Every spring, I purge all the extra junk in my house. I clean out all the closets, tidy cabinets and pantry and generally rid my home of all the clutter and detritus that seems to accumulate over the course of a year. Then I host a yard sale, allowing my neighbors to purchase previously mentioned junk for pennies on the dollar and drag it to their homes to clutter their closets (one man’s trash is another’s treasure, I’m told). So I get rid of unwanted stuff and my daughter’s college fund grows a bit. I’m quite a yard sale veteran at this point, having hosted an annual sale for the past twelve years or so.
During my annual yard sale recently, I realized that the success of a yard sale was very much reliant on signage and I thought I’d pass on a few gems of wisdom I’ve gathered over the years.
1. Good Design is Crucial
With yard sale signs, less is more. I see lots of signs that have extraneous information that only serves to confuse potential yard sale hunters. You don’t need to use your signage to advertise everything you’re selling. You don’t need to put the hours of your sale (you put the signs up when the thing starts and take ‘em back down when you’re done). You don’t necessarily even need to include your address, as long as you have plenty of signs to point the way.
What you do need is big, clear letters that say “YARD SALE” and an arrow pointing the way toward your house. That’s it. (for more tips, see our post on good sign design)
If you design all your signs to match (same colors, same size) and you place enough of them around, yard sale hunters will just follow your signs to your sale.
2. Signage Material Matters
If you make up signs using a ballpoint pen on 8 1/2 x 11” paper, no one will come to your yard sale. Why? Because the paper will promptly curl up and no one will be able to read it. Similarly, brown cardboard signs can be difficult to read and tend to fold up if it’s windy out.
For the best visibility, design signs made of plastic corrugate. This material won’t be ruined in poor weather and can withstand a little bit of wind. Use H-stakes to place them in the ground, or zip ties to install them on street sign poles. Plastic corrugate is durable and will last for several years, so you can always store the signs and use them more than once.
3. Combine Signage with Advertising
Advertise your yard sale in advance. Make use of free online sites as well as a print ad in the local newspaper. These ads can (and should) offer a bit more commentary including your address, the hours you’ll be running the sale and a brief summary of the types of items you’ll offer. I like to include hints about my signage in the ad: “Watch for my red-and-white directional signs.”
4. Install Lots of Signs
Starting with your street corner, install signs every one-to-two blocks. For the greatest impact, spread signs out as far as a mile from your house, making sure to include any nearby major intersections. Place signs facing both directions.
During my last yard sale, I often had people ask me if I could point them toward Halston street. Apparently there was a sign for a yard sale on that street posted in the intersection about a half mile from my house, but no other signs gave drivers a clue where to go. So instead, they followed my clearly marked signs and just hoped that I knew where the other sale was, too.
5. Don’t Forget the On-Premise Signage
Smaller signs accompanying your yard sale stuff helps it move faster. At my last sale, I had about four dozen DVDs that I wanted to ditch. Instead of just putting a price tag on each, I placed a sign at the table that said, “DVDs $2 each Buy 3 Get 1 Free” I sold almost all of them—in batches of 4. I also had a large, heavy exercise machine that I wanted to sell, but I didn’t want to haul it out of the house. So I put a sign on the lawn that said, “Ask To See Our Home Gym.” Someone came along, read the sign, took a look and did all the heavy lifting.
These five tips are great for other events as well. Charity car washes, bake sales and community picnics can all benefit from well-designed and well-placed signage. Use the same basic principles for baby showers, birthday parties and street fairs and your event will be a huge success and your attendees will thank you!
Had a yard sale recently? Head over to our Facebook page and post your creative yard sale sign photos.