In this day and age, everyone seamingly knows how to put together and hold a garage sale.
Yet if this is so, why is it that some people are lucky to gross $300 while others consistently make $3,000 or more from their garage sales?
Pick almost any city or town in the country; drive through any middle class neighbourhood or residential area on any weekend.
You're sure to spot at least half a dozen garage sales.
And what's being sold at these garage sales?
The accumulated "junk" that a lot of people no longer use or want taking up space in or around their homes.
Is it hard to hold a profitable garage sale?
Not in the least!
All it really takes is some of your time, and an awareness of a few merchandising tactics. But to be really profitable, you must know how, and exercise careful planning of the events.
First, let's look at some of the background.
Everyone accumulates items that other people are searching for, and are willing to buy.
These items range from discarded or outgrown items of clothing to furniture, tools, knickknacks, books, pictures and toys.
Start by taking an inventory of all the things you have "just taking up space" around your home.
Decide which items you'd be better off getting rid of, and make a list of these things.
These are the things you are going to put up for sale.
And if you are honest about what you really want and need, the pile will grow if you look over your household a second and third time.
Remember, that many garage sale offerings are items of merchandise purchased on impulse, and later found to be not what the buyer wanted.
It is the human condition.
We discover too late that we don't like, or have use for things purchased; we "outgrow" in size or taste articles that once fitted, or pleased us.
You'll find that many items offered at garage sales are gifts that have been given to the seller, but not really suited to the recipient.
In other words, it will be to your benefit, before you stage your first garage sale, to take a week or so to browse through all the garage sales you can find.
The problem is, most people just don't have the time or energy to gather up all the items taking up space around their homes and staging a garage sale to get rid of them.
Believe it or not, many people really don't know how to stage a garage sale; and a lot of people feel that putting on a garage sale is just too much bother and work.
This is where you enter the picture.
Your enterprise will be an ongoing garage sale of items donated and collected from those people who lack the initiative to put on garage sales of their own.
In other words, you can become a "liquidator of people's junk", via super garage sales that you promote.
We've already suggested that you spend some time visiting the garage sales, and flea markets in your area.
Your purpose will be to see what is being offered for sale; what the people in your area are buying, and how the merchandise is being sold.
One of the things to notice is how the merchandise is displayed.
You'll also want to notice how the sellers handle customer browsing, and the prices they charge for the merchandise offered.
You'll find most items tagged with a price sticker, but generally the seller is open to either price negotiation or a reasonable offer made by the customer.
Begin your enterprise by cleaning out your own attic, closets and basement or garage.
Talk with your relatives and friends, tell them what you're doing, and ask for donations of unwanted items.
It's here that you'll get your first experience in negotiating, and you'll usually get enthusiastic co-operation.
You'll find people explaining that they really don't have a use for a specific item, don't want to go on storing it, but for sentimental or other reasons, they have just hung onto it.
Once you have a little bit of experience, you'll be able to advertise in the newspaper that you purchase garage sale items, or take them on consignment for a percentage of the final sale price.
If you are running a really big sale, it's best to have at least two or three people helping.
The advertising angle is really quite simple, and shouldn't cost you very much, either.
Check area newspapers, and select the ones that carry the most ads for garage sales.
People who go to garage sales either go to all of them they can locate, or else only to those within a 3 to 5 mile radius of their homes.
You should run a small classified ad in the newspaper of your choice for about three days in advance, and up through to the day of your sale.
Once you're operating on a full time, every day of the week schedule, you'll want to change your ad schedule and the style of your advertising.
But in getting started, stay with small classified ads simply announcing the fact that you're holding a garage sale, emphasising that you've got something for everyone.
Such an ad might read:
BIG GARAGE SALE! Hundreds of interesting items. All day Saturday, March 19th, (your address).
Keep in mind that the bigger and better your sale, the bigger and better your "getting started" ads should be.
Always remember that in order to increase your profits in any business, you must increase, rather than decrease, your advertising.
At the bottom line, you'll find that the greatest single reason for a garage sale failing to turn a profit is the lack of promotion and advertising used to publicise it.
You should also have an old-fashioned "sandwich board" type sign to display in front of your house when your garage sale is open for callers.
It's also a good idea to make up an attention grabbing circular that you can put up on bulletin boards and shop windows.
Pick up some transfer lettering, and make up an A4 poster announcing your garage sales.
When you have it to your satisfaction, take it to any printing or photocopying shop, and have them print up 50 to 100 copies for you. Your cost for this should be between $10 to $20. Don't forget to leave the space for the date and time blank, so that you can use the posters for any of your events, just fill in the appropriate details with a thick black marker pen.
What you also need is a sign in great big block letters reading "GARAGE SALES", with your address and an arrow pointing in that direction. Don't think for a moment that people are going to stop and read a lot of details on a poster, when they're driving by they're just going to read that there's a sale, and the address.
The ads you place, the bulletin board announcements, and the signs you put up will bring many people to your garage sale location.
A lot of people will drive by slowly, and just look, but most will stop to browse around.
But you still have to contend with the huge number of people who just drive by without stopping.
So, let's talk about the "inside secrets" of drawing people into your sale, anl the merchandising gimmicks that will result in the maximum number of sales for you.
You must call attention to your sale.
Don't be shy, bashful or self conscious about letting everyone know for miles around that you're having a garage sale.
Put up some balloons, float some around, cover your display tables with colorful cloths, and take great care in displaying and labelling your merchandise.
Have as wide a selection of colors as possible in your clothing racks, and mix them for a "rainbow" effect.
Make sure that jewellery shines and sparkles.
Arrange them in and on jewellery boxes, which will keep them neat and tidy.
At many garage sales, some of the merchandise is dirty.
Notice this when you visit other people's garage sales, and then take it upon yourself to make sure that every item - positively everything you show - is clean and sparkling bright.
A bar of soap, a bucket of water, and a few old rags will do wonders for tools, garden equipment and bicycles.
The same goes for furniture polish on old furniture, and a run through the washing machine for all washable clothing.
It is advisable to determine a price for each item before you set it out for display.
Then mark that price on a price tag, and attach a price tag to each item.
Your prices should also always be rounded off to more or less even numbers, such as 50 cents, $1, $2, $3, $4 and so on.
Almost needless to say, you should always mark everything up by 100% or more.
In other words, if you have acquired a particular item for $2, set a price of $4 or more on it.
If you're a little shy relative to personal selling, here are a few inside secrets that will give you an edge: always radiate an attitude of friendliness, regardless of the circumstances or your first impression of the potential buyer.
Always smile and say hello in a voice loud enough to be heard.
Speak to everyone stopping or dropping by your sales location.
Be helpful, but allow the people to browse on their own until they specifically ask for help.
When you're "keeping an eye on the merchandise", be as unobtrusive as possible; no one likes to feel he is being watched too closely.
Whenever a customer appears to have made a selection, and asks you what you'll take for it, or what kind of deal you'll make for it, be ready to enter into "friendly negotiations".
Before you open, of course, you will have done your homework and know the value of each item of merchandise you have for sale.
Don't ever take a customer's "claimed" value of an item.
By the same token, don't listen to a seller, when you're buying items for your sale, when he claims he's offering you an antique or priceless treasure.
Sometimes (rarely enough) you'll be able to pick up fantastic treasures for virtually nothing; so by knowing your merchandise, you'll not let something of great value slip through your fingers for a song.
Be sure to have all possibly really valuable items appraised by authentic dealers.
These people are listed in the yellow pages.
Some of the "extras" that contribute to the success of a garage sale include:
Plenty of change, because without proper change, you'll lose a great many sales.
A DVD measure, because you'll find people often want to know the exact dimensions of something (especially furniture), in order to fit it into a certain space they have in mind.
Long extension cord and electrical outlet, because your customers will want to "plug in" and try out the mixers, vacuum cleaners, hand tools, and other electrical appliances.
Back for a moment to draw in those "cruisers", who aren't quite sure whether they want to park their cars and come and browse. Look for some kind of interesting or unusual item to call attention to your sale - something you cans set up in front of your home during your sale.
Anything of an unusual or interesting nature will do the trick for you.
Go wherever your imagination takes you, you have to be different and distinctive.
You'll get lost in the hundreds of garage sales going on all round you if your sales look like the next half dozen.
If you'll take the time to employ a bit of imagination, and set your sales up with the kind of flair we've been talking about, you will not only draw the crowds; you'll be the one reaping the most profits.