Best early bird strategies
The early bird catches the worm. Serious garage sale shoppers, second-hand dealers and collectors know that you need to be at a garage sale early to snap up the treasures before anyone else can. It is very competitive and they will do anything to get in first. Some will arrive one to two hours before your advertised start time while some will try to see what you have for sale a day or two before your sale!
Do you allow early birds to "jump the queue" or do you have them wait like everyone else?
Reasons to allow early birds:
- Quick and easy early sales may help motivate you for the rest of the day.
- Early birds are often dealers who are prepared to pay a bit more for specific sought-after items.
- If you're good at haggling or have someone on-hand who is, you may be able to push a bit harder and make a bit extra on the in-demand items.
- You can warn in your advertisement that early birds are allowed but prices will be doubled or not negotiable. This way you may make a bit extra for the really keen ones.
- An alternative, is not to warn them and price all your items at double the price you planned to ask for. This also gives you a bit more "room to move" on the price because you know they're more experienced at haggling than you. After the early birds have been through, put up a sign "50% off all items". (If you aren't good at arithmetic, this will bring the prices down to what you would be asking for normally.)
Reasons not to allow early birds:
- You don't have enough people to help set up and deal with the early birds. You will be busy enough setting up without having to worry about early birds getting in the way, asking you questions, haggling, messing up your displays, keeping you from putting up signs.
- They could be trying to take advantage of your flustered state to try to rush through a quick sale.
- They may use up all your change.
- You'll be too busy setting up to keep on eye on them.
- You'll probably sell the items they were after anyway.
- It isn't fair for the other shoppers who respected your start time.
How and when to attract early birds and make them want to pay your prices!
Do you have items that will appeal to dealers, eBay resellers (more and more these days) or collectors and know there will be a line of keen early birds eager to get in first?
Advertise all the mouth-watering items and that you garage sale starts at 5:00am! No, start it at 4:00am (make them work for their bargains - and warn your neighbors) and mark your prices high.
If the early bird dealers, eBay resellers or collectors are that keen then they'll buy anything to make the effort worth while and not go away empty handed.
Get all the sought-after items out that night and keep locked in the garage. If possible, have your other items out for the early birds to rummage through. They'll be desperate to buy. Don't open up or let anyone in before your advertised open time. Trust me, you'll still get early birds trying to get in first at 3:00am !
How to foil early birds
If your garage is big enough, you may be able to set up most of your tables and displays behind the closed garage door or high fence. You haven't included your house number in the ads or signs, just the street name so early birds have no way of knowing which house it is. Then, right on your start time, open the garage door and quickly carry out your tables and displays for outside the garage and put up your sign/s at the front of the house so everyone can now see which house it is.
How to make early birds think twice
If your garage isn't big enough to allow you to set up behind closed doors, then if you decide not to allow early birds, include this in all your advertising:
"Early birds will be considered rude and inconsiderate and will be asked to leave the owner's private property until the advertised open time."
OR"No early birds allowed because it just wouldn't be fair to the other shoppers who waited until the opening time."
It won't stop them all but maybe it will make them think twice. You will still need to be firm with the ones that show early and not let them in. See the next tip.
Stand your ground
If you have advertised "No Early birds" then do not allow any early birds to even browse through your sale before the open time. If you weaken and let them in then this is rude and inconsiderate towards those who respected your wishes and waited. If these people see that you have allowed early birds, I wouldn't be surprised if they turned around and left without buying anything.
Ways to keep them waiting while you set up
- Hang a rope across your drive with a sign "No entry until 8-30".
- Say "Sorry but my garage sale permit won't allow me to start before 8-30 and how do I know that you aren't the authorities checking on me and hand me a fine if I open early?".
- First thing in the morning, before doing anything else, start to brew a large pot of coffee. The bring everything else out and start setting up your tables. If When the early birds arrive, invite them to help themselves to a cup of coffee. Hopefully, that will help them to wait until you have put out most of your stuff.
If you can't beat 'em...
If your garage is big enough to have most of your inventory browsable before you bring the tables out and arrange things better, consider including in your ad that early birds are welcome but will need to pay a non-refundable $10 "early bird fee" to enter. This works best if you have people helping you set up while the early birds browse & buy. This way you still make sales, hopefully there will be a few early birds at the same time to generate some competition (ie they are more likely to pay your asking price before someone else snaps up the item) and you get a little extra bonus too.
If you still can't beat 'em...Sleep in and get early birds to want to pay your prices!
If you have items that will appeal to dealers, eBay resellers or collectors then instead of starting early - start late.
Starting after lunch at 2-00pm is much more civilized and you can sleep in too.
Advertise that if early birds want to go through your sale before your start time they are welcome but will have to pay a fee depending on how early they want to go through. For example, if you start at 2-00pm then:
- They pay $10 to go through between 1.00 – 2.00pm
- They pay $15 to go through between 12.00 – 1.00pm
- They pay $20 to go through between 11.00am – 12.00pm
- They pay $25 to go through between 10.00am – 11.00pm
- Anything earlier than 10.00am will cost $50 (and they'll have to rummage through your stuff themselves because you haven’t set up yet).
Make sure they know the fee is non-refundable (ie they don't get it back if they don't buy anything) but can come off any purchases.