Yesterday saw me again doing a volunteering stint at our local NCT nearly new sale. Even though it means a knackering day of hard work, and missing N while he gets looked after (this time by Grandma), I enjoy doing it plus you get the benefits of an additional 5% revenue back on any items you sell and more importantly first dibs on items for sale as volunteers have 45 minutes before the sale opens to shop for themselves.
I hadn’t managed to get more than about half of my allocated 100 items slot ready in time (it takes a long time to sort baby clothes and put them all into the right order), but I had a few large items that I really wanted to get rid of. It’s also a benefit in a way selling and volunteering as you can make sure your items get on the top of piles/at the front of rails, and also if you ask nicely to the volunteers manning particular places (like cots/large equipment etc), they may help try and sell your items. The jumperoo sold really early on, although it was disappointing that my spare travel cot and moses basket and stand were unsold by the end.
Volunteering at our sale involves an 8am start, setting out the hall, taking in the sellers items and putting them out on relevant tables & rails, doing your allocated job (mine was tidying, floating, taking items to the holding area, answering questions etc), reboxing unsold items at the end and clearing the hall again. As this sale was at a new venue (eerily, my old secondary school – the first time I’d been back in 19 years!), it was new for everyone, so there was a bit of trial and error with where certain items would go, but it’s brilliant for team work as there’s such a short time scale for all the jobs to get done in, people who’ve never met before just help each other to get it completed.
I usually bump into a couple of people I only ever see at nearly new sales and get on well with, so it’s nice to catch up with them too during lunch break.
There’s always two mad stages…the first when the sellers arrive to bring their items. They’re checked in, but then boxes and boxes and equipment arrive. You just see all the boxes left in the entrance and just wonder how it’s all going to get set up in time. Then once you see everything set up, you just feel overwhelmed by all the toys, puzzles and books piled up.
Some people are great and follow all the seller instructions which makes it a lot quicker for the volunteers to actually put items out (eg clothes are all meant to be hung up, labels have the correct information and should be grouped into their age groups etc), but other people stick the wrong side of the labels on, try and sell really grotty things (yesterday’s classic was a play kitchen which would usually be snapped up immediately, but it was broken and dirty and needless to say was still left at the end). Pricing’s a really hard one as well. People at these sales really want a bargain while others will pay a bit more, but when you’ve got 4 of the same items and yours is priced the highest, there’s bound to be one left and the priciest will be it.
Once the volunteers have scavenged and bought the items they’ve had their eyes on, amazingly, the books and toys thin out a bit (clothing as well, although there’s always so much newborn to 12 months old, there’s always more than enough to go round there…most of the volunteers are after older kids clothes which with boys in particular have less to choose from – I’m assuming it’s because boys clothes get wrecked so quickly from their playing so they’re not good enough quality to put into nearly new sales!). Then it’s time to let in the NCT members.
The queue didn’t look long at first to us, but then we realised it was round 2 sides of the hall. Members get let in 30 minutes early, and as after that there’s only 1 1/2 hours for the whole sale so there’s a lot of shoppers who want to come in and shop during a really short condensed time. I’ve been to a few sales now as volunteer or shopper and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as busy. It’s a bigger hall now at a village school rather than in town which means more parking and more shopping/space…seems that the advertising and new venue brought in new shoppers which was good. It didn’t seem too crushed in the hall itself in spite of there being lots of people with pushchairs and huge bags of shopping, but the queue for the tills get end up round 2 sides of the hall and out of the fire doors. The system for packing and paying is efficient though so it does go down quickly.
I still think my favourite job is snipping or packing as you can see what items sell (great buzz when it’s yours!), although being on the floor amazed me at how quickly the floor cleared and overflow items this time all made it (from toys) up onto the table tops. By the end when we were putting unsold items back into sellers boxes, it was great to see so few items left. I brought 3 boxes in, but left with only one (although surprised at some items left). I did tick quite a few boxes for unsold items to go to charity, and there was a seriously big pile of such items left this time. Some will go to charity shops, others get kept for NCT to sell on at other sales or elsewhere so it’s all in a good cause.
I love the buzz of the sale whether buying or volunteering to help out, although now I’m finding there’s a lot less there that I want to buy for N. Clotheswise, I got a few items (one pair was a pair of brown trousers from the boys rails, but when I looked at the label it said girls – you’d never know, so poor N will still be wearing those once he grows into them!) but there wasn’t really much nice stuff available for next size up for him.
I got some lovely books, and I do think books is where anyone can do well at these type of sales. Children get bought lots of books, and if they like them all you’re lucky. I think pretty much every book I bought this time was immaculate, and there were actually lots more I could have chosen that he’d have enjoyed.
I had a list of a few items I was after – wooden railway extension bits (no railway bits to be found at all!), Happyland (you can never have too many, so managed to get a fairground carousel, some people and a concrete mixer), waterproofs (not many about, definitely not his size). Apart from the Happyland bits, I found an immaculate green (just like Dad’s) tractor and trailer which is really for older children, but he loves playing with the more real tractors that are his older cousins, so this one is perfect. I also found something which was new which is perfect for part of his youngest cousin’s birthday present, so although it was a small haul, it was definitely worth it.
I think in future I’ll not need to actually go as a buyer, but if I’ve got a lot of items to sell it’s definitely worth volunteering. It’s a hard day’s work, which if you work in an office can be a shock to the system, but it’s great fun, and you can meet lots of other mums in the area to chat to.