We all have items around the barn and farm that are not used any more, have been replaced with newer or different devices or equipment, or don't fit our horses. Some of those items are still valuable to other horse owners, and face it, some are really not worth much. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Here are some tips on how to organize a sale of that excess to either garner a little extra money, or at the very least get rid of the clutter!
Juli Thorson of Troy, Idaho, has run a couple of very successful barn sales, each time inviting a few other barns to participate. Why did she invite others? “I think it depends on your situation,” she explains. “If you have a big barn you may not need additional people, but I’ve found that it is very difficult for one person to do it all," said Thorson. "You have customers who are asking questions, they want to try something on, they want measurements, and you need to have at least one person to do the checkout and keep records of everything. So it has helped me to have others there to help out.”
Besides, with other barns in the mix, shoppers have the appeal of a multi-barn sale where the offerings will be much larger.
Advertising is necessary if you are to have a successful sale; knowing what the horse community reads will help get you noticed. In addition to mailing flyers to feed and tack shops and 4-H groups, make use of newsletters and classified publications that offer horse-related services.
Melissa Le Roy of Foothills Equestrian Nature Center in Tryon, North Carolina, urges people to take advantage of free publicity. “Instead of placing an ad, send your local newspaper a press release," suggested Le Roy. "Also, call the local radio station. If you talk about a program you offer, perhaps a therapeutic riding program, then you can also mention your sale. Talk to your local chamber of commerce. They’re always looking for information to put into their calendar of events. We also collaborate with others. For example, we invited the local humane society to our sale. They brought several dogs for adoption and did a lot of advertising of their own, which brought people to our sale. We also have a local church group provide the food as a fundraiser for their church. They then send out a lot of flyers to get their members to come to the sale.”
Thorson has found that having a pre-sale the night before the actual sale, where invited 4-H leaders and others get a first look, has worked very well. “There is a funny psychology about that,” she noted. “People love to be the first one to get a shot at things. But it depends on how quickly you can get ready. If you’re still setting up the night before, then you don’t want people coming through.”
Many sales fail because the sellers don’t take the time to present their merchandise properly. “Nobody wants to sift through a pile of dirty, manure-stained horse blankets and then stick the blanket in their car and drive home,” says Thorson. “So there is some effort that goes into cleaning things up, making sure if a part is missing that you find it and put it back on. I do things like covering the tables with Navaho type blankets, putting flowers on the tables, color-coordinating the clothes, and having a live horse available to try blankets on so people can see how it looks on a horse. I present clothes starched, pressed, mended and ready to use. I also have a horse trailer with a dressing room and mirror so people have an easy way to try clothes on. For appliances like clippers, I have an outlet available so people can see that it works.”
If you don’t have the time to put on your own sale, consider participating in a sale organized by a horse association, 4-H club or other organization. Some sales rent booth space, with rental fees typically running between $20 and $75 for the day. Other venues group all items by categories and will charge a percentage of the selling price, usually around 10-20%.
What are the advantages to such a sale? Their advertising budget is usually much larger than that for a single person/barn sale so they will reach more potential shoppers. Plus, many are annual events and draw the same loyal buyers each year. Together, that equals a lot more people to look at your merchandise. The commission or booth fees charged are fairly minimal and the same amount may easily be eaten up by miscellaneous expenses at your private sale.
What sells well and what can’t be given away? Various sales report that children’s clothes go very quickly while adult clothes can be a harder sell. Saddles are popular, but, reports Mary Fay of Westford, Vermont, “At our 4-H sale, some years we may not have many saddles and everyone is looking for saddles, while other years, we have tons of saddles and no one wants saddles.”
Tools and items dealing with trailering, such as hay bags or bridle bags, are popular, while harnesses can be a hard sell. Expensive, specialty items, such as stall doors that are still in good condition, are difficult to move. “If I had such an item,” says Thorson, “I’d run an ad with the measurements so a potential buyer could come to the barn at their leisure, not during the confusion of a sale.
“People at these sales are looking for bargains," she added. "You’d be surprised at what I sell, like half-empty bottles of hoof black. I sell them for 10 or 25 cents. There is always a child who only has a dollar to spend and is only going to one show, so that half bottle is a good deal to her. Buckets and other small items sell well, but I price them really low.”
Speaking of price, this is where many sellers falter. Don’t overprice the merchandise! Remove your emotional attachment—buyers don’t care if that bridle belonged to your first pony. Do you want to make money or get rid of the item? Search the Internet to see what things are selling for on used tack sites or eBay.
Kerri Thompson of Potlatch, Idaho, who runs a 4-H sale, explains that, “Sellers need to be realistic about their items and their worth. Buyers at a tack swap are looking for quality that is affordable. To determine a fair price, look at a similar new item and then take 30-50% off.”
You’ve had your sale and for whatever reason, a few items didn’t sell. What should you do with them? “Donate them,” urges Le Roy. “The item probably didn’t sell because it was priced too high. But do you really want to store it until the next sale? You can donate it to a thrift store or horse group, make somebody happy and get a tax write-off all at the same time.”
Start picking through the clutter, cleaning off the dust and deciding on prices. Whether you are running a sale yourself or participating in an organized event, barn sales are a great way to clear your stable of unwanted supplies.