HOW TO: Set up a White Elephant Stall

white elephant stall – or second-hand goods –stall is a popular fundraiser for all types of groups. However just because the goods you are selling are second-hand, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ensure that they are presented with the same care and attention as if you were selling brand new items.

  • You will have a lot more success if you have the majority of your items on tables and racks and not sitting on the ground. Certain items such as shoes and tools can reasonably go on a sheet or rug on the ground, but people tend to associate second-hand goods on the ground with junk. Treat your goods with respect and don’t dump things in big piles. Human nature means that people are less willing to bend over to look at something, they prefer to have it higher up and more accessible. Try and not overcrowd tables. In other-words, you will require plenty of tables for your stall.

  • Don’t be tempted to use small school desks if you don’t have to. People don’t like bending over. Source trestle tables (hire them if necessary). Ask to borrow tables at the same time you ask for donations, and get people to drop them the day prior.

  • Depending on how much you have, set the tables up in a U or W shape with plenty of room between the tables. You have to be able to fit at least three people comfortably between the tables – two people who are browsing, and the third space for people to move. Keep in mind people with prams when setting up tables, and ensure they have room to access and manoeuvre. People will avoid your stall if they feel pressured or cramped.

  • Make it logical and keep similar items together. Place all the books together in one section, preferable sorted into categories such as baby/picture books, young readers, teenager, adult, cookbooks, non-fiction, autobiography.

  • Books should be displayed spine up, never in piles. Fruit boxes are ideal for displaying books and they are strong enough to carry when full. Even better if you have access to bookshelves.

  • Clothes should be hung on racks where possible, especially adult clothes. Customers like to be able to see all the clothes without having to touch them. It’s often difficult, but consider providing a change room or at least a tall mirror. Kids clothes are ok in plastic tubs. If you have lots of kids and baby clothes, consider packing them up and selling them in bulk – such as ’20 x boys items size 3’ or ’10 x size 4 girls t-shirts and dresses’.

  • Remember that toys appeal to kids but it’s their parents that need to pay for them. Keep prices low and make sure that toys are clean, complete and unbroken.

  • Take a step back and look at your stall. What do people see first? Make sure it is your best or most interesting items. If you are counting on the pester power of kids to sell your goodies, then put the biggest and brightest toys at the front. If you want to encourage men to have a look, then put the tools and sporting goods upfront.

What you will need:

  • Medium and large boxes (for people to place donations in). Fruit boxes work particularly well as they are low and strong, and are great for displaying books. Don’t use massive packing boxes because you will be unable to pick them up if they are full.
  • Clean and dry storage space and space for sorting items
  • Plastic bags (for people’s purchases)
  • Clear plastic tubs (for displaying similar toys or objects)
  • A lockable cash tin or money belt. A float to begin with at least 3 $20 notes, 3 $10 notes, 5 $5 notes and $20 each of $1 and $2 coins
  • Plenty of tables
  • If possible: clothes racks and a long mirror. Clothes can be hung from a rope string between beams/poles
  • A large clean rug or tarp to display stuffed toys and large children’s toys


Author: Shannon Meyerkort

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