3 Tips For Successful Trunk Shows

There are 3 things you need to know about trunk shows so you can make more money. Ready to learn? First, here’s a quick overview of what a trunk show is exactly.

A typical trunk show is when the designer or vendor brings their line to a boutique for a special in-shop showing (items used to be carried in a trunk, thus the name).  Generally, but not always, accessories vendors bring stock pieces they can sell during the event while clothing vendors bring samples, take orders, and ship the items later (usually 4 – 8 weeks out).  A show can be from 2 hours long to all afternoon, depending on the boutique, the designer, their wants and needs, and their relationship.  My suggestion for designers starting with a new store is 2 – 3 hours.  You can always stay if things are rockin’ but if it’s slow and you committed to a full day, trust me, that is one loooooooong  day.
The shop will pay you the wholesale price for each piece they sell.  It is theshop owner’s decision what retail price the consumer is charged.

And now for the tips…

Tip #1:  You and the Retailer should work as partners.

You and the store are in this together and you want to make it win-win situation.  Try to avoid an “us against them” attitude. Do everything you can to insure the shop has a good experience with you.  A few more points:

Designers win: 

  • Your line is featured in front of a whole new clientele (that you didn’t have to find on your own).
  • You get a chance to interact with the end-user of your product; this gives you an opportunity to see your things on many different people and hear their feedback (so valuable!)  It makes you a better designer, trust me.
  • It gives you a chance to actively SELL your line and explain why and how you designed it.  This can be quite a rush for designers and you get to see what customers really like about your product – it feeds the ego.
  • You get instant credibility by being associated with a good store.  When buyers and customers see you sell at such-and such, it makes you more interesting to them.

Stores win:

  • Trunk shows are a low risk way to test your product.  Stores don’t pay you for merchandise unless it is a guaranteed sale and they do not tie up their dollars with inventory. They love this!
  • It gives the shop an automatic, low-cost special event and creates a buzz with their customers.
  • Retailers can offer a much bigger selection and more options for their customers than on a regular day.

Tip #2:  Promote the heck out of it.

Act like a true partner and be pro-active about maximizing you sales during the trunk show – and not relying on the store to do it.  The old days of showing up with your line on the appointed day and waiting for customers to walk in the door are OVER.  You must do more, including:

  •   Create signage for the shop window advertising the event and be in charge of installation etc.  Show the shop a sample of what you will do before they make their decision and agree to tailor the signage to their particular taste and storefront.
  •  Create a nice postcard or marketing piece to be handed out before the event to the store’s customers.
  • Create an email invitation to the event that will go to your current contacts and the store’s list.  In addition to this, send 2 reminders before the event.
  • Offer an incentive just for the show.  It doesn’t have to be a discount on your line. It could be a gift with purchase, free shipping, a chance to win a seriously good prize (no, a $50 gift card for your line is not that exciting – a $1000 shopping spree gets attention.)
  • Do your homework. Take an afternoon (or 2) before the show and hump it to the other businesses around the area.  Say hi, be friendly, hand out your cards/photos/whatever you have, and ask them nicely to send their customers over. Consider giving them a good reason to send people your way – a $10 gift card to Starbucks for every customer they send?  A % off for their customers or themselves?  I know seems like a lot of work, and it IS, but it pays off.

Tip #3: Follow through and deliver what you promised. 

This is not always the fun part.  It’s a blast to take orders…not as much fun to produce and ship them.  This is the stuff that will make or break your business, however.  If you’re reliable and efficient, your business will prosper – and word gets around..

I’ve seen dozens of designers – hundreds, really – lose momentum because they ship late or not at all, forget to contact who they said they would, and just show a general lack of discipline and dedication.  During the trunk show, try to keep in mind a healthy dose of reality and don’t over-commit yourself or promise things you can’t do.

So now it’s your turn, what’s worked for you? Would you leave a comment below and share tip #4? We’d love to hear it!

Contributor Jane Hamill teaches apparel and accessories designers how to start and grow a profitable business – even if they flunked math and hate selling.  She is the creator of online courses such as “How to Sell Your Line to Boutiques and “How to Start a Fashion Business” and she also coaches entrepreneurs one-on-one. Find her at

Hey wholesalers – need to prepare your presentation to pitch to retailers? Let Retail Minded help! Discover how we can here! 


  • Francisco Casals
    December 3, 2014

    Thank you so much for this tips, they are highly appreciated it. I’m going to travel to Europe in early spring and I’d like to set up a trunk show with some boutiques there. Is there any recommendation for trunk shows in Europe, is it better aim before or after market week? boutiques in city centers or boutiques in city’s outskirts (imagining most designers aim for capitals and big cities but there might be areas of opportunities outside)

  • Laura Williams
    August 2, 2017

    Thank you for the comprehensive article regarding trunk shows. I represent apparel designers and want to do a trunk show for a prospective retailer. I so appreciate your “how- to’s”.

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