It’s the end of the week and your inventory is slim at best. You’ve done the thrift store circuit in your area and have come up dry. Now what?
It’s time for a weekend of picking! This, my friends, is the fun part. Or at least one of the many fun parts:) I have been in the situation described above many a time and it helps me to develop a plan to maximize my time, storage space and profits while minimizing my gas money and purchases.
1. Research ahead of time.
I remember taking off driving on a Saturday morning with my momma and brother on the hunt for garage sales. We’d simply pull over when we’d see a sign. Tons of fun, but not efficient.
Nowadays, I take time a day or two before the weekend and pin point which sales peak my interest. Most estate sales start between 8am -9am on a Thursday or Friday morning. I usually do my research on Wednesday to make sure I don’t miss a killer sale.
Worth my while to me means:
a) The posting has pictures. The more the better.
b) Of those pictures, I have multiple items that peak my interest. If there is only one piece (say an awesome lamp) out of all the pictured items that I’m interested in, I usually will cut the sale from the list. You can go at 4:30am, stand in line for hours, be the 2nd person in the door and still miss out on your ONE item. To me, the risk is too high and the reward too little to waste all of that time and energy. I need to see lots of items that I would be interested in buying.
c) If I am on the fence after looking at the pictures, or can’t really tell based on the photos or description, I will look to the distance to see if it’s worth my time. Anywhere within a 30 minute drive I will probably fit into my schedule, but it may be low on the list.
2. Narrow it down.
Once I have my list of interesting sales, it’s time to narrow down. I usually have one highlight sale that I am most excited about. This is the one I get up early for and will drive farther for. This is the starting point of my day. I plan to spend 1-2 hours actually inside the sale with another hour built in for waiting to get in.
I will then pick 1-2 additional sales that, depending on what I find at sale #1, I will hit up next.
3. Map it out.
Start with sale #1. That is where you drive first. Then, out of your narrowed down list, see which sale makes the most sense map-wise to drive to next. I hate to back track, so when I can control it, I try to make my route linear or at the very least a loop back to home.
I also enter all the addresses into the GPS so I can easily bring up the addresses in my “Recents” while out and about.
4. Get cash.
I am preaching to the choir on this one. My hubby and I are electronic people with our finances, so if I wasn’t in this business, I would never carry cash. So, I have to make sure and plan ahead for my picking days. Go to an ATM and withdraw a larger amount than you think you need. Few things are as annoying to me as when I am checking out at a sale and realize I am $5 short and so need to waste my time going BACK (backtracking, see? Hate it.) to an ATM. You can always re-deposit, but pull out more than you think and save more on ATM fees too.
Depending on my inventory level, I will pull out around $100-$160. If I spend more than that, I can usually convince the seller to let me write them a check or I will use my card (if they have Square or similar). Most established estate sale companies I work with allow credit card use with an over $25 purchase. Cash is just easier usually.
5. Dress for success.
Layer up. The early morning estate sale lines are RARELY warm. I usually wear an extra pair of socks that I can then layer off as the day goes on.
I wear shoes easy to maneuver in, that keep me warm and ones I am totally fine with getting trashed in mud and dust.
6. Pack light and carry a huge bag.
I will bring in my phone and wallet, no purse. It weighs you down and keeps swingin’ in the way when you’re trying to sift through piles of stuff.
I also recommend carrying a large tote that can carry small items. This way, you aren’t running back and forth to your hold pile every few minutes. You can keep moving and finding the treasures!
7. Pack snacks.
Time is of the essence in the early mornings of estate sale days. Make sure you have a couple granola bars up your sleeves so you can keep moving and not stop for food.
8. Keep a list.
If applicable, write a list beforehand of items you are lacking in your current inventory. You will rarely ONLY buy what’s on the list, but it will help you stay focused in the stream of customers all vying for similar pieces. It will also keep you focused on what it ok to splurge on for your current situation. Or, if you have a market coming up, it would make good sense to stock up on “smalls” as these are easier sells in the market environment.
Also, keep in my mind your style and brand. It’s easy to get sidetracked into buying a cool piece that would better fit in someone else’s space. It’s ok to pass on something that is clearly cool, but won’t fit in with your feel. This opens up your budget to buy something truly special that speaks to your customer.
Now, hit the sales! Use this list to feel efficient, calm and prepared for success in building up beautiful inventory!
What do you do to prepare for a buying trip? Let me know what you find this weekend!!