How to Make the Most out of Your Thrift Sale

Preparing for a thrift sale can be a lot of work but in the end I truly believe that you get back what you put in to it.

I’m sure we’ve all gone to those thrift sales where the clothes are filthy, the items are unorganized and strewn about – sometimes so much that you can’t even look at the items or walk through the garage. I turn around and get right back in my van. I don’t even shop there.

Maybe it’s my 15 years in Retail Management or maybe it’s just because most people wouldn’t want to look at a thrift sale in that condition. Either way, during my last thrift sale I decided that there were some basic tips that could help you make the most out of your thrift sale.

During the year, I typically will start gathering up things that don’t fit or that we’re not going to use anymore. I got a tip from the book “The House That Cleans Itself” by Minday Starns Clark. She suggests keeping a tub handy so that when you have something that doesn’t fit anymore, you can just put it in the tub right away. This comes in real handy when you have 6 people in your house!  And I LOVE tubs so I always have some around. I have found that the best place to buy tubs is Walmart – usually around $4.50 a piece.

The other time to organize and prepare for your thrift sale in my house is when we switch out clothes with the seasons. Again, I store all of my kids’ clothes in tubs and have them clearly labeled. I have 4 kids – 2 boys and 2 girls. The clothing switch out sometimes takes a few days because a lot of comparing and sizing goes into it. The younger kids do get the hand me downs but when they finally grow out of things, they go into the thrift sale tubs. I don’t put everything in the thrift sale tubs though. Things with holes or excessive stains go into the garbage.

Now on to the thrift sale. Here are some useful tips for your thift sale:

  • Wash all of your clothing before putting it out – yes people will probably re-wash them when they get home but you are far more likely to get a higher price for the item if they look clean, smell clean and are in good condition.
  • Wipe down/wash toys, strollers, nick knacks, etc – lysol/clorox wipe everything! I can’t stress this enough! People do not want to see your child’s old cheerios in his stroller or highchair or the dust on your nick knacks. Clean it up and you’ll sell it.
  • Clearly mark your items – maybe this isn’t an issue for everyone but I like to see a clearly marked price on everything. I don’t like to guess at the price and I don’t like to ask. If it’s not marked, I’ll turn and walk out. When I had my thrift sale this past week, one lady bought $60 worth and commented on how well everything was clearly marked and organized. Another option I have seen is to use a color coded system where everything has a color coded dot matched with a price. That might work if the system is well displayed for everyone to see and explained well.
  • Set up your space so people can easily shop – I don’t know why but I have found that people shop tables more than they shop hanging. Maybe this isn’t always the case but just my experience. Set up things in the garage for shade (and in case it rains) but it’s also important to set things out on the driveway to ‘lure’ people in. A lot of people just do drive bys and will not stop if they don’t see anything they like from the car.
  • Big ticket items – talk them up, be the sales person. If you want them to sell, sell them! Electronics – make sure you have an extension cord or plug in available to test all electronics. People are more likely to buy electronics if they know for sure that they work.
  • Organize your clothing by size and gender and put labels up on the tables. If you have a variety of sizes/boy/girl, this is an important step. You are much more likely to sell it if it’s clearly labeled! People are not going to shop through it if it’s all combined. In fact if you have the extra time to put the size right on the price sticker, this would be a bonus. Then once the sale starts, keep going back through and straightening it. People will continually mess it up during the day so you’ll have to keep it straight. Just like a retail store – those darn customers! ;)
  • Pricing – pricing is a tough one. You price it too high and people won’t buy it. If you price it too low, you won’t make any money! Pricing is going to vary but I guess I go by what I would personally pay at a thrift sale. I also go buy how much I pay for something new on clearance and try to find somewhere in the middle. I’m a deal shopper so for me, I will not pay more for a thrift sale item than I would for a brand new item on clearance. I have gone to a lot of thrift sales that have set their prices way too high and have a lot of their items left over.
  • When to have it – thrift sales in our area do really well during the week. If you can, open it up on Thursday and Friday and you’ll see a lot of traffic.
  • Advertise it – list your thrift sale on Craigs List, put an ad in your local newspaper, put signs up (although you might have to be careful with this one. Check with your town to see if they have rules against putting signs in the boulevards. You might need to ask the neighbors if you can actually put in on their property.) Also, ask your neighbors if they’d like to do a neighborhood thrift sale and if so, advertise for multi-family or neighborhood thrift sale. Using good keywords in your ad is important.
  • Get change the day before – ones, fives, tens and quarters. If you’ve priced anything $.05 or $.10 then you’ll also need dimes and nickles too.
  • Be personable and welcoming to your shoppers – people that shop your thrift sale are your customers. Ask them if there was anything they were looking for, a specific size, etc.? You might be able to help them find something vs. them walking away not buying anything. Think of this as your retail store for the weekend.
  • Have a free tub that is filled with toys that your kids aren’t playing with anymore. All of the ones that you’ve collected from McDonalds, Burger King, etc. This will keep the kids busy while mom shops! ;)

Enjoy your sale, good luck and here’s hoping you get rid of a lot of stuff while making the most out of your thrift sale!

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