Clive has fun...at a car boot sale
PUBLISHED: 09:57 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013
Clive Agran becomes a retailer for the day at a car boot sale in Hastings
If Napoleon were alive today, insofar as even a comparatively sprightly 241 year old is capable of reacting much to anything, he would be shocked at how this once proud nation of shopkeepers no longer has that many shops to keep. Since those far-off days when the little French despot was striding about Europe with his right arm tucked into his waistcoat and sporting a bicorn hat (available at all decent milliners, if you can find one), market forces have squeezed out most conventional shops so that high streets today can boast several estate agents and a choice of accountants but rarely a butcher or baker, let alone a candlestick maker.
Although no longer a nation of shopkeepers, we still possess the retail gene. Stacking shelves, ringing tills and offering three for the price of two is embedded deep into the national psyche. But with traditional shops fast becoming a protected species, this instinctive behaviour must necessarily seek expression elsewhere.
All of which explains the spectacular success of eBay, which effectively provides frustrated wannabe retailers with an opportunity to flog stuff. It also taps into the urgent modern requirement not to throw stuff away but pass it on instead; in other words, recycle. However, because it lacks direct contact with other human beings and obliges vendors to mail items at hard-to-find post offices, eBay is not the perfect solution.
So what does a responsible person do with unwanted presents, those items that a smart marketing guru persuaded you to buy but you dont really need and the things that once proved moderately useful but have now been superseded by more sophisticated models?
Even disregarding the landfill implications, chucking stuff away is no longer an acceptable option in this new age of austerity. The simple solution is to take your unwanted gear to a car boot sale.
Because you cant squeeze a mountain into a Mondeo, theres much sifting to be done as I wade through boxes of junk. Why did I ever think that a trouser press would be a useful thing to have? All this rubbish has to go because we desperately need to make room in our house for newer, fresher rubbish. With no car boot sale experience either as a purchaser or vendor, Im uncertain as to whether theres a huge demand for old mobile phone chargers, VHS tapes, ancient squash racquets or outdated golf clubs. Ill soon find out, however, as Anne, the nice lady at the Stables Theatre in Hastings, rings to say that, due to a late cancellation, they have just one space left and that I must be there by 9am on Sunday morning.
At the last minute, my wife Rose decides to come and earns a reprieve for the trouser press, which obligingly gives up the passenger seat. As a youth she once had a holiday job at M&S and therefore possesses invaluable retail experience. Shes also acted in several productions at the Stables Theatre which, although of no help, I thought I should mention.
Feeling like a couple of contestants in The Apprentice, we arrive punctually at nine but the car park appears to be every bit as full as the back of our car. Well squeeze you in, dont worry, Anne assures me as she ticks my name off a list and points to the last remaining spot, which is right by the entrance. Perfect.
Although the event isnt scheduled to start until 10, people are already milling around and business is being conducted. The chap from the car opposite wanders over, picks up a couple of my retired golf clubs and hands over the full asking price, which is respectively 50p for the three iron and 1 for the putter (Id conscientiously priced everything up the night before and stuck labels on). Dont tell the wife, he begs, pointing to a lady standing next to his table, were really here to get rid of junk rather than acquire more.
A smiling chap from the car next to his also comes over and buys a laptop bag, an ornamental cow and a waterproof top my Aunt Sadie gave me at least 20 years ago that Ive never worn. I scribble the details down on a notepad and slip the 2.75 into my pocket. An elderly gentleman eagerly snaps up our younger daughters stilts for 2 and so by the time Anne comes around to collect the 5 for the pitch, were already quids in.
Business has been so brisk that weve still not completely emptied the car by the official 10 oclock start let alone given much thought as how best to present our stock. However, things slacken off briefly which gives me an opportunity to both blow up our paddling pool and re-arrange the stuff on our table.
Our three big ticket items are a collectable doll that I foolishly acquired at a staff Christmas sale when I was a scriptwriter at the shopping channel QVC, a rather ugly candle holder no-one will admit to having bought and a brand new jewellery box that Rose was given by someone we pray doesnt read this magazine. All three are priced at 10. Although no-one shows any interest whatsoever in either the doll or the candle holder, every woman who walks past opens the jewellery box lid, pulls out a drawer or two, remarks on how beautiful it is and wanders away.
What would Alan Sugar say about this? Should I have priced it at 9.99 and been a more aggressive salesman?
Meanwhile stuff is selling steadily. Im particularly pleased when the paddling pool goes for 2 and an ugly cut-glass decanter that I won in a golf tournament in the days when I had a decent swing fetches 3. A woman asks if the swivel chair that hasnt swivelled in anger for 10 years is adjustable. I demonstrate how you have to sit on it to adjust it. She sits on it and goes up and down happily for about a quarter-of-an-hour before deciding it isnt quite right. Timewaster, pah! Im disappointed because its a bulky item that we dont really want to take back home.
By 10.30 were running out of stock. A lamp, two cushions, globe, hat, roller blades, casserole dish, golf bag, fishing net, CD player, rocking duck, matched set of Friends videos, decorative tile, pots, games and, yes, cuddly toy, have all gone. A whole stack of Brio track goes for 2 (a real bargain!) and Roses squash racquet fetches a surprisingly generous 50p. Women are still opening and closing the jewellery box, perhaps checking to see if the 10 asking price includes a pair of diamond earrings. On the other hand, the collectable doll generates no interest whatsoever.
Because all the items previously hanging off it have been sold, the unencumbered candle holder can now be viewed in splendid isolation. The swivelling adjustable chair goes for 3 (hooray!) but the candle-holder stubbornly stays where it is.
Resisting the temptation to slash our prices in a final, desperate Everything Must Go Closing Down Sale, we instead resign ourselves to living a little longer with our unsold items, which we stick back in the car even though theres technically another three-quarters of an hour remaining.
Had I not sold a pocket calculator an hour ago for 25p, I could now add up the days takings rather more quickly than Im managing. The final total is 64.35. Taking off a fiver for the pitch and a fiver for refreshments, theres still plenty left over for a decent lunch in Hastings. So, if youre desperate for a jewellery box, candle holder, collectable doll or trouser press, please get in touch.