How to throw a successful stoop sale
8 tips for making money.
Mon Jul 12 2010
Know what you’re getting into
Whether you’re moving, decluttering or looking to make some cash, stoop sales are a fun and effective way to get rid of old stuff. However, “If you’re going to have a stoop sale, don’t expect a relaxing weekend,” says James Aguiar, Park Slope resident and former host of Full Frontal Fashion. “It’s like going to work.” Aguiar, whose annual stoop sales are bigger and more elaborate than most, recommends planning two weeks to even two months in advance. Marge and Claire Raphaelson, a mother-daughter team who have hosted their fair share of sales also in Park Slope, suggest at least one week of planning and organization. “The organizing part—the cleaning, labeling, etc.—is more work than you’d imagine,” says Marge. “You’re touching things you haven’t touched in five years.”
Where to buy, and where to sell
In some brownstone-friendly Brooklyn neighborhoods, people regularly set aside Saturday and Sunday mornings to go stoop-hopping, or as those in the know call it, “stooping.” “Certain areas of Brooklyn—like Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and especially Park Slope—are the city’s destination for stoop sales,” says Kim Mingo, founder of stoopsales.com. The abundance of single-family homes, neighborly goodwill and nearby flea markets makes these areas fertile ground for the buying and selling of gently used knickknacks.
If your neighborhood isn’t known for flea markets, bargain shopping or even the existence of stoops, you can still get in on the action. “When our friends found out we were having a stoop sale, they were all pretty surprised,” says Joanna Goddard, a blogger and freelance writer who lives in the West Village. “It’s just not done as much in Manhattan.” At first, she wasn’t even sure if stoop sales were legal in Manhattan without a permit (they are). “I had my assistant call 311 and ask, and they couldn’t find anything to say we had to have a permit. We had no problems on that front,” she says. “So we laid out some sheets on the sidewalk, and that was our stoop.”
Pick the right goods to peddle
One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but sometimes, trash is just trash. “Don’t put things out that are broken or badly damaged,” Mingo says. “Those won’t sell, and they’ll put off a lot of customers.” Claire Raphaelson displays clothes that are still in fashion but simply don’t fit anymore. Aguiar and his partner, Mark Haldeman, who both work in fashion and design, set aside items they accumulate throughout the year from fashion shows and gift bags, for the express purpose of flipping them later.
Don’t dismiss the small stuff
Books and, to a lesser extent, DVDs tend to be the bread-and-butter items. “All of us have too many of them, and they’re easy sellers,” says Mingo. With the advent of iTunes, you’d think CDs would be obsolete, but that’s precisely why stoopers seem drawn to them. Books and other media are also easy to resell. Andrew Delamarter, of Park Slope, notes that his comic-book collection consists of issues he bought from other hawkers. “I buy them for a buck each, read them, and sell them again for a buck,” he says. “It’s a barter economy—things pass from one stoop sale to another.”
Take pictures of the big stuff
The jury’s still out on whether it’s a good idea to try to unload larger items like furniture; it depends on how much work you’re willing to put in. Aguiar, lucky enough to own a car, enlists his partner and friends to deliver bigger items directly to customers’ homes. Mingo recommends taking photos of big items and displaying them during the sale; that way, you can (with caution) invite individuals who are serious about buying inside to look and have them come back later to take it without having to lug it back and forth from the sidewalk. “Stoop sales are more convenient than putting an ad up on Craigslist,” says Mingo. “After the ad generates interest, you end up having to e-mail a bunch of times just to set up an appointment. Stoop sales create less overhead, timewise.”
Be strategic about pricing and product placement
Aguiar, who started his career staging windows at Bergdorf Goodman, recommends separating the high-ticket items from the rest. “Don’t bother pricing things like paperbacks or tchotchkes individually,” he says. “Put those on a table and price them all at a dollar.” On the other hand, take some extra time to make your special things sparkle. “I handwrite a ticket with a detailed description for the higher-priced items and set a specific price where I feel comfortable starting negotiations,” Aguiar tells us. That’s not to say that the most expensive goods are all that pricey: At Aguiar’s most recent sale, a Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo sold for $60. Still, stoop sales can bring in some serious spending money: Aguiar rakes in $500 to $2,500 at an average sale.
Spread the word
On sunny days in Park Slope, you will see sidewalk chalk on nearly every corner with arrows pointing toward stoop sales, or flyers posted on utility poles. Online ads are another way to bring in the buyers. Mingo’s website, stoopsales.com, offers online forms geared specially toward creating the perfect ad. “The form reminds you to include important information like clear beginning and end times, cross streets, a rain date if you have one, and nearby trains or other modes of transportation people can use to reach your sale,” Mingo explains. “Craigslist just has a free form, and people end up leaving out important information.” Another route is community message boards like Park Slope Parents; Mingo recommends the Yahoo group Fort Greene Kids.
Meet the neighbors
Pardon the schmaltz, but everyone we spoke to mentioned experiencing warm fuzzies while stooping. “I can’t emphasize how important it is to approach your stoop sale with a desire to spend time with your community,” says Aguiar. Neighbors and friends pitch in, and his friend’s kids sold lemonade for 50 cents a glass. During his most recent sale, he sold a collection of cooking magazines to a next-door neighbor he’d never met, a chef. “I’ve had lunch with people I met at my stoop sale,” says Goddard. “A lot of people have stoop sales when they’re about to move, but I think they should wait to have them after they’ve finished moving,” she adds. “There’s no better way to meet the neighbors.”
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