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Introduction – Organizing Sales

15 February 2011

Introduction – Organizing Sales

So, you have decided to hold a sale. Well then, … let’s get started.

Whether you are holding a garage sale, moving sale, estate sale, church bazaar or a group or block sale, there are things to do that are common to all. Depending on the type of sale, there may be extra effort needed, or in other cases, you may be able to eliminate or minimize some tasks or take some short cuts. The following is a discussion about the different efforts required to conduct a sale, some planning considerations, and how one type of sale may differ from another. This discussion is mostly for those who have never done a sale or beginners who may have helped on another.

Types of Sales

Following is a brief description of the different types of sales and what places them in their category. We should point out this discussion does not cover ‘Flea Market’ or similar organized sales.

1. Garage and Yard Sales – these are typically smaller sales located in an individual’s garage or on their lawn and sidewalk. This may include sales where apartment tenants have permission to conduct a sale on apartment complex property.
2. Moving and Downsizing Sales – these are medium to larger sales that involve selling some portion of a home or apartment contents. These can run the gamat from relative small sales to those where the most of the entire contents of the home are sold. Normally the sale is conducted inside the home, garage or apartment even if the entire contents are not being sold.
3. Estate Sales – these are typically larger sales where the contents of the home, garage and entire premises are being sold. The sale is held in the home and is open to the public. Many times, professionals conduct these sales.
4. Group Sales, Block Sales and Church Bazaars –these can be held outdoors, in a parking lot or in some cases in the church facilities, like a gymnasium. Group or block sales are held when most of the families along the street of one (or more) city blocks decide to coordinate a common sale at the same time, and each family or home conducts their own sale on their own property. Church bazaars are similar, where a group in the church organizes a common sale, many times for fundraisers. Several individuals and families help with setting up and conducting the sale as well as contributing and collecting items for the sale.

Let me just say, doing an Estate Sale, Moving Sale or Downsizing Sale where most all the contents of the home is being sold, this effort is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of hard work involved preparing for this kind of sale. Before the sale is finished, you may wind up moving the contents of the home at least once, if not 2 or 3 times. If you are energetic and so inclined, make a go of it. However, there is good reason why most of these sales are done by professionals, and they do earn their fees.

Preparing and Conducting a Sale

Regardless of the type of sale being done, they all have common tasks. Following is a list of the more significant effort but is not an all-inclusive list. Depending on the type of sale being done, there may be some things you can eliminate, or at least they may not take a significant amount of time and effort. The following steps are not in a strict order, but are more of a general guideline.

1. Pick a date – but if possible, make it tentative and delay any hard commitments as long as possible. You may find that there are circumstances beyond your control that require you to change your original date. Sometimes you find it just takes more time and effort than you originally thought. Also, decide what days you will be open and the time of each day you will open and close.

2. Organize and Plan – the larger sales where there are several people involved, obviously should take more organizing, if for nothing else, to make sure everyone is on the same page. You should get as much of a commitment from each one as possible. Also, there is plenty to do, so you don’t want to needlessly duplicate effort. Layout a ‘to do’ list for each one with a tentative schedule. As the sale date draws closer, check back with each one to make sure everyone is on schedule.

During the sale, prepare to help buyers carry items out of the sale. This is especially important for larger items such as furniture and appliances. Do you have anyone who is available and able to carry the larger and heavier items.

How do you want to handle any discounting of items during the sale. Are you willing to take less than what they are priced, and if so, at what point during the sale will you discount or negotiate on price. You may want to designate someone as the price negotiator.

Decide what you want to do with items that are left at the end of the sale. Will you keep them, return them to their original owners or donate them to a charity.

3. Sale Preparation – presentation is everything. Think in terms of a retail establishment. The better you can display and show off your items, the better chance they have to sell. You will need several folding tables. You can make temporary tables by placing sheets of plywood on sawhorses. This may be more useful in the garage but can also be used inside. Wash dirty items before displaying them. This is especially important for clothes and glassware.

4. If you have things you are not going to sell, it is best to segregate these things from the sale items. If possible, designate one or more rooms in your house to hold these items and close these rooms during the sale. If you are having a garage sale, group the items not for sale together and cover them up or tape them off and designate them as “not for sale”.

5. Price your items – it seems the purpose of most any sale is to make as much as you can, while at the same time, sell it all when possible. Unless you are one of those who believe “the garage sale is one of the great American inventions where others pay you to carry your junk off. That is, you just want to get rid of the junk.” From us buyers, we love you. Anyway, there can be a fine line between ‘under pricing’ versus ‘over pricing’. We don’t have any hard and fast rules or many guidelines to offer. Probably the best approach is to know your retail prices and price your items accordingly. Pricing is where the professionals really earn their money. They not only know what the retail prices are, but they know what the market value is at sales, so the most money can be earned while selling the most items.

It is best to price each item separately, especially the larger, more expensive items. Masking tape can be used and simply write the price with a felt pen. For garage sales and smaller sales, you may think you can just price them off the top of your head. But let me say, before the sale is over, you will be tired and can get confused. Also, if items are not priced, you will be repeating the price over and over again, individuals cannot just browse, and you will be stuck having to be there all the time. You have to take some breaks.

You can consider grouping like items together and have an area or table that contain items for all the same price. This can save a lot of pricing, but remember, items will get moved and out of place during the sale as people pick them up, look at them, then set them down. Whoever is collecting the money will have to know specifically what these items are so the correct price can be collected. So, this probably works best when you have a lot of the same items, like CD’s, cups, shoes, etc.

6. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise – you want as many people coming to your sale as possible. Also, you may be competing with other sales in your area. This may be especially true in larger cities. However, several sales in the same neighborhood or in the same part of town can be to your advantage. If there are several sales in an area, they are likely to hit them all, which is an advantage to the shoppers. You may want to advertise in one or more local newspapers as well as post your sale on a website. Be sure to include the dates and times you will be open. Usually, you can place the ad in the paper a few days before the sale. ‘Estate Sales of Dallas’ www.estatesalesofdallas and ‘Garage Sales of Dallas’ www.garagesalesofdallas.com are two websites where you can post your sale for free. Prepare signs to be staked on street corners. But, it is advisable to first find out what city ordinances govern the use of signs in your area. You should check to see if your city requires a permit to hold a sale. Refer to the ‘City Ordinances’ category on this blog.

7. Money Handling – get cash for the sale. You will need plenty of coins and small bills so you can make change. Do this a day or two before the sale. You will need to decide if you will accept checks or cash only. If possible, designate some one as the cashier who collects all the money at the sale and this is all they do. That way, they will not get distracted. Get someone who is comfortable handling the money transactions.

8. Put out the Signs – put out sides either the night before the sale, or early in the morning before the sale.

9. The day of the Sale – have everyone who is helping on the premises before the sale opens. Make their assignments and answer as many questions as you can. Open promptly at the time you advertised. Plan for food, snack and drinks during the sale.


Preparing and doing a sale can be a lot of hard work. But, it can be rewarding and hopefully will meet your specific goal(s). We hope you have a successful sale, and as always, enjoy the experience.

Organizing Sales

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