When a jewelry store hosts a trunk show event, one or two, perhaps even three designers are invited. But that’s not how Long Jewelers rolls with their Annual Designer Trunk Show when 12 to 15 jewelry designers attend the store’s pre-Christmas annual fall event. Given the number of jewelry designers under one roof for two days, there is a certain amount of planning and logistics that makes this a “mini-trade show” for the Virginia Beach, Virginia-based jewelry store’s customers.
Scheduled every November, the event’s 10-year run has always been positioned as a meet-and-greet trunk show for the store’s chief jewelry designers. The goal: Create top-of-mind awareness with a fun, gala-style event at the onset of the holiday season to kick-start Christmas shopping. But, as Jon Walp, the store’s general manager likes to say, “Sales are always welcome.”
And sales did happen at this year’s 10th annual two-day event – to the tune of $200,000 for the group of designers. But milestone anniversaries typically call for event planners to shake things up a bit. During strategy meetings with media buyers Jon did just that by adding a charitable campaign component to this year’s annual show, which proved to help boost store event awareness.
Local NBC and FOX News affiliates had already been working on their programs to benefit the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. Jon joined the affiliates’ efforts midstream in the early media buying stage to boost promotions for the store’s fall trunk show, which satisfied his store’s goal of supporting a local charity while increasing event awareness. But, Jon would later realize greater advertising benefits came with these strategic media partners.
“Given the shortened holiday season, we threw a lot of resources at this event – perhaps 15% to 20% of our fourth quarter promotional budget with TV, radio and print advertising,” says Jon. “With that level of media buying, and joining the media partners’ own charitable cause, we had most of our other advertisers contributing to the cause, with one advertiser offering 365 free TV spots across all platforms and stations. All of our media friends contributed to the cause, providing everything from airfare to game tickets to restaurant gift cards.”
In addition to these perks, added exposure to Long’s trunk show was posted on the affiliate stations’ websites and social media platforms. Combining the power of traditional and new media gave this year’s annual trunk show unprecedented exposure.
“In looking back, I don’t know why we never added a charitable component to this event in the past,” says Jon. “But we’re glad we did to help fill food banks at a much-needed time of the year, providing enough money to secure more than 11,000 meals so far. And, it showed us how powerful strategic media buying can be with partners that have similar goals in mind for the community.”
Ten years ago Jon and the store management wanted to organize a trunk show event that was bigger and better than what other retailers were doing, not just in their market, but compared to other jewelry store owners around the country. As a JCK Luxury Show retailer, Jon invited the designers he had good relationships with from that June trade fair, creating a “mini” Luxury Show every fall at Long’s.
Each summer, Jon and his staff set schedules for fall event preparations with verbal invites exchanged at the June JCK Shows. And, of the 12 to 15 jewelry designers that come to Long’s trunk show event, about eight have been coming every year since the store event’s inception in 2003.
Depending on scheduling issues, for each event Jon and his staff have to find six to eight other designers to reach that 12 to 15 number they’re after for each annual trunk show event. And, with a core group of eight designers, the main requirement is filling those open spots with other designers that have jewelry collections that aren’t already offered. Bringing in new jewelry for Long’s customers or a designer whose jewelry is on trend are also considerations in inviting designers beyond the store’s event core group.
Group rates are established at a nearby Hilton, but some designers and vendors find their own accommodations. “We don’t discourage it, but we don’t encourage it either,” says Jon. “With everyone under one roof, it’s easy for us to handle the logistics such as security, transportation, meals and the like.”
Long’s 5,500 square foot showroom lends itself nicely to the event. Each vendor has six feet of display case. Larger spaces are available, but those tend to be in the back of the store far away from the prime real estate near the front of the store. Booth space for the vendors is given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
To make room for the visiting designers’ jewelry, all of Long’s non-bridal jewelry is pulled for the two-day event and stored in the vault. Although the fall trunk event is a meet-and-greet, a number of transactions normally take place. Long’s asks that trunk retail sales prices for each designer are set at keystone.
The final challenges were promoting the event, getting people to come to the trunk show, and making it fun with contests, incentives and a gala event. Long’s and their media sponsors put a number of silent auction items up for sale to benefit the Foodbank, leading with two cruises as part of an event contest.
And, to help reach the store goal of raising $10,000 for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, Long’s and the Foodbank created a banner with a dedicated QR code that takes donors to a landing page optimized for easy giving.
“When scanned, users can scroll down to donate whatever dollar amount they want,” says Jon. “At the event, we didn’t reach our goal, but through the silent auction we did raise enough money to purchase 11,000 meals for the Foodbank [before Thanksgiving Day]. And, the QR code banner is still being used at on-site and off-site events during the holiday season to make sure we reach our $10,000 Foodbank goal by New Year’s.”
This year Jon scheduled the two-day event start date for Wednesday, November 13. The customer response exceeded expectations with 300 to 400 customers attending the two-day trunk show.
This year’s scheduling did teach Jon and his staff some lessons about seasonal promotions. For future fall trunk show events Christmas sales will be promoted more aggressively with printed flyers distributed during the trunk show. Other lessons learned this year include adding cause-marketing components, and to work with media partners earlier on to review other charitable groups to better represent non-profits in the area. And, Jon and his staff would like to do more to increase interaction between customers attending the event and the designers.
“Next year we might try to have a designer passport book,” says Jon. “Each designer will have a stamp for a mock passport. For a chance to win a prize, customers will need to have a stamp from each designer in their passport showing they took the time to speak with and learn about our store’s leading jewelry designers.”
But it’s not all just about work. As the store’s host, Jon knows social functions ensure designers and vendors participating in his store’s fall trunk show event get the second most valuable thing after sales – information from networking.
“It’s also a good time for us to learn from each other,” says Jon. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among the designers with our roots in the JCK Luxury Show. We all share information in an informal setting. And, for me, it truly is a window to our industry with so much useful industry information exchanged.”