When Amy Hugo started selling Alberto Parada's minimalist 18k gold jewels in May, she planned a trunk show for June, shortly after returning from JCK Las Vegas. "I like to make a big to-do about welcoming designers to the store," says the owner of the 3-year-old, 700-square-foot Amethyst jewelry boutique in Bethesda, Md. Typically, she hosts trunk shows for new designers within a month or two of receiving their merchandise.
Because June is a slow sales month for the shop, Hugo, with the help of three full-time salespeople, had ample time to familiarize clients with Parada, who was present for the entire two-day event. (Out of 2,300 invited guests—700 through email and 1,500 through snail mail—50 people attended the Saturday and Sunday affair.)
Hugo cleared out two display cases and three wall units to make space for additional Parada merchandise, which starts at $350 (about 20 pieces are in stock at any given time). The designer brought 70 SKUs from his Signature Collection and Charms Collection of earring charms. He sold three items totaling $2,000 during the show, in addition to one special order for $4,200: a rose gold ring with a 20 mm flat carnelian cabochon. "This particular look just sells everywhere," Parada says.
Alberto Parada hoop earrings in 18k rose gold with 0.16 ct. t.w. diamonds and detachable charms with chalcedony; $590 (hoops) and $375 (charms)
In the week following the trunk show, Hugo scored three additional sales: two pairs of earrings and a necklace totaling $2,500. "We had a good turnout, including a lot of walk-in traffic," she says.
"It was a successful show for marketing the line at a new location, seeing firsthand what Amethyst clients were interested in, and a good opportunity to work with the sales staff on how to sell the line," Parada says. For example, he made sure to point out that every design is available in 20 different stones, including amethyst, and in white, rose, and yellow gold.
More Parada trunk shows are in the works. Moving forward, Hugo will continue to send out three email blasts—one a week before, one a few days before, and one the day of the event—in addition to mailing postcard invitations, calling budding collectors, and alerting Facebook fans multiple times.
Ring in 18k rose gold with carnelian and 1 ct. t.w. diamonds; $4,200; Alberto Parada, Washington, D.C.; 301-908-1338; albertoparada.com
Not everyone would endorse Hugo's policy of offering 20 percent discounts at trunk shows, but she stands by the strategy, which she says helps "ensure their success, drive traffic, and make the trip worthwhile for the designer."
Hugo says the investment, including up to $500 for refreshments, fresh flowers, contributions to the designer's travel arrangements, event-only marketing, and a dinner out, usually totals about $1,000.
While she has no qualms about the costs, she urges retailers considering similar events to check local school and holiday calendars before booking events—particularly if they're not located in a shopping mall. One hint: The weekend after Thanksgiving isn't necessarily a good time for a trunk show. Says Hugo: "The people who are waking up at 5 a.m. to go shopping aren't looking for fine designer jewelry, and those who aren't serious bargain shoppers avoid leaving the house that weekend!"