Bridal shops are the latest casualty on the British high street, with many stores going into administration and the sector in steady decline over the last five years. To run a successful bridal shop, you may need to consider growing your target clientele and attracting a new demographic of brides-to-be.
Many store owners are struggling to compete with growing competition both from online retailers and big brand retailers. This article offers advice to entrepreneurs on how to overcome the competition, grow your target market, promote your bridal store and highlights the importance of building relationships in the industry, so your business can continue to thrive.
Stay ahead of the competition
Keep your finger on the pulse with emerging bridal trends; attend wedding fairs to meet designers and other wedding industry contacts. You should also regularly research who your competitors are, both online and on the high street; what makes your store stand out?
Many high street brands such as Monsoon, Topshop and Whistles, are offering wedding dresses at a fraction of the price. This has created a lot of competition for bridal stores, who are struggling to compete with the cheaper and quicker alternative to bespoke bridalwear.
To combat this, get creative on offering your clients a personal service that mainstream retailers can’t; offer prosecco during appointments, and make sure each dressing room has great lighting. You may want to also consider selling second-hand dresses for cash-strapped customers.
Many couples are focusing on other priorities – such as careers, buying a house or travelling – instead of spending loads of money on a wedding day. Consider stocking eveningwear and occasion outfits for brides-to-be on a budget, or those planning a more casual wedding.
Grow your target market
Figures show that marriages between men and women have hit an all-time low; whereas same-sex marriage is continuing to rise since changes in legislation. Try extending your range to attract more LGBT customers and they could become your new target market.
The average age for a woman to marry for the first time has increased to 31.5, according to data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics. Many bridal stores are catering towards the more mature and sophisticated bride, and stocking designs to appeal to women over 30.
Try to cater to all body types and sizes and consider buying dresses designed for plus-size customers. Make sure your employees are well-trained on how to interact with brides-to-be and their entourage; offer styling tips, recommend accessories and be helpful and honest.
Promote your store
Bricks-and-mortar wedding dress stores have the advantage of creating an alluring window display that will attract passers-by. Keep your displays seasonal and interesting; you should reflect the store’s ‘personality’ in your window. Don’t be afraid to be creative, fun and unique.
Online retailers need to rank high on Google to attract customers to their site. Hire a marketing guru that can utilise search engine analytics and SEO to your advantage. Make sure you have high-resolution photography, videos, measurements and details of all your stock.
Bridal boutiques that operate from home will need to invest more in marketing and advertising
compared to high street stores. You can’t rely on branding or footfall, so your referral rate needs to be high; word-of-mouth advertising is a very effective, and free.
Exhibit at bridal fairs and shows to meet budding brides-to-be. Create a conversation-starter: you could dress three mannequins in different wedding dresses and ask passers-by to vote which outfit they like most, including their contact details; this will help boost your mailing list.
Be personable and build relationships
Excellent customer service is a must in this sector; shopping for a wedding dress is a special moment, so try to make it memorable. Spend time talking to the bride-to-be, her family and friends; ask about the wedding plans and understand the customer’s style and preferences.
Focus on building your contacts list by meeting wedding planners, florists, magazine editors, venue managers and other wedding vendors. If you forge a close bond, they’re likely to recommend your store, and you can repay the favour by suggesting them to your customers.
Ask for reviews from all your previous clients; this will make a huge difference when potential customers are booking appointments online. Be active on Instagram and ask clients if they’d like to be featured on your social media posts, rather than using stock images of models.
Talk to your family and friends about their ideal wedding dress shopping experience to get helpful tips on how to improve your service. You should have a clear vision of your current clientele and future target market, so you know who to cater towards when buying in stock.