How to Make Yard Sales Profitable

JUNE 2011 CUSTOMER OF THE MONTH

Rozanne Rosas & Mike Meza of Sazem Yard Sale

 

Have you considered starting a yard sale to make money but aren’t sure about the viability of such a business model?
Do people ACTUALLY make a great profit with yard sales or is it too time-consuming and not lucrative enough?

Rozanne Rosas of Palmdale, CA, proves to us that a yard sale can be not only profitable, but constructive to the economy of a local community. Over the last four months, Rozanne and her boyfriend Mike successfully turned a small merchandise resale effort into a veritable profit-generating business– proof that it can be done with the right approach.

In February of 2011, Rozanne and Mike started “Sazem,” a home-based yard sale business that has become a reliable source of income for this retired couple, and a go-to shopping location for their town’s inhabitants. Retired from their full time careers at the end of last year, they were looking for some type of work that would offer a steady income to maintain their lifestyle.
Finding it difficult to land small jobs in the dismal Southern California market, they decided to take matters into their own hands by starting their own business. One morning while watching the KTLA morning news in January, they saw a featured story on Via Trading and the opportunity that the company offers for those looking to resell merchandise for a profit, and they decided to pay us a visit to see what it was all about.

Their original idea was to purchase goods for resale on eBay but after doing some research, Rozanne found that eBay chargedĀ  fees for their service and that they would have to factor this into the price of the products. The deciding factor for them was based on finding a business model that would present the lowest overhead costs. “That turned out to be in my yard!” Rozanne says. And thus Sazem was born.

Once the business concept of a weekend yard sale had been established, they began to look for products to offer their customers. Rozanne explains that this was one of their most difficult decisions, as it wasn’t just about finding the best price on any product. It was about finding items that people need, at the right price. “I tried to think of what would I buy and what would I pay,” she says. “I follow this standard throughout my business – I turn the tables and think like a consumer.” This thinking led Rozanne to try a few pallets of CTC general merchandise that contain a wide variety of products in order to determine what would sell best. “From there I decided that kitchen appliances had a nice appeal to them and after a couple of months I was sure that we had made the correct decision on our product line,” she adds.

Sazem now specializes in selling primarily kitchen appliances – everything from a spoon to a food processor. “Our products range from brand new, like new and used. Cuisinart, Keurig and Magic Chef are a few of the brands we carry,” Rozanne explains. According to her, one of the most important things about running this kind of business is to consistently improve your processes and take risks to promote growth. Recently, they have begun expanding their product lines to include clothing and toys, and they’re planning to expand to tools as well in the near future. “The idea is to have something to offer everyone,” she states. “Last month we bought a pallet of customer return toys just to try it out. I should have filmed some of the kids begging their parents to buy them a toy!” Purchasing the toy pallet was a calculated risk. Dealing with products they had never worked with before put them outside of their comfort zone, but it paid off.

Rozanne and Mike did not go into this business venture blindly. They went to the local college and attended classes on how to start up an eBay business, and then attended a class on California taxes to make sure they had a good understanding the laws at play when starting a resale business. While they prepared themselves as best they could, as with any new venture there was a learning curve early on. “It was like not really knowing how to walk but as we started to build our processes – and believe me we fell down a few times – but it all started to click into place,” says Rozanne. Due to their preparation and attention to detail, they saw great success very early on. “My first day of business I sold over $1,600 worth of products! After my first yard sale I knew I had opened Pandora’s box!” If that’s not a good start, we don’t know what is!

Rozanne attributes much of their success to their strategically placed yard sales. “Location, location, location, boy is that saying true!” she says. They live off of the main street leading to a complex of approximately 3,000 homes in Palmdale. Every inhabitant must drive by their house to get in or out of the complex, making their yard sales very visible to the entire community. While this location is fantastic and guarantees the exposure of their business, it’s not everything. Rozanne stresses that “your business plan is very important to being successful. Plan it out, expect the unexpected and be patient. Never stop trying to improve – improvement means money!”

Thanks to the great location of their yard sales, they do not spend much money or time on advertising. The couple parks their truck on their front yard with “yard sale” flags on each side of the truck, which proves to be an effective way to highlight the exact location of the sale. They do however spend a few dollars on quality business cards. “It looks professional and places a very nice light on your company,” Rozanne says.

At the moment, Sazem focuses primarily on selling customer return products. “We find that the returns are a good risk to buy as some of the items will be brand new in the box!” Rozanne explains. “Just expect that about 75% of the products will be sellable and 25% will not. But don’t get rid of the excess as these are great spare parts for future products purchased!” she says. While not everything will be in sellable condition, certain items can be salvaged for parts that can be used to restore other items to sellable condition in the future. We agree!

Rozanne has a very admirable approach to business and a philosophy of finding items that will offer the “biggest bang for the buck.” To that end, she goes through every item prior to selling it to make sure it works and is clean. This way, she can be confident that the product is the best it can be for the customer. “I have an open it up and try it out policy,” she explains. “Plus by working on each item educates you on its operation and function which makes you look pretty good when you’re showing the customer how it works and it’s obvious you know your stuff!” It is also important to show the customer the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s no secret that they are selling returns and items that may have some kind of defect or blemish. “If the product has a scratch on it, I show the customer before he sees it. I treat my customers the way I want to be treated when I shop,” she says. This kind of honesty and integrity in business is a key to their success.

One key point when starting a resale business is how to determine the price of the products. Aiming to be in this business for the long-term, Rozanne & Mike wanted to price their items such that they would ensure the items sold, but at a price that would encourage customers to come back again and again. With this in mind, Rozanne developed a formula that she applies to all her products. The key is pricing items low enough that they will present great value to the consumer, but not so low as to price themselves out of business.

As of today, four months after their first yard sale, Sazem continues every Saturday and Sunday, and welcomes up to 300 buyers each day of operation. Their customers have grown to expect them to be there every weekend, and have even begun to request specific items. “We keep a running list of customer wants,” says Rozanne. “We use this list when we make our purchases. If we get multiple requests for an item we make sure that the pallet(s) we buy have some on it. It’s good business sense for the company and a good deal for customers.” Customers can tell she takes personal interest in their needs and strives to offer them products they are looking for. As a result, the products fly off the shelf and on an average weekend they bring in well over $1,000 in sales.

This business started out of a need to make a monthly income to support their retirement. Today, it is much more than that – it provides a service to the community. “We are making a difference in our local economy,” says Rozanne. “It feels good when you see a customer’s face and the smile that erupts when they purchase an item and they know they got a great deal!”

Rozanne has become a believer in this business model and has lots of advice to offer those looking to get started with their own yard sales. “It’s a very gratifying experience to know you are delivering a service to the community. From a financial standpoint it does make money but you have to realize that you have to put everything back into the business for a few months before you start to take a profit out. You need to build inventory and that is the best way to tackle it. Keep perfect records – you need to watch the numbers like a hawk to ensure you are making money,” she advises.

Her best words of advice? “Plan out your business. Take classes, visit your supplier and see what products they carry. Have patience and always look to improve your process which will bring you dollar signs. Good luck!”

Check out their yard sale every Saturday and Sunday off of Avenue S in Palmdale, West Side.
You may also call Rozanne at 818.802.3973 for more details about the location and times of the Sazem yard sale.

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