It’s summer and the garage sale season is in full swing across the peninsula. “No national statistics are available, but garage and yard sales clearly proliferate in warmer weather,” the New York Times proclaimed in 1997. Well, we’ve come a long way in the data department in the last 15 years. If you need a number, you can generally find it; garage sales are no exception, though one has to wonder what government agency is driving around our neighborhoods collecting the data.
In fact, not only are there statistics on the number of garage sales, but prices and profits. According to statisticbrain.com, about 690,000 people buy something at one or another of the 165,000 garage sales that take place every week in the US. This is not pin money. Garage sales produce over $4.2 million a week in revenue – that’s over $200 million a year and growing. Individual sales are small – different types of items command different prices – but the overall average for items sold is $.85. Doesn’t seem like much, but it sure adds up.
Between the dollar volume and the sheer number of sales, it is not surprising that garage saleing has become an entrepreneurial business in its own right. Amazon.com lists thousands of items if you search for garage sale, everything from how to books to signs and sales stickers. There are also folks who cruise garage sales to snap up those 85 cent items to resell on eBay. Statisticbrain figures the profit margin on garage sale goods resold on eBay is 462% a margin virtually any small business would be happy to see.
There is no shortage of advice for serious garage salers – how to books abound. Some advice seems a bit obvious, like holding your sale on a Saturday and starting early, but other recommendations are more subtle like making sure everything is priced and not setting your prices at “book value.” Signage is important and, in some areas, permits are even required. The experts suggest you never work a garage sale by yourself; it is too easy to become the victim of theft. And, theft is a problem. Sometimes there are even organized groups who can descend on a garage sale and while one person distracts the person holding the sale, the thieves can make off with the best goods. The counter to these sorts of dangers is organizing your sale so you can keep watch and creating a buffer zone away from the road so you can observe anyone trying to make off with sale items. There are do’s and don’ts about handling money and making change as well as what to do with the family pooch while the sale is going on. This last area rang a bell with us since a loose dog at a yard sale could easily be confused about their responsibility to protect and defend with strangers carrying off household goods. The last thing you need at your garage sale is a claim on your Washington Homeowners Insurance policy.
On the other side of the garage sale fence, it you are a shopper there a few things the experts suggest you stay away from. These include personal protective gear like helmets, makeup and fragrances that may not take well to aging and pretty much all bed related items – including things that go in beds like teddy bears. The fear here, of course, is bed bugs.
Anyway, summer is the season for sales and Saturday is the day. If you want to know about garage sales at this time of year, here is a link to a nifty infographic; if you want to go to a garage sale, just drive around your neighborhood – the signs will be there.