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Staging for Success

How to turn your paperbacks and costume jewelry into good scratch.

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1. Whip Up Enthusiasm
A few days before the sale, post an ad on Craigslist. “It’s the gold standard,” says Brenda Becker, a Flatbush blogger who’s perused Brooklyn stoop sales most weeks for twenty years. Saturdays get the most foot traffic because people are doing errands. The morning of, duct-tape fliers on corners (take them down at day’s end), and scrawl chalk directions on the sidewalks of nearby intersections.

2. Keep the Day Manageable
“Sell from 9 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m.,” says Erik Sheets, a creative director who hits ten to fifteen stoop sales every weekend in search of vintage toys. Customers—especially dealers—may show up early, but don’t let them buy. You want a crowd milling when you open. Have at least $50 in ones and fives to start the day.

3. Make It Look Good
Keep midsize items like kitchen appliances and electronics spaced out and orderly. Smaller trinkets should be in a tray or bowl. As items are sold throughout the day, shrink your selling space: “If you leave gaps, people realize that stuff’s been totally picked over,” says Sheets.

4. Don’t Get Greedy
Charge no more than $1 for a book; accept 50 or 25 cents at end of day. CDs should go for a couple of dollars max. A button-down shirt would be a $1 or $2. A dress could be $5. “Just because you paid $150 for that Ralph Lauren jacket ten years ago, doesn’t mean you’ll get $75 now,” says Becker. “I’m like, ‘Try $5 and I’ll take it off your hands.’ ” Used shoes belong in the free pile. “Twenty dollars is the most I’ll pay for anything,” says Becker. “And that would be for a piece of furniture.”

5. Create a Tag Team
Have one person doing the bargaining and collecting the money and one keeping an eye on the crowd. Plus, you’ll need lunch and bathroom breaks. Speaking of lunch, “Don’t eat sloppy food right next to your merchandise,” says Becker.

6. The Point Is to Get Rid of Stuff
If your items aren’t selling, take a loop around the neighborhood to gauge the competition. Maybe your prices are too high, or your display is too messy. Maybe you need to smile more. “A stoop sale is supposed to be communal,” says Becker. “There should be something festive about it.”


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