Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lawn Sale Euphoria

If you are one of those who have a perpetual (as in never ending) lawn sale, this quip is not for you.

I love a great lawn sale...If you're going to have a lawn sale, make an effort to drive around and visit a few sales before you put your's on.  When doing this take notes.  No, I'm not kidding.  Jot down what you liked and what you saw that you didn't like.  Also, jot down some typical prices for items that you see being offered that resemble what you will be selling (books, CDs, etc).

Here are some of my other tips to ensure happy customers and a successful sale:

Get in touch with prime time lawn sale time- 
In the Albany, NY area, these days are Friday and Saturday from about 8am to 3pm, give or take an hour.  Don't even think of starting your lawn sale at noon, because you "want to sleep in"... If you want to sleep in, don't have a lawn sale.  Trust me on this one, the crowd will start to arrive around 8am or 9am whether you state noon or not... you won't get your beauty sleep and the lawn sale traffic drops off drastically after 12 noon.  Consider non-traditional days / times only when special circumstances warrant, e.g. you live on a high traffic area where Friday 4pm - 7pm might be worth a try OR there is a special weekend event so that Saturday and Sunday offer greater traffic.

You may want to collaborate with neighbors.  Neighborhood sales are a great win-win.  For sellers, advertising costs are shared as is tasks such as route marking.  For buyers, there is greater assurance that the trip is worthwhile and that there will be a variety of treasure to hunt.

Get organized-

Start a month or two in advance.  Designate an area to gather the items you want to sell.  Don't count on "remembering".  For big items that you can't centrally locate, start a list.  There is nothing worse than putting the time and effort into a lawn sale only to spot 10 more items you wish you had sold after you have had your big sale.

Figure out your pricing.  In addition to sampling other lawn sales, you can also get a better idea of appropriate pricing by visiting a local Salvation Army or Goodwill ...and while there, consider making a donation.

Get an adequate amount of change.  Many ATMs give out only Twenty Dollar ($20) bills.  Make sure you can give change to customers who purchase a dollar item, but only have a twenty on them.

Price your items to sell and be flexible with your prices- 

Don't get over confident by the high volume traffic that launches itself at opening time.  Snatching up bargains is a competitive sport; whatever is priced right will get snatched up in the first couple of hours.  If it's closing in on noon time and you get an offer, don't be afraid to counteroffer, but ultimately your goal is to grab the cash and send your stuff off to a new home.

Try to clearly identify your prices as much as practical-

Group lower priced items, $.25, $.50, $1., etc.  When items are worth around $5. or more, they should be individually priced.

Be prepared to handle "early birds"-

When I say early birds, I mean those who show up at 6am.  If your idea of an "early bird" is someone who shows up at 9am for your sale that starts at noon, that is your fault... you obviously didn't read my tips!

Display your items-

Some who read this will say, "what are you talking about, of course, I'll display my sale items."  You would be amazed at how many lawn sales I've attended where clothing is bagged in garbage bags (with other "trash") or books are just thrown out in umpteen boxes.  If it looks like garbage, your customers will regard it as garbage.  If your customers can't see it, they can't envision buying it.  They won't know that there is a book buried at the bottom of that box that they want to buy.

Make sure you have curb appeal.  In this regard, big items are great.  Someone should be able to tell without guessing that you are having a lawn sale from the road while traveling 30mph.

Post Clearly Marked Directions to your Sale...and take them down after your sale is over!

Placing fresh balloons at your sale and along main routes, not only provides a visual draw, but also helps distinguish your signage.  A fresh balloon on your route sign helps to identify an active lawn sale from all those other buffoons who neglect to remove their lawn sale signs.

Demark (separate, distinguish) the sale stuff from your personal "keep" stuff-

While I realize this sounds obvious, there have been numerous times where I was prepared to make a purchase only to find out that the item "wasn't for sale".  In one case, it was pool toys that were sitting among the lawn sale items... let's see, the pool is in the back yard, the lawn sale is in the front yard; where would you expect your grandchild's cherished pool tools to be?  This is extremely annoying to buyers and when I encounter it, I'm pretty much done for that sale.

Broken Items:  Be honest in regards to known issues-

For example, if you are selling electronics and you know there is an issue, be crystal clear about the problem.  Remember, your customers know where you live.

A live body (you, or a living, responsible person) needs to be visible for all posted hours-

There is nothing more unappetizing than showing up to a lawn sale where the seller has apparently ghosted on the scene.  It is just plain uncomfortable picking through someone's stuff without the reassurance of permission that is implied by the presence of the host.  Also, while I realize you may have the cutest toddler, let them run their lemonade stand, brownie stand, toy stand, etc.  Don't abandon your toddler or demented in-laws to make a beer run.

Advertise a good cause-

If proceeds are going to a charity, make that clear (and follow through with the donation as advertised).  If money is going to a "college fund," or for the benefit of a child let it be known.  (Also, helps if the recipient is on site or an appropriate picture / visual).

It may also be worthwhile to supplement these sales with beverage (soda, lemonade, or even coffee if it is a cooler day) and/or baked goods such as brownies, cookies or cupcakes.

Consider other venues for your items-

If you just don't want to deal with the public, lawn sales are not for you.  Find another way to get rid of your unwanted items.

Some items like small, expensive electronics may be better sold through Craig's List.

If you have a small amount of stuff you may find that you are better off making a donation.  (If your entire sale barely covers one 6 foot banquet table, I strongly urge you to consider this route).  The Salvation Army is just one of many worthy charities, but please don't dump!  Bring your items only during their operating hours.

Don't forget to have fun with it-

While the primary purpose for having a lawn sale is likely to convert unwanted items to cash, lawn sales are also an excellent opportunity to meet neighbors and others in the community.  Take the opportunity to chat with your customers.

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