Here is an article I wrote a couple of years ago, thought I had posted it on this blog, but I can't find it now. If you hold such a show, be sure to invite ME!!! ;)
Hosting a Holiday Gift-Giving Trunk Show
Want to sell hand-crafted items at a home trunk show / open house! It can be an effective way to demonstrate products in a welcoming, cozy environment where friends gather round at leisure, handling, trying on, and experimenting with the wearable art for sale. As the owner/ creator of Scarf It Up! Wearable Fiber Art in Knit, Crochet and Felt, I have been blessed with periodically using this sales and marketing method to boost sales and earn loyal fans. And what better way to accomplish holiday shopping than to hold or host one sometime between October 1 and December 15 (or so)? I recommend trying this format to sell your own handcrafted items and those of selected other artists; it’s a win-win-win for sellers, buyers, and hostess!
The whole idea of Scarf It Up! actually started with such a show – at my daughter’s home in Massachusetts about ten years ago. In July 2010, we threw yet another “party” at her place. She invited colleagues from her current and former school districts, friends, and neighbors, and asked them to bring friends as well. She provided beverages and finger food (non-greasy/non-messy!), and I provided the products, arranged them using whatever worked in her living/dining areas, and we opened the doors to her guests from 4 – 6PM.
For holiday trunk shows, I suggest asking one or two non-competing artists to join the event, bringing their goods to the hostess’ home to offer an array of gifts for holiday gifting. Be sure to clear this with the hostess; space may be limited. Be selective about the artists you invite; quality of work and integrity are essential.
Every guest filled out a door prize form as they entered, and every half-hour we drew a name for one of several door prizes – I gave Embracelets (convertible chokers/bracelets): http://www.flickr.com/photos/scarfitup/4730440407/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/scarfitup/4727161871/in/photostream/. We collected phone numbers (in case the winner had already left) and email addresses (so I could send thank you notes to all the attendees and to invite them to join my email list).
Many of the guests had supported my work and me in the past, and I welcomed those I hadn’t met before. It was indeed a party atmosphere, but the most fun was demonstrating my pieces that have multiple wearing options (and most of my work DOES!) – and helping the women try on scarves, shawls, cachecols, vests, etc. with their many variations.
Here are tips for a successful home trunk show:
- Offer your hostess a special piece of your work or a percentage of sales. I gave my daughter a shawl that she loved AND some money to help defray the costs of refreshments.
- Have your hostess send a “Save the Date” email to guests a month in advance. Follow up with a formal email or printed invitation. Print some to stick in neighborhood doorways or mailboxes.
- Set aside an area of the home for refreshments. White wine, iced tea, and water are perfect. Food offerings included pretzels with hummus, veggies with dip, baked chips with salsa, and fruit with a dip. NO chocolate or anything greasy or sticky! You want to protect the furniture as well as the products!
- Use the entire remaining space for product set-up in various areas with mirrors. I used hangers with scarves on the curtain rods; shawls and wraps on hangers from the bookcases (use poster gum to hold the hangers on); bags and purses on other bookcases and a bench; hangers with items on the backs of doors or on door casings or hinges; jewelry on tables and neckwraps over the TV, backs of chairs, etc. I flew to MA and so was unable to bring any form of display material with me. My advice: BE CREATIVE and use whatever is available! It works!
- I am able to accept cash, checks, or PayPal, and this was announced in advance. If you can accept credit/debit cards, do so. Wear an outfit with pockets or use a fanny pack. Do NOT leave money around; set up an area for payments, wrapping, and record-keeping.
- Set up a separate area for the door prizes (collection and display) near the door. Gather that info as soon as the guests enter. Send a thank you email to EVERYONE who attended, whether they purchased something or not. I never want people to feel they have to buy something, but often they do. So it helps to have smaller, less expensive items (I had a supply of choker/embracelets at $20) for that purpose and will have felted buttons for future shows.
- I had announced through my Scarf It Up! newsletter that this open house was to take place, providing the place, date, and time, and inviting anyone in the area to attend. When I blogged about my summer plans in New England (two separate trips), a friend offered to do another trunk show for me in RI in August. And so it goes (grows!) Ask YOUR friends to consider hosting.
Was it successful? How do you measure that? Well, let me put it this way…..in TWO hours, I was able to realize more money than I had during the entire month in my two local B&M venues in NC and/or online. At the very first SIU party 10 years ago, I had doubled that, and so at first I was a little disappointed this time. BUT…..I needed to remember that this is a totally different economy and my prices were quite a bit lower when I first started. So yes, I would have to say that it was very successful and indeed very gratifying to know that my work is still valued and marketable.
Several years ago, I hosted my own holiday trunk show at home, with my husband’s work (he’s a potter) and two other jewelry designers. I live in a tennis and golf community on the coast of NC, where we relocated about seven years ago. Through various activities both within this community and in the region, I am blessed to know a huge number of people who are supportive of my work and the arts in general. They were thrilled to be able to shop at my home nearby and indeed they SHOPPED! I never want anyone to feel they must buy from me, but they did, and they do! I frequently get calls from people wanting a hand-crafted accessory to accompany a special outfit. They bring their clothes, explore my ubiquitous stash, and we discuss styles, proportion, color, texture, and more so I can design a special accessory just for them. I love it!
The value of the home trunk show is self-evident, I think.
- There is little or no commission (except what you arrange with your hostess and THAT will inevitably be far less than you’d pay in any retail boutique, gallery, or museum).
- You can organize the event at a mutually convenient time. At my home I offered two days of shopping for several hours each day, including one evening. At another’s home, I suggest at least a three-hour span including evening hours to accommodate working women. 5 – 8 pm works.
- Use as much of the house as possible. Provide ample mirror space.
- Offer a discount if feasible. Instead of marking things down, I simply offer 10% off all tags.
- Email addresses and thank you notes soon after the event remind people of the fun they had, show your appreciation, and add new names to your mailing list. I use Constant Contact to send out periodic messages to my mailing list of customers, past and potential, with Scarf It Up! news, photos, promotions, and other announcements. I recommend Constant Contact for its ease of use, very responsive support, and useful statistics.
- And the final benefits: it’s an easy way to earn considerable financial rewards, socialize with your friends and reward them with discounts, expose your talents, and grow your following.
I plan to host my own Holiday Trunk Show again this year! I hope you’ll try it too!