How to organize a mom-to-mom sale

By: Adrienne Brown

© GAJIC Author: Canadian Living Credits: © GAJIC


How to organize a mom-to-mom sale

By: Adrienne Brown
If you're feeling consumed by clothing and toys that no longer fit or interest your children, you may be considering setting up shop in your driveway to try selling them to other local families. But garage sales are a lot of work for a single family -- and there are usually only a few viable weekends each year when the weather is co-operative. That's why mom-to-mom sales make so much sense.

What is a mom-to-mom sale?
They're basically big rummage sales run by parents for parents. You can rent a table to sell your children's used clothing and toys, and the organizer promotes the sale on your behalf. You'll likely get far more traffic than you would at a garage sale, plus mom-to-mom sales are usually held indoors, so weather isn't a factor.

Best of all, you may just get a bargain yourself on new clothes for your kids or an item you've had your eyes on for a while.

"Mom-to-mom sales are great because they help moms find things at affordable prices," says Belinda Tait, who has organized Brampton, Ontario's Mom 2 Mom Sale for the past six years. "They're designed specifically for parents who are cleaning out their basements."

Mom-to-mom sales are cropping up all across Canada. If your community doesn't have one yet, read on to find out how you can get one started. Lots of local parents will appreciate it!

For profit or for charity?
First, it's important to decide whether you want your sale to work as a business for you -- after all, it does take hours and hours to organize a large sale -- or whether you'll consider the project as volunteer work and donate the proceeds to charity.

Many mom-to-mom sales charge a fee to rent a table. This fee can range anywhere from $30 to $70, depending on how far in advance vendors reserve their spot, how large of a table they need and whether the tables and chairs are provided. The sale organizer then uses that money to pay for the venue and for advertising costs, and whatever is left over goes to a child-related charity.

Mom-to-mom sale for business
Other sale organizers run their mom-to-mom sales like a business. If you'd like to make a profit for yourself as a mom-to-mom sale organizer, you'll have to register as a business and charge harmonized sales tax on top of the fee you charge for the tables you rent out to sellers as well as the shopper entry fee, which is usually quite minimal -- about $2 to $5. You then remit those taxes to the government, just as you would with any other business.

Mom-to-mom sale for charity
If you're going the charity route, you might also consider splitting profits by providing tables to sellers for free but then asking that they split their profits 50-50 with your charity. Otherwise, sellers generally keep all of the profits from their own sales, just as they would at a garage sale.

Many charities are also happy to receive any gently used goods that don't get sold by the end of the event that they can then sell themselves or donate to those in need. For instance, Jennifer Leroux, the organizer of the Calgary Mom Sale, has invited the Canadian Diabetes Association Clothesline program to bring a truck at the end of the sale day to collect any unsold items.

"By making it charity-driven you get some extra perks," says Tait. It's easier to attract media attention, you may get a discount on your venue and you can make use of the charity's already-established network for extra promotion, she says.

Page 1 of 3 -- Discover how to get started with your first mom-to-mom sale on page 2.

Getting started with your mom-to-mom sale
"These [mom-to-mom] sales are popular. Be aware of who is having one around yours and make sure they are a few weeks apart or at least in very different areas of your community," says Leroux.

Do an online search for your town or community name plus "mom-to-mom sale" and see if anything comes up. It's also a good idea to ask other parents if they have heard anything about any local sales and to check community boards for flyers.

If you can't find anything already in the works, then you're good to go.

If you're planning your first sale, it's best to start small and to work your way through the process and figure out all the logistics before taking on a huge sale.

Tait suggests starting with just a handful of vendors at a church. From there, as your sale grows, you can start to source larger venues. The Brampton Mom-to-Mom Sale, for example, now features 200 vendors.

Next, enlist some help, decide on a schedule and strategy, and start recruiting vendors, then shoppers.

Your vendor contract
When it comes to creating a contract for your vendors, the best thing you can do is learn from experienced sale organizers. They know what problems often crop up and how to prevent them from the start.

"Be kind and patient to the moms that are renting the tables," says Leroux. "A lot of moms have never been to a sale before as a seller." She and Tait both provide a list of selling tips (and rules) for vendors to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

Here is a list of some rules you may want to include in your vendor contract:
•  Absolutely no recalled items may be sold.
•  There should be no selling of car seats.
  Only used items may be sold. Mom-to-mom sales are not meant to promote side projects, such as Avon sales or custom knit scarves. "If you don't control it," says Tait, "every table will have something else for sale."
•  There should be no live items for sale -- so, leave your hamsters at home.
•  Stipulate a specific timeframe for setting up before the sale begins. Latecomers should not be able to set up mid-sale, even if they have prepaid for their table. If you don't want to give refunds for no-shows, include this right in the contract.
•  Sellers should be available for the entire sale. No packing up early.
•  All sale items must fit in the seller's designated space and may not block aisles. Some sales have a specific area to deal with large items and have a separate set of rules governing these items.
•  Sellers must provide their own change and bags.
•  State whether child care will be available at the sale. If not, set some rules for vendors who bring their children with them.
•  State the maximum number of sellers per table.
  Ask sellers to clean up all of their garbage and either dispose of it in a designated area or take it home with them.
  If you do not have facilities for sellers to donate their unsold items after the sale, stipulate that they must take all unsold items home with them and cannot leave them behind.

Tait had her vendor contract drawn up by a paralegal to make sure she covered all of her bases. She suggests that organizers of other large mom-to-mom sales do the same. She also provides a list of selling tips for her vendors to help them have as much success as possible.

Page 2 of 3 -- Learn how to promote your mom-to-mom sale on page 3.
Promoting your mom-to-mom sale
When it comes to advertising, Leroux says it's essential to get the word out online. For just a small investment, you can own a domain name for your sale's website. Leroux bought for just $10.

Having a website for your mom-to-mom sale adds an air of professionalism and provides a home base for all the important information about your sale.

You should also sign up for a sale-specific email address instead of using your own, just as you would for other business matters. Some more established mom-to-mom sales also set up online payment to make the registration process more efficient.

Finally, "setting up a Facebook group, page or event is easy, too, and it lets people share your sale amongst their networks with just a click," suggests Leroux.

Take advantage of any free tools you can! Leroux uses everything from Twitter to community activity boards to promote her sales. She posts flyers in coffee shops, contacts parenting groups and websites, and hangs posters in her son's school.

Be prepared
As your mom-to-mom sale grows, be prepared to put lots of time and effort into the planning. Your sale will take more work than a garage sale, but will have much farther reach, as well.

Tait estimates that she spends about 200 hours planning each sale: "Whenever I'm not doing something else, I'm working on the sale," she says. But the responses she gets from the parents make it all worthwhile. They thank her for giving them opportunities to declutter and make some extra money, to find good deals and make new friends, and to even reconnect with each other over the shared project.

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How to organize a mom-to-mom sale