By  on July 5, 1994

NEW YORK -- Success has its price.

At a time when designer trunk shows have been ringing up record results at stores across the country, some people on SA have become concerned that the numbers are being achieved at the expense of stock business and at a higher cost to the manufacturer.

There's also some consternation over the sheer number of trunk shows, as more stores and smaller designer firms join the game. Some executives at designer ready-to-wear houses worry that trunk shows are reaching a saturation point.

Upscale rtw firms and high-end stores, however, agree that affluent women shopping for top-priced clothes prefer the trunk show format because it has a sense of intimacy, immediacy, excitement and exclusivity. These executives also concur that trunk shows will continue to be the major strategy in future seasons.

In the past couple of months, fall trunk shows around the country have recorded some impressive numbers:

  • A three-day Chanel show at Bergdorf Goodman here hit $1.5 million.
  • A record-breaking two-day Giorgio Armani show at Saks Fifth Avenue here generated more than $1 million in sales of Armani's Black Label collection.
  • Bill Blass's five-day run at Saks, which brought in $750,000, was followed by a four-day show at Bergdorf's that garnered another $350,000.
  • Donna Karan's three-day show at BG rang up $650,000.
Concerned over the long-term implications of what seems to be the growing reliance on trunk shows for volume, vendors argue that the shows shift much of the responsibility for retail selling from the store onto the manufacturer.

Manufacturers have to send out representatives to assist in the selling effort, and they are forced to hold piece goods until orders are placed instead of producing in advance for stock deliveries. Producing in this manner is more costly, makers say, because it requires small and inconsistent production lots, and more fragmented invoicing.

"Trunk shows used to be the icing on the cake," said Michael Pellegrino, president of Carolina Herrera Ltd. "Today, in the designer end of the market, trunk shows are more and more the main focus of the business.

"Retailers' budgets are limited, and trunk shows are a pre-sold mechanism," Pellegrino said. "The open-to-buys of the big stores are dictated by financial people. We still want large stock orders, and are concerned with sell-throughs. But right now, the results are there at the trunk shows, so we're playing to that."

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