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:

Reasons not to allow early birds:

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."


"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



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:

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.