The Garage Sale: Back to the Basics

The Garage Sale: Back to the Basics

2016-10-24 15:42:02 | Karen Cummings | small business marketing

We moved into our home in Queen Creek just over three years ago and since then my husband and I have been slowly collecting things we no longer need, and making a nice big pile in our storage room. This nice big pile motivated us to have a garage sale this past weekend.

After over nine years in marketing, I continue to be impressed with the simplicity and ease of running a successful garage sale. While there may certainly be factors that influence the level of success of your sale, the ‘marketing’ of a garage sale contains a few secrets to success that some businesses haven’t fully embraced.

Nearly every time, in order to see your well-worn, lovingly used items flying off the shelves of your garage sale, you need to simply walk around your neighborhood and point a handful of neon signs with arrows in your direction.

Oh, if only all marketing was that simple!

So why does this work so well?

As I sat in my garage, I pondered the phenomenon that is garage sale marketing, and I came to the conclusion that there are three primary factors influencing the consumer’s decision to stop by and check it out and ultimately buy.


As I surveyed the customers of our sale, I found that almost every single person that stopped by either lived in the immediately surrounding area, or was visiting for one reason or another. There will always be a small handful of shoppers who have specifically planned their day to garage sale shop, but these certainly aren’t the majority.

The lesson to be learned for business owners? Make sure purchasing your product or service is super convenient for customers. If they have to jump through hoops to buy from you, most likely it isn’t going to happen – or it’s going to happen a whole heck of a lot less than you’d like.


The price is just right. I mean, your customer is literally naming their price. You may be pricing your items at a garage sale slightly higher than what you’d be willing to sell them for, and your shoppers know this, and are ready to haggle. In the end, if done right, you’re still getting rid of these old items you no longer like at a pricepoint you’re happy with – and your customer is getting a ‘new to them’ item at a pricepoint they’re happy with.

The lesson? Give everything away at a pricepoint of 50 cents. Just kidding. Rather, spend some time researching the right pricepoint for your audience. You may not always get it right the first time, so test things out and see what sticks. Asking your audience directly what they would pay for your product or service, could get you started on the right foot.

The Risk

I believe that one of the biggest factors that draws people to a garage sale is the risk. The risk that the perfect item for them could be sitting in your driveway at a pricepoint well below what they’d find at a retail store – and they’re driving right past it. The desire to know for themselves what’s available, and if that perfect item is there, will inevitably be the driving force that brings most of these browsers to your sale. Once there, the prices and selection will determine the purchase.

The lesson? Incorporate a message of risk in your business’ marketing messages. Remind consumers what they’re risking by continuing with their current method, tool, model or service (obviously providing your solution as a better alternative). Create limited time and quantity sales so that buyers don’t want to risk the chance of missing out.

While growing a business is much more complex than running a garage sale, there is a lot to be learned from these old school methods of communicating with consumers the message of “I have what you want, come by and see us”.