Fashion Shows – To Do or Not To Do? That is the Question

By T.J. Reid, Editor of Fashion Advantage 

TJ ReedRecently when a retailer sent in a question for our membership to answer. She asked, “Does anyone charge for giving fashion shows? It seems like it takes so much of our time away from the store, etc.?” Many replies were given, so here below I used some in my article.

But first, do you know what a fashion show actually is? Many people confuse it with a trunk show, in-store modeling, and accessory demonstrations or style workshops. None of those qualify as a “fashion show.”

A fashion show is an event put on by a fashion designer to showcase his or her upcoming line of clothing during Fashion Week. (I have been many times in New York, and it is quite exciting, and very short – a matter of minutes.)   Stores do fashion shows within their community to present their current season merchandise and/or to entertain & support civic groups, charities. (These are generally an hour or more long – a social event, that sometimes in addition to models, also features guest speakers, musical talent, live and silent auctions, etc.). 

OK, so as a store owner, how do you know when to say “yes” to a school group or charity or even the chamber when they ask you to participate?

A Florida retailer said: “I only do fashion shows out of the store for 125-150 or more  attendees.  I always give them a gift certificate or store bucks or some kind of incentive to get them to the store.  If the show is away, just jewelry and accessories.  It’s just too much to carry all of the sizes.    I try to limit the number of show out of the store to two a season.  I can focus more on two great shows than a lot of smaller ones.  My clothes do not get shop worn, and I am not exhausted at the end of the season.”

Kansas store owner offered: “We do not do shows for crowds of less than 20. It is not worth our time or expense to do so. If there is a crowd of less than 20, we have given fashion presentations (talks) that cover the latest trends, colors and styles. We can do this with just two of us.”

From Iowa: “We do fashion shows all the time.  We actually take the items the gals are wearing to sell right after the show (a rolling rack of clothes). We offer all customers $5 off on clothing items and we give back 10 percent of sales to the club or organization.  I love doing outside events, I never think they are too much work. I always do my own commentary and we get huge business from doing these shows.  It always drives traffic to our store in the days to follow.”

From Kansas: “We don’t charge, but we ask to set up a mini-store to sell while there, to help offset the employee costs, and costs of being out of the store.”

From Kentucky:  “We do in-store modeling, and also modeling at a restaurant next door at lunch about once a season.  It is easy to add and change accessories from the rack.”

From Illinois: “I never do a show and unless they let me set up a table to sell scarves, purses, jewelry – lots of accessories that are easy to transport and easy to sell.  I then give shoppers a coupon off any sale they make back at the store in the next week!”

From Missouri: “I have min-shows during lunch hours, inviting customers to bring in their bag lunch and join us!  They come and go for about two hours. Quick, fast paced – we furnish the soft drinks and tea, and a spot to sit.  Draw names from attendees at 5 p.m. for a gift certificate.”

And the suggestions and great advice went on and on. But before you start, there are so many things to consider: Where? When? What Time? Refreshments? Door Prizes?   Discounts? Stage/Audience Set-up? Models? Tickets? Music? Who benefits?

One final piece of advice: You should always be the emcee. Even if it is a group show with other stores, attendees give all the credit and accolades to the emcee. Also make sure the last outfit of the show is from your store! It’s the one they remember!

So it sounds complicated? Your fellow retailers are always willing to share their experiences and expertise with you. Come see me at AmericasMart, and join other store owners at my networking at 5 p.m. on Friday June 6, in the Floor 8 buyers lounge. Bring your questions; leave with answers! Love to see you! And don’t miss my workshop on Saturday, June 7 at 10 a.m. on Floor 8 for more retail how-to’s

T.J. Reid is editor of FASHION ADVANTAGE magazine. Pick one up at market. You’ll love it! Visit or  call 800-221-8615 for more information.

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