We have seen great sales, and not so great sales. We've even run our own yard sale a couple times.
Based on this experience as a buyer at yard sales, I thought I'd list a few things that might help all those front yard entrepeneurs out there.
1. Set a start time, and honor it.
Maybe some folks don't realize this, but there are dedicated 'yard salers' in every community, and they schedule their Saturday morning. I'm telling you, they use a map and they plan out their morning based on start times, locations, and description of the sale on the ad. Even in my area, which is a large suburban community, we're getting so we recognize these other regulars by sight. They hit sales that look like they have something they can use...and if you don't have a start time they may just pass your sale by completely.
Also, if you have a start time, and people show up to see nothing in your yard, they will most likely move on and not return. You are losing sales that way. Be prepared to begin your sale at your set, advertised start time.
Sort of under this point is early birds. If you don't mind people showing up early, say so. If you DO mind them showing up early, say so. It's important. Early, by the way, does not mean 9AM.
'Early' in yard sale language means 6AM or 7AM. Yes, yard sales are hard core.
2. Mark your prices clearly.
Perfectly fine to have a table that's marked 'everything $1.00 each' or a box like that. But customers quickly get frustrated when they see absolutely no prices on anything. Assume you'll be insanely busy and won't have time to answer each person individually when they come up to you, item in hand, wanting to know its cost. Have a price somewhere for most items.
On the other hand, be willing to haggle sometimes. Have a table that's marked 'make me an offer'. Some people love to haggle. My husband is this one - he'll haggle the price even when it's marked.
Others just want you to tell them the price and let them hand you their money. I get frustrated when a seller tells me they don't know what price they want for it, and want me to set their price for them. Frankly, I'm a cheapskate. If you ask me what price I 'want' to pay for an item, I'll likely be thinking, "Well it ought to be free, or I can give you .50cents for it." However, knowing this person has worked hard to set up this sale, I know they likely want more then that. Thus I'm left stammering around, not wanting to offend, and not wanting to put a price on it that's too high, either...because I don't want to spend that much. See what I mean? Frustrating.
3. Be Friendly
Looking back, I can see that we tend to spend more at sales where the person is engaging their customers. Even if it's not us, but other customers, if we see they're being friendly, laughing, talking, visiting, we are more likely buy from them than if they're surly or gruff.
Under this point - be available to your customers.
A couple weeks ago, I was out on a walk with the kids not actually purposely going to a yard sale, but we came upon one by accident. There were clothes hung on the front gate, a table of knick knacks on the lawn, and a sign that said 'yard sale'... but no person. Not a single one. When we walked up and started looking through the clothes, a lady came out of the front door to see what was happening. She was friendly enough, told us the prices, etc. But then went back inside her house. There was no one there. I probably could have just walked off with something.
By not having anyone outside for the selling part, she gave the impression that all her stuff was junk, ready to be put out on the corner for the trashman to take. She really didn't care what happened to it.
She also gave the impression that the sale just wasn't a big deal to anyone else, either. Yard Salers will pass by sales that look abandoned. Have at least yourself out there. Get your kids to come and wander around the yard. Have friends come over and help you man the tables. Make it a busy place.
4. Last point for today - ADVERTISE!
Put your sale on Craigslist, include some major items you have for sale.
Put posters up on corners near your house. At least one major intersection nearby, then several corners around your neighborhood.
On those posters put pertinent info only. Address, dates, and an arrow. No one will be stopping to read your list of items on your poster. They won't read your funny jokes, either. Use your poster space wisely - Dates
Arrow pointing the way
That's it - no, I mean it. That's all you need.
Also, color coordinate your posters. Use bright, neon colored posterboard, and use all one color. Very helpful when you're trying to find a particular yardsale, and you can just follow the bright neon orange signs and know they're all pointing to the same sale.
Balloons are also helpful. Get 3 or 4 balloons, tie them to your front gate - it lets people searching for you know right away you're what they're looking for.
Only drawback to the balloons is being mistaken for a birthday party.
So, check back here periodically for more tips. Or leave your own tips in a comment!