Put Some Funk in the Traditional Jewelry-Store Trunk Show

A dead man with a Louboutin stiletto impaled through his heart lies on the ground. Standing around the room are a bevy of beautiful women, each wearing a dramatic piece of Stephen Webster jewelry. Then, the British designer himself enters with news: There’s been a murder, and he needs help solving it. Welcome to Reinhold Jewelers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and what’s sure to be a trunk show to remember.

Themed appearances have become a part of Webster’s brand identity. (“Stores are doing fewer events,” he says. “They need the ones they do do to really count.”) And such innovative events could be the key to customer retention, say jewelers who are re­defining the traditional trunk show.

The Reinhold event offered a clever introduction to Webster’s Murder She Wrote cocktail-ring collection inspired by notorious female assassins. Webster did offer a prize (a signed and framed jewelry sketch) to the lucky sleuth; but more important, he mixed and mingled with shoppers in a fun, unexpected way that happened to lead to big sales. “U.S. Murder She Wrote events bagged in excess of $1.4 million,” he says of the seven events staged around the country. “That proves to us we are doing something that resonates with clients.”

Underwood Jewelers in Jacksonville, Fla., meanwhile, connected with clients by joining forces with timepiece vendor Philip Stein: It gave customers a tangible way to understand Stein’s signature Natural Frequency Technology. Stein even sent an “aura reader” to sit with clients in a one-on-one setting. “Customers have their auras read ­without the watch, and then while wearing a Philip Stein,” says Underwood staffer Denise Chislett. “They engage in very personal conversations, which gives us a chance to learn more about them.”

Another notable trunk show trend: personalization. Sarah Graham began making 18k gold and silver fingerprint jewelry more than a decade ago. But because the prints are pressed into wax, the process must be done in person, and until now has been done only at Sarah Graham Metal­smithing’s San Francisco studio. Becoming a mom gave Graham the idea to take the project to her retailers. “I was blown away by demand by moms for jewelry,” she says. “Right now, we only ­offer it to stores that carry our line, but eventually it will be a stand-alone collection. We will train stores to capture the prints.”

One of the biggest events at Tayloe Piggott Jewelry in Jackson Hole, Wyo., was with Los Angeles designer Erica Courtney, who began repurposing customers’ jewels after her mother passed away and she made a bracelet from her mother’s old chains. Courtney works one-on-one with clients who bring in sentimental jewels looking for new life. “The event keeps Erica in a place of constant creativity, and the store is able to provide a phenomenal service,” Piggott says. “It’s the ultimate dialogue between an artist, client, and store.”

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