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Fabric Sale for the Win-Win-Win:
Lessons Learned for a Successful Event
By Carol Phillips, ASDP Colorado Chapter Treasurer. May 15, 2022
Our sister society, the Denver Chapter of American Sewing Guild (ASG), held a very successful fabric sale in April 2022, their first sale in 2 ½ years. A lot of work was involved but the results were worthwhile! As a volunteer I gained some insights to share.
Firstly, having a sale of donated items is a good thing. It allows donors to curate their collections and feel good that their fabric/notions/books/patterns have a second chance. This is especially true about donations from retiring or deceased sewers.
Secondly, it gives newer sewers an economical path for nice-to-have notions and books and a variety of fabrics. Sometimes one is lucky and finds usable pieces of extremely upscale fabric. (Chocolate brown wool satin, I’m looking at you!)
Thirdly, it generates much needed funds to the non-profit group that sponsors the event. For example, the ASG chapter expects to underwrite classes by out-of-town experts and to support other community-building events with their proceeds.
How-To Suggestions, divided by topic so that planning can be split among several people:
Start with location: Church basement? Community center? Spare room of a store? Garage sale? Be sure to be clear that sales are involved! (That requirement eliminates some facilities like libraries.) Think about handicap access, parking, available equipment like tables and chairs, etc. Will the location work well in case of hot or wet weather?
Accepting donations: Can volunteers store some boxes in their homes in clean and dry condition for a limited time? (But it is easy to abuse people’s good will and easy to forget who has what.) Is it economical to rent a storage locker? Once your organization develops a reputation for accepting these donations, you may be amazed at the volume of “good stuff” out there and be able to schedule more than one sale per year.
Curating donations: Pre-sorting and evaluating donations is an overlooked but important part of a really successful sale. The ideal is for a few volunteers go through donations as they come in, or just prior to the sale. Measuring and tagging fabric regarding width, length and probable fiber content will help greatly on the sale day. Weeding out stained or ineligible fabric and books (no cookbooks here, thank you!) also reduces the volume of “stuff” needing to be handled during setup. If necessary, rebox items to make boxes no more than 30 pounds and of reasonable dimensions. (Donations from estates frequently minimize their handling burdens by using huge, heavy boxes. Black plastic garbage sacks are a poor choice – prone to tearing and hard to handle when full of heavy fabric.)
Advertising: Start with your own organization and similar groups, requesting email blasts, word of mouth, newsletters (deadline dates?), etc. Ask to post simple one-page flyers in fabric/yarn/quilting/etc. stores. Online resources such as Facebook or Eventbrite are excellent new avenues to advertise to a much wider audience. (On Eventbrite, your event can be listed as free or can charge a ticket fee, which is one way to cover expenses like room or truck rental.) Ads should prominently give the date and location of the sale. Ads should mention starting and ending time, and say “no early sales” if necessary. Ads should mention payment methods: cash, checks?, credit cards? (via Square, Venmo etc.)
Setup Logistics: Will you have access for setup prior to the sale, or must the entire event happen on one day? At the sale room, you need tables for display, a station for accepting payments, a few chairs, ready access to bring in the inventory, space to temporarily stash empty boxes, and (most importantly!) people to lift and carry the boxes. Encourage strong husbands, kids, and grandkids. Discourage anyone with physical limitations, such as “I can’t lift more than 10 pounds right now”. For large inventories consider hiring labor such as “two-men-and-a-truck” local movers. Develop plans for picking up inventory from storage units or from volunteers’ houses. Will labor be needed to be return unsold inventory to storage, or are there other alternatives? If unsold inventory must be sent to landfill, where will that happen?
During the Sale: Make sure that the room is easy for handicapped people to get around. Place fabric on tables where it can be seen. (One 6-foot table probably can display fabric from two boxes.) Set books/magazines, notions, and patterns each in a separate area because people tend to browse slowly over those items. Have an empty table adjacent to the cashier so people can lay down their items and make it clear what needs to be rung up. Volunteers can circulate to answer questions, help carry selections and refold fabric. If available, folding picnic wagons are wonderful helps and lead to higher sales because people select more than they can carry in their arms.
Cleanup from Sale: Designated person takes care of money and receipts, prepares for bank deposit and preliminary financial report. Plans for room cleanup and lockup? Plans for leftover inventory? Is labor and transportation needed for reboxing and return to storage? For transport to some other non-profit? For transport to landfill?
I hope these comments will spark additional sales in many places. If you have sewing friends, maybe they can be involved even if not members of our ASDP community.
Please join the conversation with additional suggestions, insights and experiences of such events, by posting on the ASDP Colorado Chapter Facebook page or by contacting Carol Phillips at email@example.com