Life

Garage sales, recycling
old for new

BARGAIN DEALS: (Courtesy of the Famous Garage Sale)
BARGAIN DEALS: Courtesy of the Famous Garage Sale

"Come and visit our garage sale. Get branded items at prices starting from Rp 5,000. Hurry before everything's sold out."

That is a common come-on found on garage sale flyers distributed around campuses and housing complexes, as well as on ads on Facebook or Friendster.

The flyers usually mention several famous brand names, in an attempt to attract more people to their sales.

While a garage sale used to be just about unloading items ahead of a move or when the closest had become too cluttered, they have now become a way to sell clothes, jewelry, bags and other fashion articles still in prime condition but no longer needed or wanted by the owners.

Norma and Gabriela, a couple of college students in Jakarta, frequently organize garage sales in the city.

Along with their friends, Fanny and Cempaka, they sell clothes they no longer want.

The business started in 2005, when Norma and her friends found their wardrobes just too large to store. They agreed to hold a sale at a friend's home on Jl. Pakubuwono, South Jakarta.

Norma said they were inspired after seeing a similar sale on campus.

She said that although the first event produced only so-so sales, the experience prompted the group to try another sale the following year.

"It was better prepared the second time and we had a lot more stuff to offer," Norma said.

Going by the name of The Famous Garage Sale, the group now organizes regular garage sales, again in a friend's home in the Kemang area. They have now sold up to five thousand pieces in total, earning about Rp 75 million (US$8,152).

Their reputation as a successful garage sale group has led to growing quantities of articles being provided by other people to be sold on commission.

HUNTING GOODS: Courtesy of the Famous Garage Sale

HUNTING GOODS: Courtesy of the Famous Garage Sale

According to Gabriela, they have to select items carefully to ensure there are no large piles of unsold stuff.

"A week before a garage sale, the house becomes a virtual garment storeroom," Fanny said.

The group keeps 20 percent of the revenue from the third-party items they sell.

Most of the articles from third parties comprise outerwear, especially shirts and blouses. Sometimes they even get brand new pieces.

"The price tags are still on them. The original buyers may have forgotten what they bought," Gabriela said.

Genuine branded bags in perfect shape are expensive, costing up to Rp 1.5 million. A close watch is kept on such products as the group is responsible for any losses incurred by items walking out of the house.

On sale days, the place is crowded with visitors -- mostly women, along with some men who are accompanying their spouses or friends.

"Male visitors to the sales then came up with the idea that we should stock more items of interest to clients like them. It seems like a good idea for our upcoming garage sales," Fanny remarked.

The sales usually last two days, Saturday and Sunday. However, sales are organized around the school calendar and held during holidays, because the sales assistants are students from universities in Jakarta.

They usually wait six months between sales, to accumulate stocks and launch a promotional campaign, and to prevent customers from becoming bored with the sales.

"The most important thing is to wait for the college vacations," Cempaka said.

Promotion is done by handing out flyers, through Facebook and most effectively by word of mouth. The results so far have been beyond expectations, with the sales always teeming with visitors.

Most of the people come to the sales to seek branded goods still in good condition and, of course, at low prices.

Vintage fashion buffs also come looking for old clothes and accessories, the sort of items that may have once belonged to someone's mother.

Gabriela acknowledged having sold some of her mother's items. "It's not so bad. We can spend the profits on new clothes," she said

Background

Garage sales were originally held in garages, naturally, usually by people who were moving and wanted to get rid of large items like furniture.

Every nation has its own garage sale practices. In Japan, they are called sayonara sales, normally arranged by students who have finished college or people who are moving. The most common items at such sales are furniture and kitchen equipment.

These sales are common due to high charges imposed in Japan for the disposal of domestic items.

In Indonesia, garage sales were introduced by expatriates assigned to the country. They sold used articles or bulky goods, like books, lamps and furniture, things they could not take back home.

Parents of international school students also will get together used goods for sale at their children's schools.

Some Indonesians have taken up the habit of garage sales, but they more commonly sell clothes, accessories and other such items, rather than furniture and other large items.

Most garage sales here aren't actually held in garages, but are organized in homes or office parking areas.

Norma said her group's sales attracted many expatriates due to the location in Kemang, where many foreign nationals reside.

Drawn by garage sale banners in front of the house, most of the foreign nationals drop by looking for used furniture, expecting the sale to be like the garage sales they are used to from back home. -- JP/Juliana Harsianti

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