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TRUNK SHOWS. TO THE uninitiated, they can seem a daunting prospect. What if no one comes? Of course that could happen — in which case you’ve earned yourself a major learning experience and your staff a pile of free hors d’oeuvres. But there’s a reason the trunk show is a retail staple — and not just in this industry. A successful event can boost sales and inventory turnover, create “destination” buzz around your store, build relationships with customers, vendors and community, and give you a reputation as a fashion-forward retailer.

The key to success, of course, is planning. Not all eyecare businesses are alike, and there is more than one way to hold a successful trunk show. But planning should always cover the following bases at least:

  • Choosing the right audience, the right vendor(s) and the right time
  • Pricing appropriately
  • Making it exciting, fun and interesting enough to be worthwhile attending
  • Marketing it thoroughly
  • Staffing it properly
  • Following up

To help you get a sense of what that might look like in the real world, we asked our Brain Squad of eyecare biz owners and managers to give us their recipes for a successful trunk show and handpicked the following 11 standouts.

A PROPER VIEW
WINSTON SALEM, NC

Truly, a good trunk show comes down to the products offered, and (to an extent) the rep. We are selective about which brands we have for trunk shows with those reasons in mind. There is a definite increase in sales when [your rep] really knows the line. We run reports in our EHR to find people who have purchased frames from that line in the last two or three years and market to them directly first, before reaching out to our patient base as a whole or do online marketing. Typically we offer some sort of same-day discount on lenses with the purchase of a frame, but not always. Kelsey Bredice

MCCULLEY OPTIX GALLERY
FARGO, ND

Get the vendor price list ahead of time and price it out with your pricing. Make personal phone calls: “Dr. McCulley is really hoping to see you at our trunk show on Thursday!” Advertising on social media. One frame line at a time, no competing reps. Only book glasses patients on the schedule. No CL fits, no medical. All staff involved. Get everyone to give their opinion on frame selections. Have a great rep who knows their collection and isn’t spending their time on the phone… The reps should sell as much as your staff do. Crank the music, pop the champagne, and have fun! Jenna Gilbertson

OUR TAKE: “No competing reps” clearly works for this practice, but in fact there are schools of thought on this. Multiple reps can work provided it suits your target audience. According to Trudi Charest, sales coach, trainer, marketer, and best-selling author : “Maybe it’s just one frame vendor or multiple frame and sunglass vendors. You might even consider having vendors like dry eye or contact lenses there as well to talk about new treatments and products.” Which brings us to…

PHYSICIANS OPTICAL
MCMINNVILLE, OR

We had good results mixing reps at a show. We brought in three different reps for one event and they each brought their best and tried to outdo each other. A little friendly competition worked wonders. We also had a great variety of styles for our patients. Everybody won in the end! Matt Combs

OSKALOOSA VISION CENTER
OSKALOOSA, IA

1. Plan well in advance: no ad hoc trunk shows. 2. Partner with your vendors and seek their counseling as well (frames, lenses, labs, contact lenses) and often they have swag and things for raffles/drawings. 3. Pick a new theme every season/year and have fun with it. 4. Get the word out everywhere, including any neighborhood businesses (who also may want to partner/sponsor/participate) use your email/text lists of past and present patients. 5. Have your “whale” list ready for those super special deals and exclusive frames that they can peruse before the show starts. 6. Incentivize the shoppers and the staff. Chris Clark

OUR TAKE: The advice to tip off local businesses is huge. As Charest notes, this is a “great time to partner with neighboring businesses… See if they can offer … giveaways, special discounts or bring something into your practice that day in exchange for exposure to your patients.”

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SPECS BY KYLA
ATASCADERO, CA

I did my first trunk show last spring and I expected crickets. It was with VUE DC/Very French Gangsters and it was insanely busy! We did French-themed music, I purchased macarons from a local baker, and did email and social media blasts. We did two frame giveaways. We did $15,000 in five hours. Grateful it was such a hit! Kyla Skinner

OPTICAL OASIS
JUPITER, FL

“I had an event for National Sunglass Day, which is not [high sales] season in Jupiter. I’m old school — no computer, all handwritten — so I went through my file cabinet and started calling my customers. It was the best event I ever had: My shop is 760 sq. ft and I have no doctor. I run it by myself. My Maui Jim rep Crystal helped me and we did over $16,000. It was awesome.” Julie Uram

OUR TAKE: Smart move. According to the Smart Retailer blog, when planning trunk shows it’s wise to “stay away from the typical ‘sale seasons.’”

VISION TRENDS BY DR. SCOTT KEATING
DOVER, OH

Trunk show with major tag sale after attending Vision Expo. Advertise that you brought home all the latest styles in eyewear. That way you are not narrowing your event to just one line. However, we do encourage people to look at the trunk show display since the rep took the time to come and help with the event. Scott Keating, OD

OUR TAKE: Just think of the Instagram possibilities, as each of your posts from VEE becomes an advance promo for your trunk show…

TAYLOR EYE CARE
CARMI, IL

I think the most important thing to do for trunk shows is have your schedule super busy. Make sure you only book comprehensive eye exams/refractions without any special testing or glaucoma management patients. Advertise at least a month before and make sure you have frame vendors there with killer personalities that will help you on the sales floor. Morgan DiMaggio

20/20 OPTICAL
FERGUS FALLS, MN

Our Trunk Shows always kill it! We have our sale during the same month each year on a Tuesday of our choice. We offer 50% off a complete pair of glasses if you choose a frame from the frame rep that is there that day. If you choose any other frame brands you get 40% off. Discount can only be used on complete pairs but you can use our BOGO deal on your second pair of anything! We get a deal from our lab and from our frame rep. Amy Donoho

OUR TAKE: In terms of pricing, go with what works for your target audience. As a general rule, however, the idea is that a trunk show is an exclusive event, not just another sale. “As such,” says the Smart Retailer blog, “the pricing should reflect this. Don’t offer discounted merchandise. Instead, consider noting in the marketing materials and signage that items are ‘Specially priced for the event.’… Consider offering a discount on other merchandise in your store for anyone attending the event or give away a gift with purchase.” Again, target audience is key. Bottom line: 20/20 Optical nailed it.

UBER OPTICS
PETALUMA, CA

We hit it every single time. At least, I think I do. We have a ’50s bar in our shop so we use it and have an ice bucket with white wine and bubble water. We have snacks, fruit, cookies, bread, cheese, crackers. And I kick ass with really fun ads and emails that plug the trunk shows. We have them on a Saturday and all hands are on deck for help. Our goal is to hit $20,000 a show. Nancy Revis

OUR TAKE: A revenue target is a good motivator. According to Charest, it’s important to set a goal for any promotion or initiative, and trunk shows are no different. “It’s a target to hit and measure success by as well as compare year over year.”

ACADEMY VISION
PINE BEACH, NJ

We promote it for a month before so it’s likely we’re successful because some patients that may have purchased earlier wait for the sale day. But every year, every rep that comes tells us that ours is one of the most successful trunk sales they do even when compared to multi-doctor places. I have my artist paint the sale day on the side of the building and do some light social media invites on Facebook, and a week before putting it on my website. We get local businesses to donate door prizes and usually have one large door prize for the day but overall we give out over 25 prizes. Marc Ullman, OD

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