WWD’s guide on how to stage a successful trunk show.It’s fall, and once again it’s trunk show time. Will customers post your invite to the fridge door? Or will it be tossed in the trash? It all depends on your reputation for lively, educational affairs. Here’s how to stage the best possible show.Go Local. At Krista K in Chicago, owner Krista Kaur Meyers featured on Sept. 19 two local designers together for the store’s inaugural trunk show. "As a Chicago-based retailer, I think it’s important to support the burgeoning Chicago fashion industry," she said.Meyers said the locals, Beth Lambert of Scarlet Designs and Courtney Shannessy of Coco Plumb, are "individuals I’ve been excited about and not widely available in Chicago. Both use great color and texture. The items are striking and different, and not like things you’d see in other stores." That quality appeals to her thirtysomething customers, who are on the prowl for unusual items.The three-hour show was held on a Thursday evening, which permitted women to stop by after leaving work. Meyers served sushi and cocktails, and both Lambert and Shannessy were on hand to discuss their wares.Mix and Match. Why show one collection when you can show two? On Aug. 20 Atlanta retailer Pursenality With Sole offered customers a taste of two different dishes: conservative Cole Haan and the kickier contemporary line Icon. Why? To get two kinds of customers in the door. "You get a whole barrage of different people in," said Jackie Miklas, owner of the two-unit chain. "They look at something they wouldn’t have thought interesting before, because it’s a different presentation." To ensure that mix of customers, Miklas sent out 5,000 postcard invitations. The day of the show, merchandise was displayed on round tables. "Each collection has to look good," Miklas said. "It’s as if the customers are buyers going to market."Similarly, Sirens & Sailors in Los Angeles holds monthly parties that showcase the store’s new arrivals from all of its designers. To lend the shows a party feel, they’re often held in a downtown loft, said a store spokeswoman.Team up. There’s strength in numbers. That’s why the tony Phipps Plaza shopping center in Atlanta stages a "Trunk Show Extravaganza" each spring and fall. Between 25 and 30 of the mall’s 100 stores have participated in past shows, which last for a month, said Nicole Bostic, the mall’s marketing director.Mall management does its part by putting on a wine tasting or other events, lining up a celebrity and lending a hand with advertising. Bostic said the mall informs shoppers about the promotion in several ways: it sends mailers to the VIP clientele of each store; runs radio and magazine ads; touts the event in its newsletter; and promotes it on its Web site. The extravaganza has boosted sales, but Bostic wouldn’t say by how much. "It’s helped," she said. "A few stores have indicated that they might not have had an event [without the mall-wide effort.]"Make it interactive. When showcasing T-shirt line Rigged, Los Angeles retailer Dari invited customers to bring in their old T-shirts for the line’s designer to customize. "We sent out cards for people to book an appointment, and within a week she was booked solid," said owner Melanie Shatner of the October 2001 event. She donated profits from the event to a Sept. 11 relief fund. "People were so eager to do something to help," she said.Reach out and help somebody.Escada’s elaborate runway shows do more than thrill audiences — they benefit worthy causes. On Sept. 5, the company staged a "Couture Caravan" at its Plano store, inviting clients in for champagne and hors d’oeuvres and informal modeling. Because the store does not carry couture in stock, the caravan was a treat for clients as well as Young Audiences of Greater Dallas, an arts non-profit to which 10% of sales were donated.Bring in a star.To really rev up a show, invite the biggest name you can find (if the designer is based overseas, it is likely to be an even bigger draw). Tootsies, a Houston, Tex.-based chain, invited designer Andrew Gn to show his fall collection at the retailer’s Houston and Dallas stores. The shows took place April 23 and 24 in Houston and April 25 and 26 in Dallas. "It was wildly successful," said Penne Weidig, senior buyer for American and European collections. Gn’s appearance at the two stores garnered nearly $300,000 in sales, Weidig said.Gn agreed to the event because the stores, which carry him exclusively in Houston and Dallas, placed large spring and fall orders. "He was excited about it, and so were customers," Weidig said. Aside from sales, the event generated a fair amount of publicity for the store, she added.TRUNK SHOW 101Following, tips on how to wow the crowd.DOEducate your sales staff. School them on how customers can work the pieces into their wardrobes. "Customers really want information on how to care for items and what the trends are," said Jackie Miklas of Atlanta’s Pursenality With Sole. Court the customer. Have sales associates and buyers call key customers. Also, try new marketing techniques: Tootsies, for example, has gone as far as making look books for customers, featuring designs from lines being showcased.Pay attention to presentation. Highlight the merchandise with lighting, tablecloths and special placement in the store. "When customers walk in they know something exciting is happening," Miklas said.Consult the calendar. Shows scheduled before holidays or the week before kids go back to school are sure to tank.DON'TBlast the music. Ear-pounding tunes don’t make for an inviting atmosphere. Overdo it. Heavily staged, complicated shows only beef up the margin for error.Repeat yourself. With each successive show, do something totally different than the last show, Tootsies’ Penne Weidig said.

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