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Car boot sales & antique fairs

Sanity tips!

Car boot sales are a great way to offload unwanted stuff and clear out your attic/spare room.  But, be warned, it is hardwork and preparation is key to successful car-booting.

When I helped Jane Byrne (SmartSpenders, BBC1, March 16th) to car-boot her piles of cuddly toys and shoes/clothes, she raised over 150, but she had lots of quality gear to sell and was well prepared.  Here are some of my top tips to successful selling..

Advance preparation

Start visiting car-boot sales at least a couple of weeks before you intend to give it a go yourself.    Watch how the sellers operate.    Think what  you might require to best  display your stuff - a trestle table, a clothes rail, a lockable cabinet for jewellery, etc.  If you haven't got the required items, see if you can borrow or hire them from your local church, school, scouts etc.  Buying a new trestle table will detract from your objective of making money, unless you really need a new wallpapering table of course.

A large groundsheet - plastic  sheeting -  laid on the grass is just as good as a table, better if you have lots of stuff, especially large items to sell.  You may also want to take a garden gazebo to protect against inclement weather.  Old clothes-horses are great for displaying curtains, tablecloths and bedlinens.  Start saving all your carrier bags now as you will need loads on the day.

Ask a couple of the sellers if they have covered their pitch fees - usually around 12.  Some boot fairs are busier than others so do your leg-work first to find out which ones are the most popular.  Check local press and search the internet for sale dates.

See which pitches/rows are the busiest, ask these sellers what time they arrived to secure  such positions.  The burger/tea vans are always busy so getting a pitch near them can be advantageous.    But not too close, you don't want their queues to block views of your stall.

Compare prices of anything similar you are hoping to sell.

Week preceeding the boot fair

You will probably be surprised just how much stuff is in your attic.  It may need dusting, wiping, mending. People will haggle to get money off for the slightest mark - which you could probably have sponged off at home.  Use this opportunity to sort your stuff out.  If you are selling old stuff, or granny's belongings, distinguish between car-boot-able items and nicer quality things that may do better in an antique or collector's fair.  (25 for a table and a much calmer atmosphere!)

Load your car the night before so you are ready for an early start.  Park it somewhere safe!

JANE'S GOLDEN TIP: If you don't have much stuff, club together with friends to halve your overheads.  You need a fair amount of stuff to sell to make a car boot worthwhile.

Make-up price tags and research prices on the internet - especially old records, books, china.  We had dealers searching for jewellery, Blue Peter/Rupert annuals, old bibles and Smurf toys!

Don't forget to prepare a float, in a tin with a lid.  You'll need lots of pound coins, silver shrapnel and a few fivers.  Make a note - to be kept in the tin - of how much cash you start off with so you can deduct it at the end of the day.

On the day

Aim to arrive very early - 7am if possible - to give yourself plenty of time to get everything set out before the gates open.    There is a huge rush at the beginning with 1000s of people swarming around.  If you arrive once the fair is open they will not hesitate to " help" you by literally pulling things out of your car and tearing open your carefully packed bags.  It can all be quite initimidating. 

Stick on your price tags and make sure, if you are working with a partner, that you have discussed ball-park prices so you work as a team.    You can always remove the tickets if things are not shifting, but  at least they will give an indication of  what you are expecting and the haggling starts at a realistic price.

Do not  be cowed by very aggressive buyers.  Some of these people - possibly dealers, and desperately poor refugees  - are expert hagglers and they will be putting your things into their bags while offering you silly money.  They obviously really want it and you have the upper hand so stand your ground and hold out for the price you want.  They can take it or leave it - for someone else at a more realistic price.

Selling cheap will get rid of stuff, but test the water and hang on if you want more.  New people arrive all the time and the whole event gets much less aggressive as the morning wears on.  Around 10am the casual shoppers arrive for a wander while the dealers depart with their rich pickings.

Be aware of counterfeit 20 notes.  They are difficult to detect - there are some going around at the moment where the only giveaway is that the Queen's hair is slightly straighter than usual.  If in doubt don't accept 20s.

As well as fleecing you, customers expect you to wrap glasses/china and to have an endless supply of carrier bags.  Wrap fragile goods well for transportation and keep the wrappings to reuse as they are  sold.

Keep your 'shopfront' looking nice.  As you sell things move others around to fill the gaps.  People tend to walk round a few times and may spot something they missed first time.  Put the naffest and worst-taste things at the front and charge most for them.  I got the highest prices for a disgustingly ugly wooden gonk and a broken china well.  I'm not joking - it's amazing what people will buy.

If you are operating by yourself take a flask/sandwich as you will be tied to your pitch for several hours, unless the neighbouring people are willing to watch your stuff while you queue for 20 mins to get a  tepid tea in a polystyrene cup.  And don't even think of going to the loo!  Wear layers of clothing -  early on  it can be very cold while the afternoon turns into a scorcher. 

Some people gather armloads of stuff and offer, say, a fiver for the lot.  Don't let them go without checking how much stuff they have actually bundled up or what's been secreted in the middle.  In the hurly-burly its easy to be rushed and to agree sales/prices that in hindsight were a steal.

Be eagle-eyed.  Sadly, there are plenty of brazen people quite happy to nick your stuff while you talk to someone else.  Don't spread your stall out too far.  A beautiful patchwork quilt draped over our car, parked  right next to us, was whipped and we had two adults and two kids milling about.

You will be absolutely shattered by the time you've packed up the dregs at the end of the sale.   And hopefully you'll have  a pocket full of cash but never let anyone - especially TV presenters -  tell you that car-booting is an easy way to earn a crust!  Once every five years should do it!

See Jane's top tips on VideoJug: Cheap Cooking Ideas, Saving Money On Your Shopping, Budgeting Tips, Identifying Shop Tricks, Reducing The Cost Of Air Travel, Saving Money On Mobile Phones, Saving Electricity, Offers And Bargains Explained, Cheap Cleaning Alternatives, Reducing Your Car Costs



Copyright Jane Furnival 2007, 2008