The Art Of A Good Tag Sale

My journey into the tag sale world began when I was emptying furnishings from my New York apartment and sending them to my house in CT. My NY apartment was filled with modern and simple line furnishings while my CT apartment was classic and charming. Bringing these two styles together was no easy task. Time would run out and I eventually found myself with things that did not match with a college dormitory look. What was I to do? For most people in suburbia, that means having a tag sale. It would be my first one, and I decided to embrace the idea. I created a list of tasks to do with a clear action plan and deadline. After all, I’ve always worked in corporate America–how hard could this be? I started with a creative and fun ad in the local paper, which stated, “I can’t stop shopping–frustrated homeowner with no retail store!” I created oversized signs in the shape of a large price tag with a ribbon coming out of the hole. Days before, I placed each sign at just the right location for visibility and exposure. Good locations include telephone poles or large trees. Attach your sign with a staple gun. Remember where you put them; you must take them down the day after your sale.
That morning, I waited for the troops to arrive. Trust me”_. if you have a tag sale, they will come, but they might arrive three hours earlier than expected. All this time I was thinking a 10:00AM tag sale would allow me plenty of time to stage each display and vignette that morning and still run to Starbucks for that morning coffee, leaving me plenty of time to prepare to welcome the shoppers. All that went right out the window. Now I know why they call them early birds. To my surprise, they would not even wait for the unveiling and the styling that was to be done. These were hardcore professionals who knew exactly what they wanted. No frills, no good morning just pushing through looking for that special something that was still in a box in the garage.

Here are some tips that can help you better prepare and increase the sales for your Tag Sale:

Create a theme for your tag sale
“Sell or bust”, “those two neighbors”, “garage sale blowout”, or my favorite, “we can’t stop shopping”. These are just a few of the themes that create a buzz in your town. Think up names to entice your customers with details about some of the items you will offer. Involve the whole family.

Pick the day that works for you
Fridays and Saturdays or both days are one the most popular days to have your sale. I recommend a preview sale to your friends the night before. I did this, and it was a big hit. Invite a selected few for a drink before dinner to preview the merchandise. I sold some of my most expensive pieces to my friends. Years later, we still talk about that wonderful item that they still love and enjoy in their home.

Place an ad
Place an ad in your local paper. This is important! Up to half of your customers will arrive, a newspaper in hand. Describe the time, the types of items for sale, and give the full address, mentioning a landmark if necessary. An early starting time will force you to be ready in advance of the early birds. Consider 8:00 or 9:00AM at the latest.

Have plenty of help
Your neighbors are an excellent resource for this. Perhaps they too have items to sell. If so, invite them well in advance to join the sale. The more merchandise, the better. Keep each of the vendor’s merchandise separated and let each vendor receive payment and make a change. Use one change box and share it. One year, each of my neighbors used different color stickers, and we kept a record of who sold what.

Have music playing

Make your customers want to stay in a feel good environment. If you wish, let the children sell doughnuts and lemonade at a low price. Make it a party.

Tag each item individually

If not, you will be quoting different prices all day long for different items. The tags can be meaningless because everyone will ask for a lower price. Start a little high, and bargain down. Think about prices and tag items as far in advance as you can. Consider quality and function.

Place all items out prior to anyone coming over

This is ideal if the weather permits. However, should the weather be a problem, inexpensive tarps can be purchased to cover your items overnight enabling you to setup the night before. Sell these tarps after you use them unless you plan on doing this again. If not, just get up very early and get everything on display before the advertised starting time. Most items sell in the first three hours.

Place your items in stylish and coordinated displays

To show them in their best light, don’t put grandma’s kitchen items next to the lawn mover. Once, my mother joined me and asked for a chair. Each time she sat in one of the chairs for sale, someone suddenly noticed the chair and wanted to buy it. That day my mom moved around the yard and driveway sitting in every chair that was for sale. When I ran out of chairs, I sent her home. Perhaps people thought she was going to buy the chair, or that it was not for sale, and that just made everyone else want it.

Have a money pouch on you at all times with plenty of change
Don’t count your money during the day. Concentrate on selling. Each vendor should have a money pouch in order to move around the yard and negotiate with customers. At a good tag sale, the crowds can overwhelm you.

Never put items back into your home if not sold
Donations can be made, and in some areas shelters or Goodwill will even pick-up your contributions. This is the feel good part of the tag sale–knowing nothing will be wasted. The idea of a tag sale is to get rid of stuff that no longer looks good or not needed in your household.

Have lunch available and prepared the night before
Have shifts for the sale workers to take lunch breaks. Keep plenty of bottled water and beverages on hand in a cooler. Make sure they can access a bathroom, but don’t let any customers enter your house and keep your doors locked.

Delivery is a problem for larger items
I try to arrange for a friend who owns a truck to be available to make any local deliveries of items that can’t fit into a customer’s car. This was a flat fee that I paid that came from the total profits of the day. You will wow your customers when the price includes delivery.

Offer gift with purchase
Give away cheap items that nobody wants with a minimum purchase. For example, that old broken down artificial Christmas tree from 1975 is free with any item over twenty dollars. Do this all day and have fun with it. You will be surprised how this delights people.

Mark items down 4 hours prior to the end of your tag sale
Understand that everything is negotiable, and do not be offended by a low offer. The best thing is to offer a blanket discount — all remaining items now 50% off! If people try to go below that, simply say, “I’ sorry but I could not take anything less than fifty dollars” unless you really want to get rid of it. At the end of the day, everything is negotiable and possibly free. It is your choice.

Always try to get payment in cash. However, customers will want to pay with a check, especially for more expensive items. Make sure it is a local instate check with a correct address. Check against the driver’s license to verify the information and always get a phone number. After many tag sales, I have never received a bounced check.

After having your own tag sale, you may get hooked. You will start to seek out others and compare. Some of my favorite treasures have come from a garage or tag sale. The possibilities are endless — art, garden items and furnishings to name a few. Keep an open mind to the creative possibilities, while shopping for these treasures. See it as it is, then imagine it as it could be. Enjoy, have fun and discover. Invite friends to join you, and make it a day. In the end, you will feel great that you not only found that perfect something you were looking for, but you have a great story and a ball doing it. If you follow my tips for your own tag sale, you will make some handy cash.

And there you have it.