There are plenty of tables. There are hanging racks for big items or "nice" items in the back. There is a separate area for toys. There are about ten tables for shoes. The clothes are sorted by size and gender. There are boxes and bags for you to carry all of your new treasures. And there are multiple cashiers for speedy check out.
What's the secret?
Organization and Incentives
There appears to be a committee of community members or parents from the local elementary school who run this twice a year - Spring and Fall and it is well advertised in the community.
They put a call out to parents to donate. Parents then are assigned a "family number" as I'll call it and given a bunch of safety pins and price tags, and (I'm assuming since I haven't "sold" yet) a pricing guideline and a few rules.
There are 3 sets of tags - each a different color.
White: Try to sell it but if not, give it back to me so I can try again next year. Keep it at full price.
Blue: Try to sell it, then try to sell it for half price, then give it back to me.
Pink: Sell it or donate it. I don't want it back.
Each tag is safety pinned to the item and garments with multiple pieces are pinned together so parts don't get lost. Shoes and toys with are placed in Ziploc baggies to keep them all together with the tag taped to the outside. Each tag has a top and a bottom with a perforation for when it's sold. The tag includes a short description of the item (old navy shirt, circo pjs), the "family number", and the price, all duplicated below the perforation as well - typically $2 for shoes and clothes, $4 for pjs, and toys/strollers/beds/bouncy chairs can be whatever the tagger thinks is fair. Nicer stuff costs a bit more, but it's all really reasonable.
When a shopper selects the items they want, they head to the checkout tables where each tag is separated at the perforation leaving them with a record of the items cost and the "family number". Why?
That's where the incentives come in. The reason you get a "family number" for the stuff you donate is that you get a percentage of the proceeds from the stuff you sell. And that percentage goes up (I want to say your percentage increases by 30%) if you volunteer for 3 hours during the sale/setup/or take down of the event. This is a great motivator for volunteers and ensures that you have plenty of people to straighten, check people out, organize and keep things running smoothly. And, if you volunteer, (I think this is how it works) you can attend the pre-sale the night before and shop before they open it up to the community.
The sale starts at 9 am on a Saturday morning and goes until 1:30. From 12-12:30 they kind of close to regroup (again, I think that's how it is from memory) and then at 12:30, all of the Blue and Pink tagged items drop to half price. The white ones stay at the original price. And once they close up at the end of the sale, more volunteers come in to re-sort all of the stuff. Family's that want their unsold good back, have boxes with their number on them in the center of the room. Volunteers grab all the white tags and place them in the number boxes and Family's pick them up later that afternoon. The rest gets loaded up and taken somewhere to donate (I'm guessing again.)
Pretty neat huh? I'm one of those people who is always looking for ways to make things run more efficiently or better and this is one of the first times that I can honestly say whoever is organizing this thing really "gets it". That's why I keep going back each season and I either shop for friends from the city or convince them to drive the hour and fifteen minutes out to Sycamore for the sale. My friend Colette threatens to fly back from Seattle for it. It's that good. And this year, I got about 10-14 pants and shirts for my friend Alison's son Will for $27, and $10 got Andrea news boots and snowpants for her daughter Isabella. Ada got a whole new fall wardrobe with the $50 we dropped on her stuff - including snowpants, a snowsuit, pants, dresses and tops. Not to mention the fact that the parents in the community made some money, the school made some money and I saved a boatload.
Moral of the story: A family garage sale run right can really pay off for everyone involved.