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Why golf apparel brand Honors is holding more trunk shows

What’s the best sales driver? For golf apparel brand Honors, it’s trunk shows.

The brand, which carries women’s clothing and launched last June, makes half of its revenue from an events series called Honors Hours that it holds in homes, boutiques and country clubs. The events are loosely structured — guests come by whenever they’d like during a set time window — and attendees can peruse seasonal collections, feel and try on the merchandise and give feedback directly to the Honors founders. Honors employees also offer personalized recommendations based on shoppers’ preferences.

So far, Honors has hosted a dozen trunk shows in cities such as Chattanooga and San Francisco. The events have a high conversion rate, according to co-founder Amy Parker Anderson, with 70% of attendees making a purchase either at the event or soon after. Customers buy an average of two to three units per event. The trunk shows are held all over the country, with the next one slated for early May in Los Angeles.

Apart from these trunk shows, the rest of Honors’ business comes from direct online sales. Its three founders — all of whom are golfers, and two of whom used to work at Warby Parker — created the company after feeling that existing golf apparel for women wasn’t flattering, stylish or comfortable. Honors’ products cater to the luxury golfer, with a catalog that includes a $95 Sleeveless Shirt, a $125 Clubhouse Travel Pant and a $165 Half-Zip Pullover.

As a largely online business, Honors uses its trunk shows to acquire new customers, build shopper loyalty and collect attendee feedback about the brand. “I like [customers] to feel like they have a say in what we’re doing,” Parker Anderson said. Honors also relies on Honors Hours to find out where attendees think the product would resonate, then plot out more trunk show locations based on those suggestions. One of Honors’ founders, either Parker Anderson, Huntley Rodes or Jenna Walter, is onsite at the events.

Even before launch, Honors tested out in-person activations. In April 2023, for instance, Honors held a fit session with dozens of women in its home base of Nashville to learn what they liked or did not like about the clothing. Based on their requests, Honors made adjustments to its final products, such as adding zippers to a pair of pants. Likewise, Honors treats Honors Hours as a way to crowdsource ways to improve its offerings.

“I want [customers] to always feel confident and welcome as possible to tell us things like, ‘Hey, this isn’t washing as well as I thought it would,’ because they want us to improve,” Parker Anderson said. “I feel like that relationship is built in these in-person environments. There are only so many Instagram messages you can send to somebody to try to make a connection. But that connection will always be two-dimensional.”

Honors finds real-time feedback helpful for avoiding exchanges or returns, too. If a customer at Honors Hours says they’re having an issue with the waistband on some pants, Honors can go back to its designers and problem-solve from there, Parker Anderson said. “We implement [a change], we fix it and that’s now not a problem for styles going forward,” she added. “The ability to do that so quickly, I have never experienced. I think that’s the power of the customer experience.”

Trunk shows, especially designer ones, were popular before the pandemic as a way for brands to present their latest collections to customers in a more intimate setting. Badgley Mischka, Louis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta have all relied on trunk shows in the past. With the rise of Covid-19, however, trunk shows were put on pause. Now, the events are coming back as shoppers resume browsing in person. Last July, New York City bridal salon Kleinfeld held its first out-of-state trunk show in Florida, for instance.

Katie Thomas, leader of the Kearney Consumer Institute, told Modern Retail that trunk shows can be a powerful acquisition tool for a smaller, more niche brand like Honors. “Especially for something that’s technical or performance-driven, the ability to try [the product] on and see if it really works is very powerful with apparel,” she explained. Lululemon and Athleta, both athleisure brands, offer trunk shows as well.

“There are just so many brands these days that if you’re not starting to curate a relationship with your consumer that feels more like a two-way street, it’s going to be hard to continue to be successful,” Thomas said. “The challenge, ultimately, for Honors — and for anybody — is how does that scale? Once you hit a certain point, how do you start to get that feedback together and organized?”

Honors is currently planning a summer Honors Hours in the Hamptons, as well as finalizing details for its Los Angeles show. Getting to speak with attendees, about half of whom are not golfers, is what makes Honors excited about the future, Parker Anderson said, so much so that she encourages customers to send her emails whenever they’d like. “I would rather always put our marketing dollars towards people than just throwing [the money] out in the wind and hoping there’s some connection that happens from that,” she said.