Friday, July 17, 2015

Greenlee Gazette's Yard Sale Primer

Store-bought is okay. But if a neighbor
is using the same signs, you might confuse
people. And use that white box for an
arrow and little else.

Yard Sales, Garage Sales, Tag Sales, whatever you call them, they're a weekend activity for lots of people. Antique dealers, collectors, new home owners, resellers and hoarders are roaming the streets of their cities and towns in an ever-expanding orbit, looking for goodies. But why are people so bad at actually throwing these sales?

There is not much more frustrating for the shopper than being unable to find an elusive sale, or being misled by the signage once they finally find it. And for the seller, it must be frustrating to see people drive by without stopping, or see hardly anyone at all, right? So, this article is less about knowing what to buy, or knowing how to buy and sell for profit or gain, and more about just how to throw a proper sale.

As a sign maker by trade, I'm going to focus most upon signage creation and placement, because this is the most important part about getting people to your sale. Yes, Craigslist can help, though probably not classified advertising (what is this, 1985?). But you can have a successful list with only good signage to get people there. And good signage--though you'd think it would be obvious to people--is a rarity out there, it would seem.

Cute. But a terrible sign. Illegible while
driving, no indication of which way,
useless unless you stop to read it,
AND know where Wilton Pl. is.


- Make your signs bright and bold, with as little information as possible. People can't read much as they're driving.
- A BIG BOLD ARROW may be all you really need.
- Only use extraneous words, if your sale is VERY specific. Mostly toys, mostly baby stuff, mostly furniture? Use concise, bold, SHORT words to sum that up: "BABY SALE," "FURNITURE," "ANTIQUES" and a big, bold arrow.
- Did I say BIG BOLD ARROW? I meant it. Get a big, fat, BLACK marker, the kind you practically have to hold in your fist. Lightweight, skinny arrows CANNOT be seen from a distance.
- Consider colored poster board, all the same color. Cut it into quads, and make your signs. Big arrow in the middle, a minimum of verbiage on the top and/or bottom. Make several rights and several lefts. Or make an all-purpose one like the green one I made below.
If you made a stack of signs like this, it would be
all you need to get the job done.
- If you have lots of soft, curbside ground in your neighborhood, attach your signs to stakes.
- If you attach signs to a pole, make the sign stiff enough, or small enough that the wind won't bend it or take it down. Use clear packing tape in big pieces over the whole face of the sign, onto the pole.
- If you attach signs to a box, make sure the box doesn't obstruct anything, and put a rock, brick or other weight in the box to keep it steady.
- Make sure your signs are secure to whatever they're attached to, and can't easily be blown down, torn or bent by the wind, or otherwise made useless by the elements.
- Place your signs in the most logical location. Nothing is more frustrating for a driver than turning left because the sign is on the left, and finding out that the sign actually pointed right (a BIG BLACK ARROW helps with this too).
- If the driver must turn anywhere in their path to your house, put another sign. These are breadcrumbs to your sale. Do you WANT a secret sale?
- Make your signs consistent to each other. If they obviously match each other, people can't be led astray by someone else's signs.


- Don't list your address. It's not necessary, most people won't recognize the street name. They usually won't be able to read it while driving. Nobody cares.

Might as well be invisible.
- Don't list FRI., SAT., SUN. It promises something that may not happen, and it's extraneous. The signs should only be up while the sale is on.
- Don't use a standard Sharpie, Marks-A-Lot or any other ordinary pen or marker. They're too small, and almost impossible to read.
- Don't be overly cute. It's just confusing. Unless you're making every sign have a distinctive design that ties them all together AND quickly indicates something important about the sale, don't bother.
- Don't leave excessive gaps between signs. People will think your sale is over if they can't find you.
- Don't place a single sign at the entrance to your development, and then leave people hanging.
- Don't make the signs too small (though a series of brightly colored darts or arrows of the same color as the rest of your signs CAN be helpful to lead the way).
- Don't put your signs up before you're ready to open.
- Don't leave your signs up after you've closed.


- Have as much ready the night before as possible.
- Price everything before you open.
- Have plenty of tables to display your merchandise upon and beneath.
- If the tables you're using look like they might be for sale, make a sign that says "table not for sale."
A fairly good sign. Arrow could still
be bolder.
- If you place an ad on Craigslist, do not list your address, list the cross streets. List the time it starts, and some other identifier: "Follow green signs," "In Moondance subdivision," "Behind playground," whatever it is. Otherwise, you'll have earlybirds before you're ready.
- If weather is a factor, consider shelter for your items, whether it's tenting, or your sale is in the garage.
- If the sale is in the garage, block access (and preferably line of sight) to anything NOT for sale.
- Have someone help you for as much of the sale as possible, it's invaluable.
- While one person sets up, the other can put up signs.
- Don't put up signs until it's time to open.
- Put signs up from the INSIDE (closest to the house) OUT (furthest from the house). This will save you from having people drive around aimlessly while you put signs up.
- Have someone check on the signs once or twice, or ask customers if they had any trouble finding you.
- Have plenty of change from the beginning. People will show up with tens and twenties when you FIRST OPEN!
- Put most attractive, large, sales-worthy items where they can be easily seen.
- If you're worried about your lawn or driveway getting messed up by cars, block them with cones, rope, flags, etc. So long as there IS somewhere for people to park.
- If you have large items that you don't want to drag out unless someone is interested, take several pictures, and print them out.
- Do NOT overprice items, or expect them to draw top dollar. It's a yard sale, not an antique store.
- Edit Craigslist ad to goose sales if there's a big lull: "Everything marked half off for rest of sale," "End of sale, everything must go!" or at the end, "Come and get it, curbside free!"
- Take DOWN your signs starting from the OUTSIDE, IN, which will allow those last few customers to find you while you're winding down the sale.
This one.
Use this one.

Also, know your market. Does your neighborhood tend to have a lot of sales on Friday? Do they usually start really early, or do they not get going until 10 am? How late do they usually run? This is important stuff, because different areas do these things differently. In Las Vegas, for example, sales tend to mostly run on Saturday (with some Friday and Sunday overspill), tend to start very early (7:30 or 8:00am), and don't tend to run past Noon or 1:00 pm.  In central Ohio, the big day seems to be Friday (with some overspill into the weekend), and they tend to start later (9:00 or 10:00am), and can run until 4:00 at night.  If you don't run your sale at the usual times, you may miss out on your prime shoppers.

And finally, be aware of any local restrictions you might have in your area on sales. Some municipalities are very strict about what they allow.

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