow," she says. "Once the sale was done, there was no question how much money we each made as a family. It's easy and fair!"
Create a Freebie Box
Play to a shopper's weakness by picking out a bunch of things that you never want to see again and place them in a box that says 'free,' Novak suggests. "This way shoppers and browsers alike can pick out
what they want from the box and everyone wins. This is a great marketing technique." TIP: Place this free box near the curb and passersby will be way more inclined to see what else you have for sale.
Offer a Gift with Purchase
To incentivize your shoppers, post a sign that for every $25 spent the buyer can pick an item for free, Novak suggests. Or, you can wrap up some surprise gifts before the sale and let the buyer choose the one he or she wants to take home. Everyone likes a bargain.
Give It Away at the End of the Day
For Conna Craig, who regularly organizes garage sales, one rule is a constant: No items return inside the house at the end of the day. "Anything that remains is either given away to the remaining shoppers or I give items to charities in need," she says. To clear the clutter, consider donating to a website Craig founded. Called Donate Luggage, the website lists organizations, state-by-state, that help foster children and other needy youth. These groups can benefit from such items as gently used luggage, craft supplies, sports equipment, etc.