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Car boot sales

Updated on April 16, 2013

Car boot sales......

Car boot sales are a  form of unofficial market in which mainly private individuals (and a lot of regular dealers and one-man-business people) come together to sell goods. The term refers to the selling of items from a car boot (UK), or  trunk (U.S.). Although a small proportion of sellers are professional traders selling new goods or seconds, the goods on sale are often used but no longer required. Car boot sales are a way of focusing a large group of people in one place to recycle still useful but unwanted domestic items that previously would have been thrown away.

In the U.S. a car boot sale would be considered somewhere between a garage or yard sale  and a flea market market or swap meet, with the latter two typically requiring some form of municipal business licensing. Of the general public types, while garage sales are not unknown in the UK, car boot sales are much more popular.

Where are they held?

Car boot sales are often held in the grounds of schools and other community buildings, or in grassy fields or car parks. Usually they take place on weekend mornings. Sellers will typically pay a nominal fee for their pitch, and arrive with their goods in the boot (trunk) of their car, hence the name. Usually the items are then unpacked onto folding trestle tables, a blanket or tarpaulin, or simply the ground. Entry to the general public is usually free, although sometimes a small admission charge is made. Advertised opening times are often not strictly adhered to, and in many cases the nature of the venue itself makes it impossible to prevent keen bargain hunters from wandering in as soon as the first stallholders arrive.

Serious Business

For most dealers, less than £100 takings from a boot sale would spell disappointment, unless of course, the weather or some coinciding event, such as Wimbledon, contributed to a low customer

turnout. When you consider the small outlay for stock and the low business overheads, even a 'disappointing' £90 represents a tidy profit for a day's work.

The fluctuating rewards might not suit those supporting a family, but it can provide a very useful second or spare-time income. Amongst other advantages the car boot sale offers is the chance to be your own boss, working when and for as long as you choose, where you wish, selling whatever takes your fancy, and with no boss or work mates to create pressure or stress.

Sounds ideal, doesn't it, for anyone seeking an exit from the 'Rat Race'? But don't be deceived. It does require some effort on the trader's part. Competition exists: for customers, goods, even

venues and trading pitches. Consequently a professionalism has developed, many regular traders trying all manner of ways in which to increase

their share of the profits, getting to the venue sometimes hours in advance of others to select a prime position, customising their vehicles and even buying new ones to suit, paying great detail to selection and layout of goods, and hounding new traders for the pick of their better goods.

Where do I start?

First and foremost, you must, if you haven't done so already, visit as many of those venues you wish to join forces with. Arrive early if you can, watch the traders drive in and set up. Look aroundat what's for sale and more importantly at what is actually selling. Where do the crowds tend to flock? Around those tatty old clothes, or that pile of toys offered appropriately, just before Christmas?

Your local newspapers, free papers, and shop windows will keep you informed of what venues are available. Some are regular weekly events, others once-off. If 'tied' to such as a rally or Carnival, the latter can be extremely lucrative propositions, but otherwise, BEWARE! The regular weekly events tend to have an established and usually growing clientele on both the buying and selling sides. These events in my area, the North East of England, are found on racecourses, car parks and in huge warehouses. They are long-established events and some, I know, are extremely viable business propositions. They must be, for I know several bric-a-brac and antique dealers who have forsaken their normal attendance's at fleamarkets, even quality fairs, in favour of spending every Saturday on our local racecourse, selling anything from bulky packets of elastic bands, to toys, stamps, books, cutlery, some even specialising in 'lower end of the market' antiques.

Once you become established in one or two venues you will find out through experience, or the advice of fellow traders, just where the best events are. Fellow traders, incidentally, with the exception

of a small minority, are not normally averse to pass on many of their secrets and to help the newcomer make the best of his chances.

They might though expect something in return, for instance trade discounts (normally 10%), or first pick of your goods, but these are normal practices between traders, and a small price to pay for the

information they impart to you.

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