The organizers of the Half-Pint Resale consignment event, a local sale of children's clothing, toys, gear and nursery furniture, say they don't spend a lot of their budget on advertising, preferring to get new customers involved through word of mouth.
To say the twice-annual event has gone viral under that approach is an understatement. Shoppers are known to gleefully post photos of the items they've found at Half-Pint on Facebook.
Ellen Carlson and Lisa Seidel started Half-Pint six years ago with five volunteers and 96 people signed up to consign children's clothes, toys and furniture. The 13th iteration scheduled for this weekend at the Madison Curling Club in McFarland is set to include 375 volunteers and 615 consignors.
"It's been fascinating to watch how much it's grown," Carlson said. "It's like a big snowball. I tell somebody and they tell their friends and they tell their friends and they tell their friends.
"We're excited about how large it's gotten and about how many families really depend on the resource of being able to save money and live a lifestyle and show their kids a lifestyle they want to lead."
Friday's presale is reserved for volunteers and consignors, and the public sale runs 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. Most items are half-price on Sunday.
Here are three graphics with approximate figures that tell the story of how much Half-Pint has grown:
Number of consignors
Number of items for sale
Number of volunteers
It started in 2,000 square feet at VFW Post 1318 on Lakeside Street, then grew to 3,500 square feet at the Madison Labor Temple Lounge in the fall of 2008. A year later, Half-Pint moved into 7,500 square feet of space at the Goodman Community Center but quickly needed more space again.
This week's event — there is one in the spring and one in the fall to allow for sales of seasonal clothes — will be the fifth at the curling club, which has 16,000 square feet of available space and still some room for the event to grow.
"There doesn't seem to be any end in sight for people wanting to consign or people willing to volunteer," Carlson said. "So we can continue to keep it a no-cost event and a low cost for consignors and they can get a big return. That part of it is really important to us."
Consignors keep 70 percent of the sale price, with the rest paying for the event's overhead costs and some for Carlson and Seidel.
Carlson said clothes are the biggest sellers, while toys that have been worked out of a family's rotation are always popular.
And if the event keeps getting more and more popular? Carlson said Half-Pint will just continue to add on.
"The fascinating thing is that every time there's more stuff, more people and everything needs to be adjusted," she said.