Trunk Show Savvy

Trunk shows can punch up sales and increase store traffic, yet more than half of jewelers recently surveyed by JCK say they don’t host such events. Of the 45% of jewelers who do have at least one show per year, 86% say the shows were effective in spiking sales on featured lines, both during the event and beyond. They offered the following tips on how to make a trunk show a success.

  1. View the event as a party. “It’s not just a showing,” says Michael Genovese of Michael Genovese Jewelers in St. Louis. Most jewelers agree, noting that trunk shows are like parties. For Joyce Mitman-Welken, owner of Bixler’s Jewelers in Easton, Pa., trunk shows “are fun events—ladies’ days,” she says, with her showings of Vera Bradley quilted bags in mind.

  2. Select the date of the event wisely. The fourth quarter of every year is perhaps the busiest time for hosting trunk shows, according to JCK panelists. Designers should be booked well in advance—as early as the summer before, if possible. Some jewelers also have done well with shows held prior to Mother’s Day.

  3. Promote the show early and often. Through careful planning, Kosers Jewelry, Mt. Joy, Pa., was able to tap a new vein of shoppers. “We normally don’t have much estate merchandise,” observes storeowner Randy Wolgemuth. But during a recent trunk show, Wolgemuth “saw a whole new group of customers [because] we advertised the event.”

  4. Hold the trunk show for one day, and for a few hours only. John Dockery of John Dockery Jewelers, San Ramon, Calif., advises jewelers to hold trunk shows for four hours on a single day. In this way, he explains, the event “turns into a buying frenzy and encourages purchases.”

  5. Determine early on whether the event will be invitation-only or open to the public. Trunk shows can be both, too: “We sent out 6,000 postcards inviting our best customers to a private showing the day before the show opened to the public,” says Joel McFadden of Joel McFadden Designs, Greenfield, Mass.

  6. Consider teaming up with a high-profile charity or another local luxury-goods company to increase visibility and attendance at the event. “Our most successful trunk show was a David Yurman one held in conjunction with a car dealer,” says Clayton Bromberg, owner of Underwood Jewelers in Jacksonville, Fla. “We promoted it heavily and gave away a one-year lease on a Mercedes and a Yurman watch.” Also consider making the event educational by having the designer, a featured expert, or even a charity representative speak about their pieces, craft, or mission. “Then the party is more than just a person hocking jewelry from a bag,” observes David Nygaard, owner of David Nygaard Fine Jewelers in Virginia Beach, Va.

  7. Define the dress code and state it in your invitations. Specifying casual attire helps create a low-key, relaxed atmosphere, while formal attire can make an event elegant and upscale.

  8. Contact guests via mail and phone. Most jewelers note the importance of mailing postcards or other invitations. Gary Kleinhenz of Kleinhenz Jewelers, Cleveland, takes the invitation idea a step further—he sends handwritten invitations to make the gesture more personal. After the mailing, phone “special” customers. “Make phone calls to follow up,” urges Marion Halfacre, who owns Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach, Calif. “People are busy and need to be reminded.” Kleinhenz agrees: “The phone call is paramount to the success of your trunk show.” Some jewelers even suggest scheduling appointments during the event so customers can have the undivided attention of sales associates and designers.

  9. Plan all details—including music and lighting—ahead of time. Floral arrangements, décor, lighting, and music should coordinate with the theme of the event. “From food and drinks to sights, sounds, and smells—make the show festive,” says Bill Sustachek, owner, Rasmussen Diamonds, Racine, Wis.

  10. Pamper guests with ample amounts of food and beverages—consider hiring a caterer and wait staff. Michael Derby of Corinne Jewelers, Toms River, N.J., says if you’re going to host a trunk show, don’t cut corners. “Be prepared to spend,” he advises. James Durbin of James Durbin Jewelry Design, Kirkwood, Mo., says he always has “nice wines and drinks, and great foods and desserts.” Some jewelers even spring for valet parking.

  11. Be sure the event isn’t overcrowded. Think in terms of hosting comfortable gatherings for your customers, say most jewelers. “We invite small groups of 10-15 people,” says Durbin. Ample room—and lighting—is necessary, too, for the designer to show his line. Also be sure you have enough seating.

  12. Hire a photographer to take pictures during the event. This move ensures that guests have photos taken with designers, good photos suitable for framing are available for in-store décor, and jewelers have publicity photos to send to local newspapers.

  13. Clarify show specifics with featured designers well in advance. The Independent Jewelers Organization, an industry jewelry buying group based in Norwalk, Conn., tells its members to ask vendors questions such as: Will there be a minimum purchase amount for guests? Is co-op money available for ads? Will the designer or just representatives be present for the trunk show?

  14. Secure the premises well by hiring extra security guards, and alert local law enforcement to your plans. Some jewelers noted that security was a concern when hosting shows, but taking the right precautions lets the show go on and puts your mind at ease.

  15. Dress sales staff in jewelry of the featured designer(s) Sales personnel should be wearing pieces from the featured lines in order to promote items to potential buyers. Encourage guests at the show to handle pieces and try them on as well.

  16. Greet guests at the store entrance. These days, even Wal-Mart has greeters, and your special event or trunk show shouldn’t skimp on this step. You’re welcoming guests into your store for a few hours of entertainment, so greet them at the door, take their coats, and offer them a beverage.

  17. Ask the designer(s) to mingle with guests, and have sales personnel sell jewelry. Don’t expect artisans to sell. “They need to circulate and chit-chat with customers,” notes Carol Kobcik, owner, Arareity, Sacramento, Calif. Kobcik holds “store openings” up to five times annually to highlight her art glass lines. Store personnel are better prepared and better qualified to sell, say most jewelers surveyed.

  18. Offer “goody bags” to guests upon departure. Gifts like chocolates, jewelry polishing cloths, or items donated by featured vendors or local non-competing luxury-product retailers will help guests remember the day long after they’ve left.

  19. Send press releases and photos to all local newspapers for publication. Free publicity is available in every town via the local newspapers. Let the community know you’re involved by touting events held at your store.

  20. Send thank-you notes to all of your guests. “Trunk shows are extra money in the bank,” says Robert Dietz of Dee’s Jewelers Inc., Salisbury, N.C. A thank-you note lets the customer know his or her time—and hopefully, money—spent at your event was appreciated and helps keeps the memory of the evening alive.