Like so many people do this time of year, my husband and I decided to make a change and move. Specifically, we chose to uproot from a one-story house in the Dallas ‘burbs to a three-story townhouse downtown so that we could be closer to the things we enjoy doing, reduce our commutes and make a step towards becoming a one car family. All that being said, we needed to not only downsize but to use our move as a opportunity to clean house and get rid of all the extra stuff the two of us accumulated over the years. And so over the past few months, I’ve been on an adventure in personal retail and resale. With the perspective I have as retail marketer, I would fine tune my approaches, observe potential buyers of my wares and take note, and wonder where brands could authentically fit into this very organic, grassroots shopping arena. Here are a few of my takeaways after diving head first into the world of personal retail.
The Yard Sale
The yard sale is still a mainstay and key route to selling your extraneous stuff in a time crunch. Step 1: Organize and promote your sale. One can still go with a low-key approach of posting a few handmade posters at key intersections the morning of your lone yard sale because there are still people that shop for yard sales by driving around early Saturday mornings looking for said signs. However, in 2015, you can do better without a ton of effort. First off, there’s power in numbers. Multi-family yard sales are typically big draws. Propose a neighborhood yard sale day, or even take it further by partnering with another neighborhood. With just a few clicks on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor pages to rally the cleaning house spirit, you can exponentially drive traffic to your front door and boost your sales. A simple post on your personal social media can go a long way – in fact, you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get, the shares of your post and who of your friends is or knows a yard sale connoisseur. Post on Craig’s List, which has pretty much replaced the classified ads in local papers and it’s free. Post about it on the virtual yard sale groups (more on those later). And just think, if all your neighbors are doing this, too, that network will be spreading the word beyond your reach to their mom groups or their work friends, etc.
Yes, the day of your sale, you’ll still want to put out some kind of signage to direct people to your sale, but for the most part, the leg work is done and you just have to focus on Step 2: Close the sales. In my opinion, cash is still king, so it’s important to be able to make change. Staging your goods is important because only the rare yard saler is going to want to dig around in your stuff. In fact, plenty of shoppers will do the “slow roll” in their car to scope out what you’re selling without getting out of their car. Suggest bundles to make folks feel like they are getting a deal (and it also gets more of your stuff gone).
Even with all that, be prepared to see shopping behavior that you wouldn’t have expected. People will walk away from deals over a difference of 25 cents. I had a shopper spend no less than 20 minutes looking up reviews on Amazon for some of my items – showrooming is not uncommon with brick and mortar shopping these days, but at yard sales? Really? Really. I also had another shopper Facetime his wife for nearly 30 minutes over $2 storage containers, which he ultimately passed on. If I wasn’t in shopper marketing, I probably would have been guilty of an eyeroll or two, but it was all very fascinating to observe the trickle down effect of technology on even yard sale shopping behavior.
What’s in it for brands? Some retailers have already gotten in on the direct connection between yard sales and moving by selling yard sale signs on the same aisle as moving boxes. Organization brands, like Container store, could sponsor National Yard Sale Day (the second Saturday in August) with parking lot events or promote offers to help you stay organized once you’ve decluttered.
The Virtual Sale
There seems to be about a million different ways to sell stuff virtually. From EBay to Etsy to Craig’s List, you can sell your stuff, but much of that depends on knowing your target audience and understanding the medium. Etsy is really more about selling crafted and made products, not so much for selling your old high school calculator. EBay can do instant sales, but it’s still mainly about the auction and you will have to make time for shipping. Craig’s List can be very hit or miss in terms of the kinds of buyers you’ll attract, and I always approach it with caution to never meet anyone alone. These days, you have even more options and even more control over how to sell things online and via apps, but I’ll touch on the one that seems to be gaining the most traction in my opinion, the Facebook Sales groups.
I probably joined my first Facebook sales group a few years ago at the invitation of a friend. It essentially served as a virtual garage sale. You could post a picture of an item, the sales price and approximate location of where it could be picked up. Interested parties would comment and then through private message, work out the details to finalize the sale. Over the years though, it’s become a culture, complete with it’s own language, rules and trends. The dynamics of these groups evolved so much that Facebook even created a new post form specifically for groups to help streamline the essential details of a post and requiring those details before a post could be submitted.
Let’s talk about the lingo. Want and Next comments are enough to solidify your place in line. Porch Pick Up means I’ll leave it for you on my front step and you better leave the money for it under my doormat when you come to get it. PPU means pending pick up, which a seller will post to indicate that the sale is almost done but since sales fall through all the time don’t lose hope entirely. A seller can also comment Bump to send their post back to the top of the group’s news feed to ensure fresh eyes see it. X-posted means you’ve posted this item across several groups, so even if it looks like you are first in line for an item, someone in another group make actually be first. No holds means the seller isn’t hanging onto the item for anyone, it’s a first come, first serve to make the sale.
The trends are fascinating to me. Pinterest inspiration is a big one here. For example, in the last year or so on these groups, I’ve seen a spike in the sale of “project pieces,” specifically rehabbed wooden coffee tables, end tables, entryway tables, and consoles painted in bright pastels or bold colors. Most of the time, these sales are for the completed projects, but there are also plenty of the incomplete “I bought this with the intention of rehabbing it and either my time or my skill level prevented me from actually finishing” pieces. There are bloggers and youtube channels dedicated to teaching people how to bring old furniture back to life with chalk paint and glaze. In the past, people used to go to flea markets to find these project pieces, and now they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes if delivery of the piece is included. (Other current trends I’ve seen in these include wood pallet crafts and barnwood/farm tables).
What’s in it for brands? Furniture and craft brands should be looking into this underground network for insights and noting these trends (much like fashion designers seek inspiration from people on the street or dancing in clubs). For instance, I would love to see a long established furniture company like Bassett or Broyhill run a targeted FB promotion that asks shoppers to rehab one of their brand’s furniture pieces from the 60s or 70s for a chance to win a $10,000 living room makeover. It authentically ties into what this audience is already doing, establishes the heritage and quality of the brand, and is prime for social sharing.
Consignment and second hand shops have been around for decades as yet another avenue for getting rid of your unwanted items. From clothes to books to furniture to sporting equipment, these days sellers can not only look to brick and mortar specialty consignment/resale stores but also to any number of apps to consign their wares from the convenience of their phone. For my purposes, I went the brick and mortar route for the luxury of immediacy.
Dallas-based national chain Half Price Books, while known for selling new and used books at a discount, is a great resource for getting cash for your old books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, videos and, dare I say, even laser discs. It’s a very familiar process for anyone that ever sold their study books back at student bookstore at the end of a semester. You bring your items in, a store clerk looks them up in their system while you wait in the store and you receive a cash offer for the total of your bounty. Demand and condition are the main factors for determining offer prices. Unless you are trying to sell something special, like a signed, limited first edition Harry Potter, they don’t break it down for you item by item – it’s a lump sum, take it or leave it. Don’t expect to make out like a bandit selling your books and CDs back, but something is better than nothing. Also keep in mind, what they don’t resale, Half Price Books will donate to nonprofits in support of literacy, so you can feel good about where your items are going. (Don’t have a Half Price Books near you, Amazon also has a trade-in program.)
Clothing consignment can be a bargain shoppers dream, but for someone looking to unload unwanted clothes, it can be a little confusing and nerve wracking. So many of these stores are locally-based and have their own guidelines for selecting what items they’ll take and the method for selling, which means every store is different. For my needs, I opted to give national consignment store Clothes Mentor a try. Here, you bring in your items, a store clerk accepts them for review and gives you an approximate time for your estimate to be completed, then you receive a text to let you know your estimate is ready, and upon return, they’ll walk you through what items they want and what they are willing to offer. Based on my experience (and from reviews I’ve read of others’ experiences), it’s completely hit or miss and not much rhyme or reason as to why they want some items over others or offer a certain price. Seasonality and condition can play a roll, but for the most part, they tell you it’s about your items not being the latest style. I was told this about a batch of clothes I brought in and yet one of the shirts they did buy from me, I kid you not, was 12 years old. It’s a roll of the dice, and again, something is better than nothing.
And then there is Good Will. An American mainstay in donated clothing, furniture, electronics, etc, Good Will makes these things accessible to people of all economic levels, but their stores and proceeds also go to support job creation and career education. Any true purge of belongings should involve several trips to your local Good Will, where you can get a receipt good for writing off your donations on your taxes. Win-Win for everyone.
What’s in it for brands? Clearly, specialized brands in the market of resale know their niche and understand their place in the resale market. But with all these burgeoning apps furthering simplifying the resale of not only the things you don’t want (like that sweater your mom gave you for Christmas without a gift receipt), but also of luxury and high ticket items that you may have used once and no longer have a need or space for them. It’s also important for brands to consider the benefits of trade-ins for credits over cash, which ensures the money essentially stays in there pocket but almost always guarantees a greater return as a shopper has to spend more than their credit to get the benefit of spending it all.