Tips for the Swap Meet Selling Novice

A few months ago, I participated in my first Swap Meet at the local Drive In. I did very well, almost netting $200 in five hours. This wasn't bad, but I brought home more stuff than I had wanted to do. So, this time, I went in a little more prepared, and I figured I would share what I'd learned.

1. Save your bags. The first time around, many people who purchased items from me asked for bags. Whoops! I didn't bring any. Since then, any grocery bag or decent bag from shopping has been saved in a tub in the garage. It was so much nicer to have bags at the ready-and the customers were happier.

2. Have your supplies ready. I have a little tin with price labels, a sharpie marker, tape, and fluorescent colored index cards. About half of my stuff was already priced, but I tended to price as I went, and it was nice to have them in one easy to find place.

Also, I had two tables for my things, but next time, I'll have two tarps to put things on-they'll be going into that supply tub this week.

3. Do some research. The first go round, I had priced things similarly to what they would fetch on eBay. This was the wrong tactic, and the reason why I brought things home. This time around, I priced a little higher than yard sale, and was willing to take reasonable offers. That doesn't mean that the woman who wanted to pay me two bucks for a Lenox Tinkerbell ornament priced at ten was going to get it. (That sucker could get thirty on eBay.)

4. Bring a chair and an umbrella. This time, I forgot those two items and I regretted it. I think they will be loaded up before I put anything in the van next time. That way, they're the last thing unloaded and I'll be ready to sit by then.

5. Bring more than you intend to sell. Yes, that sounds weird, but hear me out. I had put out a dozen different mugs, which took up a bunch of real estate-and one guy bought them all. Yes, we brought stuff home, but it was good to have a variety of items.

6. Related to that, don't be afraid to bring items you think won't sell. Ed grabbed a tub out of storage yesterday that was Jane's kitchen items. All were duplicates to things we had. I hadn't even unpacked the entire tub and one guy bought the can opener. Most of the Pyrex dishes sold, too. Many of the items are in excellent shape, I just hadn't considered them as worthy swap meet items. Score one for Ed.

7. If you can, bring company. While Ed was partly there because there are things I can't lift (and I made the mistake later of lifting 25 pounds-REALLY BAD IDEA!), it was good to be able to go walk around to see what others were selling and shop. I visited the same produce vendor I'd visited after I packed up all my stuff last time. It was better to visit earlier in the day.

8. Bring seed money. Last time, I got two rolls of quarters, $40 in ones and $40 in fives. This time, I came with no quarters and only $10 in ones and $15 in fives. I honestly didn't touch my seed money, because most of my earliest shoppers had exact change. Still, you can't count on that. You will only need quarters if you price things at fifty cent increments, I skipped that this time and wasn't weighed down with change.

9. Have an apron with pockets or small change bag. I used a VeraBradley wristlet hooked to my pants, but I did bring an apron from my waiting table days. It is in a tub that is ready to go back next time.

10. If stuff isn't selling, move things around. I think that's the retailing background, I will move my stuff around, because you never know what catches people's eyes.

11. If there's activity around your things, people will stop and look. I learned this one a very long time ago-I sold more computers (other than Christmas week in 1990), the week we had the department torn up for remodeling. So, if I was playing around with stuff, it got people interested. Contrasted with the people in the stall next to mine, who sat in their truck the whole time-we got a lot more buyers, even though they had a lot more stuff.

12. Pack a cooler. This is something I didn't do this time, but last time, I brought some vitamin water, probably because it was much warmer that day. The drive in has a snack bar, they do great business in breakfast foods-but I was busy when Ed brought back mine. Chances are, you will be, too. A cooler with some fruit, muffins, and something to drink will keep hunger at bay until you head out.

13. Prepare for a long haul. I stayed until noon last time, but we saw a distinct drop off around 11:15 this time, so we packed up and were among the first to leave. With what we had left, we weren't going to get too much traffic. Next time, we might be there until 2pm.

14. Location means everything. This time, getting there a half hour earlier meant we got a better spot. Next time, I will get my butt out of bed a half hour earlier than that, just to have a shot at the same general area in the prime selling area. (Last time, I was out in the boonies). If they open at 5am, be prepared to get there no later than 5:30. Yes, I did a bunch of business in the dark!

Next time, I may have more lessons to share. I have three less tubs of stuff, and more more money in my pocket, so I'm a happy person, but I'm shooting for five less tubs next time!


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