How Trunk Shows Can Grow Your Handmade Business

Boost your sales and build gallery relationships with trunk shows.


Trunk show collage. Learn about these events by reading our article at


A trunk show is an event where you as the artist or designer make an appearance at a gallery or a retail store and sell your work directly to shoppers who attend. It’s not really a consignment arrangement, because sales are taking place while you are at the store and you keep possession of your own merchandise.

Trunk shows are a great way to promote and create excitement about your line. Quite often, a lot of marketing is done, with the retailer (and you) working your mailing list and inviting shoppers for a fun experience to meet the designer in person. Often refreshments are served to create a relaxing party atmosphere.

When making an appearance, you may bring items with you that are not currently in the store’s inventory, and will usually split sales 50/50 with the store. Use this opportunity to tell your story, share your inspiration and develop new collectors. You might be selling your regular collection, or one-of-a-kind pieces, or maybe even taking special orders while you are there.

Doing a trunk show has many benefits. The store gains because the items brought by the artist boosts their inventory without them having to invest in it. And, these events usually pull in lots of customers, who may end up buying all types of merchandise, from the artist who appears and other things as well. The artist gains because they can debut a collection that the store doesn’t yet stock, or test out a new line.

You might do a trunk show at a store which is not yet a wholesale customer of yours. This is a low-risk way to prove your sales success. You can potentially gain a new wholesale account, once they know your work sells well to the shoppers who patronize their store.

Have you ever made an artist appearance, or done a trunk show event? When you are wholesaling your line, look for opportunities like this to gain exposure for your brand and your collection, and to work directly with retailers.

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  1. I don’t understand why an artist/maker should do a trunk show for 50/50. The artist maker is investing extra time in selling at the trunk show, as well as travel and possibly hotel, and flight expenses. The artist is at the trunk show doing the job of selling which is the retailer’s job. At the least it should be 60 artist/40 store….or 70 artist/30 store for the store.

    If the work is a proven seller then they can continue with what they consider a normal business partnership of 50/50.

    Please feel welcome to offer another justification for 50/50 at a trunk show. I really want to hear it.

    • Hi Harriete,

      Thanks for your comment. I can’t imagine an artist flying to a trunk show, or incurring major travel expenses; these are mostly local events. But if such as major undertaking was agreed upon, the retailer should cover all or most of travel costs, or arrange for a different split.

      Trunk shows allow the artist to bring a large additional inventory of work for a few hours or a day and can really produce sales. In my own experience, I wholesaled to 5 Nordstrom stores in the MidAtlantic and did trunk shows at all of them. None were more than two hours round trip, and each afternoon in the stores not only produced thousands of dollars in sales, but also reorders. It was a 50/50 split. Was it worth it? Oh, yes.

      Carolyn Edlund

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