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How Trunk Shows Can Help Designers & Boutiques

If you’re a boutique owner or designer looking for an affordable way to market your business, trunk shows are your best bet. It’s one of the least risky and most inexpensive forms of marketing. You already have the merchandise to sell so, all you need to do is organize the event. But, before I go into planning a trunk show, let’s first discuss why this is such a beneficial marketing technique for both boutiques and designers.

As a designer, especially a new designer, you are always looking for more stores to buy your line. But in this tough economy, more and more buyers and boutique owners are weary of new brands that they haven’t yet tested. A creative way to convince them is by holding a trunk show at their store. Pitch the idea to them as a test run. If your line is well-received by their customers, they’ll totally want to place an order. And designers, if your latest collection hasn’t been produced yet, don’t sweat. All you really need are your samples. You can simply take people’s orders, and then ship them to their homes. This will also give you an idea of which styles will tend to be the most popular.

I don’t imagine a lot of boutiques saying no to this proposal. It eliminates the risk of buying an un-tested brand, while creating traffic for their place of business. The trunk show becomes beneficial for both the designer and the boutique owner. But if you’re a boutique just wanting to create a traffic-generating event, you can totally throw an in-store party on your own. Here’s how to execute both a designer trunk show or in-store party.

For Designer Trunk Shows

1. Make a list of the boutiques that you think would consider buying your line. Remember, the stores you choose have to evoke a style that’s similar to your brand. Don’t approach a store that reeks of sexy when your line is more dainty. You’ll get an automatic “no”

2. Come up with a convincing but no-pressure pitch. Make the conversation, whether verbal or written, seem natural. Start off with asking them how they’re doing. Then compliment their store. Afterwards, introduce your brand and then pitch the idea of having a trunk show. Make sure to explain the benefits that the trunk show will have for them.

3. Time to approach the store owners. You can do this over phone, via email, or in person. Attach or bring a linesheet with you. Approach multiple stores. You want to increase your chances as much as possible. I recommend starting with 3.

4. If you had a phone conversation or spoke with the owner in person, you would have received an answer the same day. But, if you communicated via, email, give it 24-48 hours before you follow up. Once they respond with a “yes,” schedule a meeting to solidify the details.

5. Details to discuss:
Date
Time
Duration
Snacks & Refreshments
Music
# of Guests: (Make sure that both you and the store owner utilize your mailing lists)
Publicity: Establish how you will create a buzz for this event
Payment: Most boutiques will want to take a cut on the sales you make in exchange for using their facilities. The typical rate is usually 50/50. This means that you must sell your product at retail, not wholesale. If you sell at wholesale, you’ll be loosing money.

6. Promote a discount or create Gifts with Purchases.
Shoppers are always looking for a deal, especially in these trunk show types of environment. So, why not offer them a discount of 15%-20%? I know that may sound like a lot since you’re already giving half of your earning to the store. One way to avoid that is by marking up your product 2.5x instead 2x its wholesale price. Marking it up an extra .5x gives you a buffer for any additional discounts you want to do. It’s a retail mind game, but is works.

7. Create a marketing a campaign. There’s no use of having a trunk show if no one knows about it. Utilize all your contacts, exhaust all your PR people, social media outlets, etc. I also recommend listing your trunks show on eventbrite or any other event listing service to increase your public exposure.

8. Inventory all your items before the trunk show. You want to have an accurate record of all your sales.

9. Bring your own method of processing payments. Do not rely on the store to process your sales, as this can get complicated.

10. Bring your own bags. Again, do not rely on the store to provide you with anything, other than the location.

11. Wear your expensive items during the show. This will increase the chances of it getting bought.

12. Visit the store a few days before the event to plan out how you’ll be displaying your collection. That way, you’ll be prepared if you need to bring any extra rolling racks, fixtures, etc.

12. Make sure that you have the right amount of people helping you.

13. Bring a notebook where people can write their emails to receive news  & updates about your line. Give them a reason to sign up, whether that’s an upcoming event, sale, or collection.

 

For Store Parties:
1. Solidify details:
Date
Time
Duration
Snacks & Refreshments
Music
Guestlist: Utilize your mailing list
Publicity: Establish how you will create a buzz for this event. I recommend that you contact your main vendors to inform them of your event. Most likely, they will help spread the word for you and may even help with some of the expenses. Why? Because more sales for you, means more orders for them.

2. Promote a discount or create Gifts with Purchases.
Shoppers are always looking for a deal, especially in these trunk show types of environments. So, why not offer them a discount of 15%-20% or a special gift with purchase.

3. Create a marketing a campaign. There’s no use of having a store party if no one knows about it. Utilize all your contacts, exhaust all your PR people, social media outlets, etc. I also recommend listing your store party on eventbrite or any other event listing service to increase your public exposure.

4. Wear the items that you’re having the hardest time selling during the show. In fact, feature them on your mannequins or tables too. This will increase the chances of them getting bought.

5. Make sure that you have appropriate staffing.

6. Have a notebook available where new customers can write their emails to receive news & updates about your store. Give them a reason to sign up, whether that’s an upcoming event, sale, or collection.

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For more tips on selling your line to buyers, check out our free video course entitled, How To Sell Your Line To Buyers.