Paying your way through university can be tough, even if you’ve got your fees covered. But while Guy Roberts, 25, from London, was studying illustration at the Norwich University College of the Arts, he realised Norwich’s car boot sales were an untapped goldmine of vintage fashion. He set up an eBay account and soon he was earning up to £300 a month.
Guy is now a self-confessed car boot addict and has agreed to tell carbooted the secrets of buying and selling at the car boot.
When did you start going to car boot sales?
I used to go with my parents but I didn’t really get what they were all about. It was only when I started going off my own back that I realised there were people who were willing to practically give away stuff. I’d be mesmerised by these things and they would let me have them for 50p because they thought were rubbish.
What’s been your best buy at a car boot sale?
The first thing I remember being proud of buying was an old Miami Dolphins jacket, which I still love to bits. It cost me £2, but if you bought it in America it would be about £70. I also bought two Helly Hansen jackets for £2 each, and they’re worth around £70 if you buy them new.
What made you decide to start selling clothes online?
I’m into vintage clothing myself, so I could see that a lot of this stuff was worth good money. I thought, if people are selling these things so cheap but I know there’s a market for them, why not start selling them on eBay? So I started going to car boot sales and charity shops, and buying vintage things so I could sell them online. Once, I bought a River Island jumper which wasn’t even vintage but it had that kind of feel – I got it for £3 and sold it for £30. After that I was addicted.
What are the easiest things to sell?
You can normally sell designer brands for double what you pay for them at the car boot. Sportswear from famous brands like Nike or Adidas always goes down well. If anything has a brand name on it but looks like a granddad would wear it, people will be willing to pay for it.
How much do you make out of car boot sales?
While I was at university I was making £200-£300 a month. That covered all the money I needed to have fun, and I was able to go out pretty much every night. It probably wasn’t great for my liver and my brain cells, though.
But now when I sell stuff on eBay, the money stays in my paypal account and I usually end up spending it on more clothes.
Where’s the best place for finding bargains?
London’s not the best for cheap stuff because people here have a bit more money. But at the car boot sales in Norwich, where I studied, you’d find things for 50p which would go for at least four times that in London.
I like the Battersea Car Boot Sale but a lot of people are there to make as much money as they can, so you feel like you’re getting hustled sometimes. I saw this really nice Tommy Hilfiger towel there but they were selling it for £8. In London they know how much they can get for stuff, but outside London, they’re not so bothered about brands so that makes it cheaper.
Chiswick School Car Boot Sale is good because even though you’re in London it’s more like an out of town sale. A lot of people come in from outside the city and you also get well off families who just want to get rid of their stuff as quickly as they can.
Where’s the worst place?
The East End is a lot more trendy – you get people coming in looking for vintage clothes and furniture – there are a lot more posers round there so things are more expensive.
What was your last buy?
This jacket I’m wearing (see picture). I got it for £4.
What was your last sell?
Last weekend I went to Battersea Car Boot Sale to get rid of some old clothes, I had forty huge plastic rings that my friend had bought back from Thailand. I sold them for £4 to this weird old man with a massive empty suitcase – I’ve got no idea what he wanted to do with them.
It’s all very well taking your stuff to the car boot to sell, but it might be difficult to attract buyers to your amazing selection of goods if they can’t see what’s on show.
At Sunday’s Battersea Car Boot sale – as recommended to us by car booting expert Guy Roberts – we spotted three great ways of presenting your stall:
– Record boxes divided by genre and type of vinyl make it easy for music fans to flick through:
– Pictures on show as if they’re in a gallery let the buyer envisage how the frame will look in their own home:
– Crockery neatly displayed in matching sets shows off your great collection, and the buyer can do the mixing and matching themselves:
We also overheard a seller proudly telling a customer that the children’s clothes she had for sale were arranged by age group – a simple but effective way of making it easy for your buyers to browse.
Overall, the Battersea Boot Sale is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, with friendly sellers. The organisers let you re-enter if you get your hand stamped, and there were lots of well-behaved dogs enjoying a saunter around the stalls, too. The midday opening means it’s fab for lovers of lazy Sunday mornings. It was difficult to resist the old-fashioned cook books at many different stalls, from publishers such as Vogue and Good Housekeeping, because good cooking never goes out of fashion. My favourite buy of the day? We picked up these 1960s Brands Hatch programmes – complete with results written in pencil from the race itself – for 50p apiece.
On BBC One’s The Apprentice, the task this week was to buy second hand furniture and sell it in Brick Lane. Or as one succinct young hopeful put it: “get as much crap as we can and sell it for next to nothing.”
Carbooted regulars will not need to be told that car boots are a haven for anyone looking for vintage and collectible furniture. So surely, only a bunch of idiots could fail to find anything worth buying?
“Here we are – an enormous car boot sale full of everything you can imagine,” says Alan Sugar’s aide, Nick Hewer, following one team around a car boot sale as they hunt out bargains. All the contestants have to do is pick up some choice pieces and take them Brick Lane “home to the young trendy with the gelled hair,” says Hewer.
But soon Hewer is despairing of their inability to choose anything at all. “They’ve only bought a few items – it’s nuts!” he says.
Later on Jade Adam and Steven are seen storming round the Battersea Boot having a bit more luck. They deliberate over one item for so long that the stall holder shouts in desperation, “have it for a pound as long as you promise you’ll go away.”
For tips on what goes down well at the car boot from someone who knows what they’re talking about, watch this video.