Understanding the Trunk Show

Lizard Lounge Trunk Show with Tom's Shoes


What is a trunk show?
Trunk shows can offer a great opportunity for retailers, wholesalers and consumers alike. Because they bring value to all players in this retail triangle, they’re a powerful tool when used as part of your sales strategy.  But to utilize them effectively, you must first understand what they’re all about:

A trunk show is when the designer/wholesaler/vendor brings products to a store for a special event that offers merchandise and possibly prices not normally available. For designers who offer one-of-a-kind pieces, such as jewelry, this is a terrific way to showcase multiple items at once. For vendors, the value is in the possibility of being able to sell through more inventory on this one event than in a given week or month.

Reasons for a retailer to have a trunk show
Use a trunk show to launch a new line or collection, promote a new concept from a current company or a new season, or just to do pre-orders directly from the sales representative.

Details to Consider
While each trunk show is unique, a few standards should be considered by both wholesalers and retailers:

1.    Plan in advance. If you schedule a trunk show, do so with enough time to share this event with your customers. Both the wholesaler and retailer can use email blasts, promotional mailings (if budget allows) and in-store signage to spread the word.  As well, don’t forget about your social media channels. This kind of event is perfect for promoting on Facebook! If time allows, distributing a press release to your local media can also help keep your store traffic flowing.

2.    Make it enticing for the consumer. Get two to three sales reps to do a trunk show that appeals to the same customer.  For example, at the Lizard Lounge, we had a new handbag line with a jewelry collection and served wine and cupcakes. We also had someone present to put feathers in hair. Altogether it made for an unforgettably successful event!

3.    Discuss pricing before the event. It’s the store owners responsibility to decide if he/she wants to offer a discount at the trunk show, but typically the wholesaler will always get his or her standard wholesale price per product sold. The benefit to the retailer is that they do not have to buy this inventory up front but can still make money from merchandise sold during the event. So offering an incentive to customers is encouraged to help make this an even more exciting opportunity for customers to shop.

4.    Schedule how payment will be made. Because the store will be charging the customers, the wholesaler needs to be sure they are getting paid right away on all inventory sold during the event. Make sure to discuss payment beforehand so you can determine if there are items that the sales rep is bringing in that are not in your system for sale, if there is a commission, etc.

5.         Be partners in this event. Both the wholesaler and the retailer will have a lot to   do to get ready for a trunk show, so make sure you are supportive of each other and trust that each of you will get your respective responsibilities done. If there are going to be “extras” at the trunk show – such as models, food, drinks, music or anything else – be sure to discuss these details in advance. Define very clearly who will schedule and pay for each extra detail involved.

6.        Discuss follow up details from the show in advance. As a retailer or wholesaler, you may both want to share the contact information of the attending guests/customers at the event. Don’t forget to discuss this beforehand and, of course, each customer needs to willingly provide their information. If you plan to write thank you notes to the customers who made a purchase, decide in advance who will do this and when it will get completed. Make sure no holes are left when discussing how you can excel in your customer service experience as partners in this event.

7.      Listen to the consumer. Consider setting up a lounge area with food and drink for the sales rep to sit and talk casually with customers and showcase their product.

Planning a good trunk show is not as easy as 1-2-3, despite how it appears once it’s set up. However, there is a formula, and once you do one or two they get easier. Make sure you give yourself time in advance to get the event space merchandised, any special displays set up and all the “extras” in place so that there is no rushing around once the event starts. Customers should feel relaxed and welcome during the trunk show – always keep this in mind, even if you feel inner chaos. Remember to place orders right away if the product is not readily available and follow up as soon as possible with any questions that customers may have asked. In the end, all parties involved should give a sigh of both relief and success! –– Kelsie Morrow, Lizard Lounge Manager