TRUNK SHOW SERIES: Trunk Shows 101

First of all, what is a trunk show?

As someone in the bridal industry, we hear the term ‘trunk show’ tossed around frequently. When you hear this term, what is your gut reaction? Does it overwhelm you or excite you? Of course, it’s totally okay to say both too (I’m with you, friend)! No need to stress, we’re here to fuel that overwhelm into pure excitement throughout this blog and our upcoming Trunk Show Blog Series. To do that, we’re going back to the basics, and I’m talking way back! To save you some research and to ease your curiosity, the term ‘trunk show’ originated in the early 1800s for traveling salesmen who filled their trunks with new merchandise to sell in markets. If you’re like me, that instigated an eyebrow raise and a slow nodding of the head. Makes total sense, right? 

People flocked to these must-see events to be some of the first to have access to the latest designer pieces, hence why we have trunk shows in the bridal industry today! Although a trunk show may be overwhelming for us as the organizers, it is exciting for your brides, and that right there, is your purpose! We will touch more on this later on but reframing your mindsets and connotations now is critical. Flip that switch with me!

We know that this sales strategy withstands eras of bridal fashion and has become a staple in the wedding industry. True to their roots, trunk shows today happen when a boutique wants to showcase a brand new collection or line of dresses from a specific designer (or vendor) for local brides to shop for a temporary amount of time. In short, it’s an exclusive and limited collaboration between a bridal shop and a designer/vendor. Not only is a trunk show a collaboration, but it’s a negotiation, and you have options!

What type of trunk show should I do?

Most designers/vendors offer a variety of choices and will demonstrate flexibility to accommodate for both your needs and your clientele’s wants. Pro Tip: Ask for different kinds of trunk shows! I’ll outline a few typical options below:

  • New Collection Trunk Show: This choice is pretty self-explanatory, it’s a showcase of the newest collection from a designer. Just like in the 1800s, this is your way to draw large crowds for the unveiling of these “never before seen” dresses. If you carry a designer that has a popular following, asking for a new collection trunk show is a good way to enhance your own publicity and spike your appointment count!

  • Best Of’ Trunk Show: This is an opportunity where designers will do their top performers rather than just the new line. It can be advantageous as a “come see the best of the best”. If you’re brand new, asking for a ‘best of’ trunk show is a great way to start brand new with them, and an added bonus, this will give you ideas of styles you may not have in your store and see what might do well—more bang for your buck. 

  • Hand-Picked Trunk Show: A hand-picked trunk show is the most adaptable, customizable option and places the control within the hands of those managing the boutique; however, with great power comes great responsibility. When doing a hand-picked trunk show, the key is knowing your brides and knowing your current inventory. Some designers will even allow you to pick sizes and colors. Be sure to balance your selections by choosing some “safe bets” and some “risk-takers”. Consider choosing some of the top sellers based on the designer’s recommendations and choosing a few bold options from the new collection—best of both worlds!

In Poppy, you can utilize your Sale by Vendor, Top Selling Special Orders by Vendor, Item Performance by Curated Styles and Non-Performing Items reports to see what is hot in your store and what is not. This will give you ideas on what designers are good to showcase for what type of trunk show you want to host.

What are the costs and common terms associated with hosting a trunk show?

As much as I want to provide you with a simple, always applicable answer, there isn’t one. In the bridal industry, we are used to this; it’s just like giving a bride a quote for alterations, there are so many factors that go into cost, making it nearly impossible to predict. Similarly, this can look different depending on the designer you choose to work with, promotion strategy, staffing, and event experience in store. 

If you are interested in hosting trunk shows, don’t forget to cover this benefit as you decide which designers you want to carry in your store. Every designer is different and some will offer the service without a charge, others will charge a fee, or not offer trunk shows at all. If you are a new or aspiring bridal boutique owner, do the legwork now, you’ll thank yourself (and us) later. 

  • Make a list or comparison chart of how designers charge for or provide trunk shows. Some will do a flat fee, some flat fee + shipping to the next store, some no fee but pay shipping, some for completely free. If you’re shipping, then ask where they are shipped to, timing, insurance, etc. 

  • Understand the terms of trunk show in entirety. Set parameters for what you’re willing to pay for or include. Some designers have expectations for how the dresses should be boxed and returned (think nitty gritty – tags, folds, like-new condition). Make note of the dress conditions upon arrival and send off—especially if coming or going to/from another store!

  • Trunk show promotions, employee wages, advertising cost, and special event details should all be factored into your overall budget with goals associated to ensure a successful trunk show. If you’re not sure where to start, we will be breaking this down for you later on in our trunk show series with an in depth guide—so stay tuned!

Why should your bridal store consider doing a trunk show?

Remember that lesson we learned at the beginning of this blog? Trunk shows are exciting for your brides, and your number one priority is to serve them in the best way possible.

  • Re-engage your brides who are in the market but just haven’t found the one

  • Offer exclusive promotions could help you reach brides just slightly out of your typical price range and expand your reach

  • Take advantage of the seasonal rush and maximize the volume of appointments (and sales opportunity) during the event

Not only does this serve your customers, but trunk shows strengthen relationships with local vendors, accessory lines, and designers you carry in your boutique. 

Both parties (you and designers) benefit from this, exactly why I used the term ‘collaboration’ earlier. Some double perks include: feedback from the designs featured at your trunk shows, ideas to curate styles for different coasts/regions/etc., and responses directly from brides to impact future collections. Additionally, the designer is going to market for you in some capacity. On their website, they always have a calendar of where they will be featured so leverage their audience and ties. This relationship will have long term benefits to boost your own promotion and engagement. 

Just like a chip in a windshield can splinter in many directions, a single trunk show can reveal many new opportunities. Activate that chip and embrace how far the splinters reach! 

Now that we’ve covered the ‘what’ of trunk shows, now you are ready to start your planning your trunk show event! Check out: Trunk Show Series: Planning Guide From the Greats!