I am a regular attendee at nearly new sales. I became addicted to them in the US after having my first child, and have been attending them religiously ever since. Why pay full price for something that is going to be worn 6 times or played with for ten minutes?
The US sales are a little bit more relaxed I think. They take place over a number of days with thousands of items for sale, and the manager of the sale making a lot of money (40-50% of sale price). The tags are printed online, and everything is computerised. In the UK, there are two different types of nearly new sales. There is the table top sale where the seller pays for a space to sell her items from, and there is the typical NCT sale where you tag your items and mix them in with everyone elses for a big rummage sale.
I don't know which works best, I do know that the Sevenoaks & Tonbridge sales do pretty well, and the table top versions are run by local businesses, so there's obviously money in it.
I volunteered for my first UK sale back in February. The sale was taking place in April, and I was 8 months pregnant. I organized for my husband to come home early to take care of William and went along to the school hall where I had volunteered to help set up the night before. Well, I didn't actually get to do much. Can you believe that the NCT wouldn't let an 8 month pregnant woman lift any chairs or any tables. I directed the people who were allowed to move tables, hung a sign and helped put fliers in bags.
I wasn't much more helpful the following day when I arrived to help with the actual sale. I took my mother along too so that she could at least be more helpful than me. The NCT lets its volunteers shop before the general public gets in, and I think I carried more weight to the till than three tables put together!! I was then put at the front door in a chair to take the entrance fee and make sure that the first customers were indeed members. I also had to tag buggy's so that we knew they were not being stolen from the sale. I must admit that I hadn't seen a queue this long since my days working at the Crown Point when crazy families would wait outside on Mothers Day for an hour before being let into the restaurant to then wait two hours for their food. I still can't believe that people then actually paid for the food, but that's another story and 15 years ago.
The NCT nearly new sales are a great fundraising opportunity for the local chapters. I have enjoyed attending and volunteering. I do wish though, that they would extend the time of the events. I hate to see the sellers taking home a lot of beautiful clothes and toys that just didn't sell because the time was up. The sales usually last less than 2 hours, it really is quite frantic and rushed as everyone tries to find the best bargains before time is called.
So, if you ever want to see 200 crazed pregnant women turnover a school hall filled with childrens clothing and toys in 30 minutes with their bewildered husbands standing looking on in awe, get yourself down to your local NCT nearly new sale. It is a sight to behold.
Find links to other local and national resources for new Mums. As an aside, I have not seen so many infants and young children carried in slings in the UK as I did at the recent Borough Green NCT Nearly New Sale on October 1st, 2011