A White Elephant – or second-hand – stall consists of selling pre-loved toys, books and household items, and is based on the idea that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
The White Elephant Stall can be considered both a blessing and a curse. Just like its namesake, they can often be more trouble than they are worth, but they are endlessly popular (especially with kids), can be a great place to pick up a bargain, and more often than not, are great fundraisers.
The difficulty when organising a second-hand stall, is that you end up with a lot of trash and not much treasure, and if it is not sold, then you have the additional problem of disposing of the leftover items.
90% of the effort will take place before the actual sale. The more work you do prior to your stall, the easier and more successful it will be on the day. Keep this in mind when looking for volunteers to help, as you will need just as many people in the weeks prior to help with sorting and storage and pricing, as you will on the day to do the actual selling.
Only ask for donations that will suit your target market. If you are running a white elephant stall at a school fete, then ask for donations or kids toys and books. If you will be running the stall as part of a larger event such as a fete on election day, then you should focus your efforts on sourcing adult books and household items. It is okay to target your requests and say ‘please donate toys and books for primary school aged kids. No baby items please.’
Price items to sell. One of the biggest mistakes you can make with second-hand stalls is overpricing the items. Unlike many of the other fundraiser events on this blog, your goal with second-hand stalls is not to raise the maximum amount of money, but to get rid of everything. Unless you are arranging a repeating event, chances are your White Elephant Stall is a one-off, and anything not sold at the end of the day must be disposed of. Whether that means transporting all the excess items to local charity bins (or the tip) there is a lot of extra work involved. (And please don’t dump trash on your local charity, as they then need to pay to dispose of it).
Sort items as they are donated. Put the call out for donations at least four to six weeks prior to your sale. Start sorting them as soon as they arrive and create categories such as baby toys, children’s books, adult books, DVDs and CDs, household items, garage/shed items, kitchen utensils etc. Label boxes with your categories so volunteers can place the items in the correct box as they arrive. Depending on how you are pricing items, price them as you sort to save double-handling. Toss anything that is soiled, broken or inappropriate.
Keep an eye out for new things. People will often donate brand new things, and it might be worth keeping them all separate and turning them into a raffle hamper or silent auction depending on what you receive. Even if you don’t go ahead with a raffle, it’s still advisable to advertise products as new (keep the labels and price tags on) as people are often willing to pay extra for something they know hasn’t been used.
Make your pricing clear. It might be a personal thing but I can’t stand going to garage sales and White Elephant stalls where there are no marked prices. I like to know what I am up for. Small dot stickers are inexpensive and are easy to use. You can use the coloured dots to represent different prices (ie yellow $1, red $2, blue $5) or just write the price on each sticker. Be prepared to haggle and bargain with shoppers, and if you aren’t good with the quick mental maths, make sure you have a calculator handy.
Consider discount strategies towards the end of your stall to help sell off the remaining goods, such as ‘fill a bag of books for $5’ or ‘all toys 50c. Remember, when everything has been donated it is pure profit, and anything that doesn’t sell just becomes something to dispose of.
Be generous. Apart from not overpricing goods, consider having a box of free items that customers can select from if they buy something. This is a good options for all those small random toys that are impossible to price, it is also a good way of getting rid of magazines.
RELATED ARTICLES: HOW-TO guide for setting up your white elephant stall.