10 Ways to Plan a Successful Trunk Show & Boost Your Sales

By Carolyn Edlund

How to plan a successful trunk show and sell more of your work.


Trunk shows are a natural fit for fashion and accessories.

Trunk shows are a natural fit for fashion and accessories.


Does your handmade line include clothing, or accessories such as jewelry, purses, shoes, belts, scarves, or bridal wear? Consider putting on a trunk show to increase your sales and get more exposure.

What is a trunk show?

It’s an event where you make a personal appearance at a boutique, store or gallery which carries your work. For a limited amount of time (from a few hours on one day up to three days) you meet and work with customers who attend, selling merchandise from your line which the store doesn’t have in stock. If you have sale reps carrying your line, they can do trunk shows for you also.

If you don’t have a line of wearables or accessories, consider making a “meet the artist” appearance along the same lines. Don’t have wholesale accounts where you can do a trunk show? Create the opportunity to get in front of the decision maker, and propose that you do a trunk show even though they don’t carry your line (yet.)  A successful show may be the best way to get your line into a store!

What’s the benefit of having a trunk show?  It can be a win/win/win:

  • A Win for the Store: They get the benefit of sharing in sales of your merchandise which they aren’t paying for up front, so there is no risk. Lots of invited guests are coming in the door, who may purchase other merchandise as well. They get publicity and create the buzz of having cool “meet the designer” events.
  • A Win for the Customer: Who doesn’t love meeting the designer of the clothes and accessories they buy? There is a mystique around artists which the public really enjoys. They get to preview new items, and place custom orders with you, or may be fitted for a particular garment you are creating just for them.
  • A Win for You: Want to know which designs from your new line get the most attention? A pre-season trunk show gives you valuable information about what will be popular and what’s not working. You could also offer one-of-a-kind items not in your regular line, samples, or items from past seasons which are discontinued. If you are planning to travel in another state, consider scheduling a trunk show with a great store account while you’re there. Take a tax deduction for the expenses and make some extra income as well.

Stores may have certain guidelines for trunk shows (especially larger department stores, although these can be quite lucrative), but you should be able to have input as well. When you approach one of your accounts about making an appearance at a trunk show, be sure to nail down what percentage of sales each of you will take.

Start planning your next trunk show, using these ten steps to get started:

  1. Be smart about your timing. Understand what your goals are. Early in the season is better than post-season if you want to avoid bargain hunters. Or you might choose to do an appearance right before Christmas to catch those last-minute shoppers.
  2. Publicize, publicize, publicize. The store should have your event prominently featured on their store website and their Facebook page (these are essential for retailers), and email announcements to their customer base. You should contact all of your existing customers in their area as well, through email and social media. Postcards or other mailers involve postage and can be expensive, but can also be very effective. Send a press release to their local paper, and check online to see if their town has a calendar of upcoming events you can list with. Suggest that the store also put a poster in their window announcing your trunk show.
  3. The store will benefit from putting a guest book out during the trunk show to capture the names, phone numbers, email addresses of customers who attend. These will be a great resource for future shows, and an email list to feature new work from you.
  4. Serving beverages, wine and cheese or other finger food can make a more festive atmosphere. Create an environment which is very relaxing to guests and invites shopping.
  5. Be a gracious host(ess). Show that you really care about your guests. Dress the part, and be friendly and attentive to your customers. You are representing the store as well as your own business. The more helpful and accommodating you are, the more sales you will encourage.
  6. Show and tell. This is important. Tell the story of your work – what inspires you? What is your creative process? Where do your materials come from? When customers understand the story, it creates greater value in their minds. You may want to have brochures or other material to promote your line and help customers remember you.
  7. Have photos of you taken in your studio, with work in progress. Bring a photo album or digital picture frame with a slideshow of you at work which details the steps in the the process, so that customers understand and appreciate your handmade line more completely.
  8. Do you take custom orders? You might want to include free color consultations at your event, or bring samples of your palette, materials or color selections and work with each customer personally, to enhance their experience and encourage sales.
  9. Want to make your trunk show more meaningful? Tie it in with a charity to attract more publicity, and make a contribution to a worthy cause. This makes everyone feel good. Include this in the press release you will be sending out.
  10. Make sure your customer service is impeccable. Send a personal, handwritten thank you note to the store owner for the opportunity, and communicate promptly with those people who placed special orders. Ship on time, thanking them for their order. Enclosing a small item as a little extra gift is a wonderful way to show your appreciation.


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  1. what a great idea! i have been to quite a few and love every one.i find myself a bit reluctant in showing and sharing…but it really is good and fun to do.
    i would suggest buddying up with someone if you are nervous about having on all by yourself.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Becky. Absolutely you should partner up if you would like to – find someone with a complimentary product line and have twice the fun!

  3. I own a vintage clothing store in bay city mi, and am also doing etsy selling. i have been considering switching from a storefront to an office, having “walk in hours” maybe just like thurs-sat or something and focusing on traveling around to do trunk shows and also focus more on online selling…i was wondering if anyone else has done this? or if anyone has any advice or info to offer? thankhyou

    • Megan, That’s an interesting concept. I don’t personally have experience with it, but I encourage my readers to develop several streams of income. You are certainly planning to sell in different ways, and combining online with a static location and traveling to put on events sounds like a great idea. I’d love to have more input from anyone who has tried this.
      My question to you would be “What do you have to lose with this idea?” If your storefront isn’t working as well as you would like, your new plan could capture a lot more business since you will be flexible.

  4. hi i’m a founder of a fashion organization that raises funds to help HIV/AIDS infected orphans in Tanzania
    we are planning to travel to los angeles in may to do trunk shows pls can anyone help to collaborate with us.
    any ideas

    • If you haven’t contacted the Tanzanian community, contact Moza Mjasiri Cooper and she can help. If your show is past, so sorry. Still contact Moza for future collaboration. She is from Zanzibar.

      Gail 323/373-6028

  5. I loved this post. I have heard of trunk shows, but have never been to one. Some one told me I should do one, and now I feel like I could.
    Thanks, and good luck to all those in the same boat!

  6. This was very helpful and also inspires me to do a trunk show. I was kind of scared and did not have a clue where to start from for my trunk show! Thanks alot this was very helpful!

  7. I love trunk shows and recommend to all that are having second thoughts. I am a seamstress and crafter who loves to join other friends with small businesses as mine to host them prior to each season. Truly ‘girl’ time and the more I do, the more guests and shoppers are coming around…. Jump in the fun is my recommendation!

  8. If the purpose of the trunk show is to esentially get the line in a boutique per say, then why wouldn’t the boutique take the order as the designer shows it off and the boutique will execute the rest of the sale with the customer since its the boutique’s customer? To me if the boutique is inviting their own customers to a trunk show as an effort to introduce a line before placing an order- why would it make sense to give the customer direct access to the designer as far as taking the order— when that promotes future orders being placed directly with the designer, cutting the boutique out of the equation.

    • Good question – but this is not how things actually happen. The designer is present to create buzz. “Meet the artist” or “meet the designer” events are very popular. The trunk show would take place at the boutique, and the customers are actually making the purchase from the boutique. Afterward, the proceeds of all sales are split according to a pre-determined agreement, and the designer is paid. Sometimes trunk shows are done to bring in product from a line that the boutique owner already carries, but offers a wider range, or some one-of-a-kind pieces, or a preview of a new season. Other times, the designer would like to sell their work wholesale to the boutique, and the trunk show is a “proving ground” where the appeal of the line and sales help determine whether a wholesale order is placed.

      Hypothetically, the retail customers could go to the designer’s website to place orders, but any smart designer knows that if they have a line that can be wholesaled, they are far better off with an ongoing relationship with the store. This relationship creates repeat business, and larger sales. In addition, even if the designer does have an online store, their prices would be identical or higher than the boutique’s prices – it is a big NO-NO to undercut your retailers on price (and would result in the designer losing lots of accounts.)

      Hope that helps.

  9. I have been contacting boutiques and galleries in the hope of getting some buyers for my newly formed wholesale limited edition artisan accessories, and one of the galleries asked if I would be willing to do a trunk show.
    I’ve done a few with my Wearable Art garments, but never with this new line, which currently features only handbags. I’m wondering what exactly would be required or expected of me as the artist/creator.
    The gallery is about 3 hours away from where I am located, so I presume I would have to at least spend one night in the area, if not 2. At this point in time, I am not financially able to even contemplate that kind of expense, so I’m wondering if I should even attempt this.
    Your input would be greatly appreciated.

    • I think it depends on the length of the trunk show (many are only a few hours, so you could pull a long day and drive both ways), and also whether you are willing to bring your work into an environment where you may make sales to the public, but not guaranteed. Talk to the gallery and see what their terms are. You may be pleasantly surprised.

      • Thanks, Carolyn! Guess I’ll have to wait for him to get back to me. I’ve done the round trip thing in one day before, but I was about 20 years younger, lol. Probably would be able to do it if I really put my mind to it.

  10. avalovesart says

    Thanks for this informative “behind the scenes” look at trunk shows. I am considering trying to obtain a few trunk shows in the new city I am moving to next month. However, I feel a little nervous about the public interaction. I’ve done craft festivals in the past and felt the same dilemma…what do you talk about when the customer is viewing your product? What are some of the best/worst things to say when talking to potential customers? I always feel that they’ll think I’m pressuring them, annoying them, or monitoring for thiefs. I know this most likely isn’t what they’re really thinking…but I’m a less outgoing person and this sort of interaction is somewhat new ground.

    • Thanks for your comment – and your question. Trunk shows are in a more intimate atmosphere than a craft festival, and give you the opportunity to speak with people as if they are your personal guests at the event. Try to be relaxed, smiling and welcoming. Know some key facts about your work that are general – such as “they are all sterling silver” or “non-allergenic”, or share some of the inspiration for your work. This isn’t about high-pressure sales, so relax and enjoy the guests!

    • Often the less you say while the customers are browsing, the better. Let them concentrate on what they are viewing so that they are not distracted by your talking. Acknowledge that they are there by smiling & saying “Hi” & “Welcome to my….” but I usually let the customers ask questions or let them talk.

      • Rose, Although it is good to allow customers space to breathe, it is to your benefit as the artist to speak with them, open a conversation, learn about the customers and make a connection. You should know your artist story, lots of great information about your work, and above all, ask questions of them.

  11. Please name some other places that i can hold trunk shows… I want to start but I don’t know how and where.
    Please help

  12. I’m a vintage clothing & jewelry seller/dealer/supplier, who sells on ebay & etsy. I also sell to vintage stores & other dealers. I frequently sell as a vendor at different events, where I pay for my space. If I were to propose doing a trunk show at a store, I’d like to offer a percentage of my sales to the store owner. (I’d also pay for my advertising).

    I thinking of having a trunk show of vintage furs. What percentage of my sales should I offer the store owner? Thanks for any advise!

    • You may well find that the store owner already has terms worked out and they may be making that offer, not you, in which case you need to know the percentage you must receive to make your sales profitable for you. However, it is not uncommon to split sales fifty/fifty.

      • Thanks for your reply. Hmmmm, If I did 50/50, then I would save time by just consigning the items at a consignment store. I was thinking about offering 20% of my sales. It won’t hurt to ask – plus the event would bring additional businness to the store.

        • Rose, you are welcome to approach retailers with any terms you like. I myself never consigned but only sold wholesale outright, so I was not a party to this type of contract, but understand that retailers have high costs which determine what they need to make. I have never heard of a trunk show where the store took only 20%. Why don’t you consider creating your own event in an empty storefront or temporary venue?

  13. I find trunk shows to be a waste of time and more trouble then they are worth. If the establishment doesn’t want to buy your items to sell for retail, pass on them and find people with better taste and the willingness to invest in your company. If they are not willing to see the value of your product, why invest the time and energy in theirs? We must have confidence gained in creating excellent products that speak for themselves and then, people are attracted to them and actually WANT to buy them.

    • Thanks for your input, Phoenix. I think it is probably a matter of personal experience. When I did trunk shows, they were extremely well received and profitable. These shows allowed me to partner with a store already buying wholesale from me but adding to the stock with new merchandise that I brought in, and creating buzz that drove customers to the store. I sold into over a hundred retail stores which were wholesale customers, but sometimes used trunk shows to enhance those relationships. If you were approached to do appearances where the retailer had no intention of buying from you, perhaps that was the cause of your negative experience.

  14. Hi Carolyn,

    I have a few questions about having a trunk show in someone’s home, particularly a stranger. 🙂
    Should I be bringing things besides my items to show- such as beverages or snacks? In addition, what is an appropriate gift for the host? Commission, discount, a few products as gifts? Is there any other etiquette I should be aware of before showing in a stranger’s home?

    Many Thanks!

    • LC, What you are actually talking about is a home show. Everyone is different, so why not think about what you would like to receive if you were the hostess? Perhaps a piece of your work. And decide together beforehand about snacks and beverages. You might also consider a special offer for all guests to encourage purchases at the event.

  15. Hi Carolyn: I am co-owner of a new company called extendher. It’s a maternity jacket extender and a Babywearing jacket extender in one. We are selling online and at some local stores as well as on Amazon. We are trying to pick up more stores and have thought of doing some trunk shows. My partner and I have different ideas on how to proceed. Mostly I want to sell at regular price and offer the store gift card as a door prize and my partner wants to offer a discount on sales for the day. I am not sure how people will react to buying our product when it’s in the store when the sale is over.
    I am not against the sale but thinking that the product will just sit on the shelves until the next sale. I think once a customer knows that a product goes on sale sometimes, most won’t want to pay full price. (Actually this is what I generally do when I shop.) I could be wrong, so that is why I am asking you, what do most people do about luring in the customers?
    Also, if some or most do offer a discount for that day, what is the usual percentage for seller and the store?
    Thank you, Joanne Frank, member extendher LLC

    • Hi Joanne, thanks for your comment, and good luck with your trunk shows! I tend to agree with you; going to discounts right away will hurt regular sales at the store, and customers do learn to look for sales if they know the company will always run them.

      Why not try the reverse and add a small “bonus” with every purchase made during the trunk show rather than reducing the price? Think like the cosmetics companies do. They never discount, but have a small free gift at times.

      • I am fairly new to jewelry making, it started as a hobby last year. I have a full time job as well. I’m really new to all of this, recently created an Instagram account and did my first jewelry party at my house. I,d love to go to some shows or trunk shows with someone of anyone is interested. I am not sure where to begin, it seems so intimidating. I live in New York/Nj area.

        • Hello Sonia
          I am in the same boat, full-time job. started Jewellery business as a hobby too. love to go
          to some trunk shows with someone interested. if it’s not too late you can contact me let’s go further
          together and start new successful new life


          • Hi Savita,

            Where are you located? I’m in the south Florida area and I too have a jewelry company and would love to network with new or seasoned designers. My Instagram account is @caieko and website is http://www.caieko.com

  16. Carolyn,
    Our last trunk show we had three designers, a live band, a Winery, and had it catered. I have another one this Friday and I believe you are going to make this one even better. I had not thought of going to the local news or having a guestbook. I’m actually going to go out and get the guestbook today.
    Thank you very much

  17. Laura Williams says

    Hi Carolyn,

    Just a note to tell you that I enjoyed how you answered questions and responded to comments about trunk shows. I searched for trunk shows as I may do my first in September. I am an apparel rep with one ladies’ line and am offering to do a show in one of my prospective stores. I found your suggestions very helpful.

    • Best off luck, Laura! I’ve done a number of trunk shows myself, and they can be very fun events with lots of excitement. There is nothing better than seeing brand new merchandise that was just unpacked, and getting first dibs!

  18. Hello,

    I have a handbag business. Do you know who I need to contact to have a trunk show? I need help with this. Thank you.

    • Kattia, It would be up to you to speak with retailers who may want to have you come in for an event, or to locate a “pop up” trunk show opportunity in your local area. Here is an article about an annual trunk show that happens in the DC area. https://artsbusinessinstitute.org/events/trunk-show/ If you do some research, you may find similar venues – or, you might consider starting one yourself, and inviting other vendors who sell to your same audience but do not compete with you.

  19. Hi Carolyn,

    I recently became a manger of a unique retail store. I was interested in hosting a trunk show for some designers/artists. What entails for for their contract? Does the retail just host? Is there a commission fee? Are they just charged for the spot? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Have a Lovely Day,

    • Hi Rubie, Why not become involved with your local arts council, or go to a festival near you? Artists may be interested if they have the type of merchandise that fits your store, and will work out a split on the price. Since you are providing the venue, and will help market the trunk show event, you should take a portion of sales. Some stores take 50%, but you may want to consider what you feel is fair, and that artists or artisans agree with. As you make sales during the trunk show event, collect all the monies, then sit down with the artist afterwards to review and write them a check for their portion.


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