The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Local Business

May 18, 2013

Yard sale season means big business

PENDLETON, Ind. — They’re coming.

“You’ll see them out there, roaming the streets,” Ginnie Clevenger said. “They’ll be out there driving around the neighborhood, usually really early in the morning, just scoping things out.”

Yes, they’re coming: With circled newspaper ads, wads of cash and an insatiable taste ... for the clutter in the back of your garage.

Yard sale season is upon us, again.

In Clevenger’s Pendleton neighborhood, it’s been a Pendle Hill homeowners’ association tradition since 1977, marked every year with a big banner and balloons tied to mailboxes. Saturday, between 15 and 20 homeowners had signed up to price-sticker their old clothes, video tapes, whats-a-whose-its and thing-a-ma-bobs, and spread them across their front lawns.

“I always look at it like people are paying me to haul (clutter) away for me,” said Clevenger, who coordinates the sale. “It’s a win-win: They get stuff, and I don’t have to find a place to put it.”

Since there’s no such thing as the U.S. Bureau of Yard Sale Statistics and most transactions are done in cash, definitive data on yard sales is a little tough to come by. But according to the folks over at the Statistic Brain Research Center, about 165,000 Americans hold sales every week.

They sell an average of 4,967,500 items to 690,000 people, for $4.2 million in total revenue per week. Assuming the sales only operate during the warm, spring-summer months of May through August, that equates to over $67 billion — yes, with a ‘B’ — per year.

For a little perspective, eBay, a sort of online yard-saler, made about $10.72 billion last year.

“There are some people who make it a business,” Clevenger said. Pendle Hill’s sale is usually a once-a-year thing, but there are many shoppers who “do it every weekend. It’s almost like a profession.”

But, hey, where else can you buy a box of souvenir T-shirts, a dozen DVDs and a clown-shaped cookie jar for less than $10? Those steals can be resold for profit — a margin of about 460 percent, when posted on eBay — or used to furnish a homes, for gifts or to update kids’ wardrobes.

Serious yard-salers often pre-shop, targeting homes whose owners have similar tastes or wear roughly the same size clothes.

“I had one woman who did that every year,” Clevenger said. “She’d always come looking for her kids.”

For sellers, over 20-year yard sale veteran Clevenger advised the best day is Saturday, when most people are off work and looking for something to do. She said shoppers tend to start in the early morning, although her neighborhood doesn’t usually get selling until about 9 a.m. Things tend to drop off after lunch.

To maximize profits, she recommends labeling things well, selling cold drinks and putting primo items out front to drive foot traffic.

And don’t be afraid to haggle. “It’s better to sell five things at $1 a piece than sell nothing at all and have to take it to Goodwill,” she said.

Most importantly, whether things sell or not, enjoy the time with family and friends, she said.

“If I had a good day, I’d usually take the family out to dinner; let them cut into my profits a little,” Clevenger said. “If it wasn’t a good day, we’d still go ... only my husband has to pay.”

Like Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and on Twitter @BayleeNPulliam, or call 648-4250.

By the numbers

  • Average number of garage sales each week in the US: 165,000
  • Average number of people who purchase something at a garage sale each week: 690,000
  • Overall average price of a garage sale item: $0.85
  • Total US weekly revenue from garage sales: $4,222,375
  • Best time to start a garage sale: 7 a.m.
  • Best day to hold a garage sale: Saturday

Source: Statistic Brain Research Center


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