I recently wrote an article for Maker's Row that highlights how to save money without reducing quality and I note that trunk shows are a bootstrapping entrepreneur's best friend. Trunk shows have multiple benefits: market research, broadening your client base, and connecting with potential buyers.
You have a great idea for a product and are sure that everyone will love it. You build a website and dump tons of money into advertising, product development, and manufacturing. You wait, and wait, and wait, and no sales. After spending thousands of dollars on creating, producing, and marketing your product you realize that there's no market.
This could have been avoided by a number of ways, but the least expensive (other than internet research) and most in depth is by organizing a trunk show early in the development stage. At trunk shows you get valuable feedback from potential clients and the shop owner. For example, during the prototype stage of the Exclusively Kristen Tank Top, I showed the samples to local shop owners and they gave me valuable suggestions on length, color, and other features based on their vast knowledge of the business and what their clients typically buy. Also, trunk shows allow potential clients to try on the garment and you can see first hand the fit and the client's reaction.
Trunk shows are a win win for you and the shop owner. You invite your customers and the shop owner invites hers, thus exposing each other to new potential customers. Also, it gives the shop owner the opportunity to see if your items will sell and if so, you may get a wholesale order! Getting your prototype into the hands of experts and potential customers prior to manufacturing and paying big bucks for ads will save you both time and money.