Whether you’re a start-up or fully established, don’t miss these top tips for creatively customising your bridal boutique. Carrie Marsden gives a view…
Recently I was in a restaurant and in the ladies’ room, written across the mirror in an italicised hand, read the words: ‘She was incandescently beautiful and beauty was the least of her.’ I was wearing their carbonara sauce at the time so I highly doubted the sentiment, but still, my goodness me, it made me feel something.
It was unexpected and glorious and new. Evoking and sustaining this feeling in every bride who walks through your door is the remit of a beautifully bespoke bridal boutique.
And just like that brilliant restaurant, it can be as simple and inexpensive as a decorative wall adorned with beautiful quotes in different sizes, font and colours (although we think monochrome would work best).
You’re not in sales, you’re in sensations. So let it be sensational. We explore our top tips for creatively customising your bridal boutique…
I Am Who I’m Meant To Be: This Is Me (Your USP)
Who are you really, and what do you do that’s you? This needs some thought.
You’re the boutique that takes old-school polaroids of brides and gives them as gifts in a goodie bag.
You’re you because you don’t offer Prosecco but your signature drink – a Dirty Martini – just because.
You’re you because you’ve teamed up with the local bakery and offer your clients a slice of wedding cake served on delicate china.
You’re you because you’ve painted one wall with chalkboard paint and customers leave their testimonials in their beautifully eclectic scrawl on your novel ‘graffiti wall’.
You’re you because you’ve rigged up your favourite moments from weddings in films on a loop to be played in black and white on a giant screen at the back of the store.
You’re you because you give guests a choice of mood music – from classical composers to Hollywood Belting Ballads from the ’80s.
Whatever it is, find ‘you’ and make a big play of it.
Top tip: Don’t forget the boys. While the grooms might stay away on pain of death, the father of the bride could well put in an appearance. Have a staff member designated and primed for the men and why not treat them to a whisky (as if by magic from an old-school globe that opens James Bond-style and twice as cool).
Meet the Team (You had me at hello…)
Your staff are your ambassadors; invest in their training. They need to be knowledgeable, personable and approachable.
We like the thought of a dress code, perhaps a uniform colour, but certainly not black. Consider incorporating something of your brand name into their ‘look’ – a silk scarf, for example, that can be worn in different ways.
These men and women are your boutique; they need to inspire faith and confidence and put brides completely at their ease. Consider hiring female staff both in their twenties and forties; your brides could be young first-timers, on their second marriage, or choosing to say ‘I do’ later on in life.
Top tip: If you have married staff, ask them for a photo of their own wedding dress and make a collage. Nothing says ‘accessible’ like “yes, we’ve done this too!”
The Narnia Effect (Ambience is everything)
Picture the scene: a nervous bride crosses your threshold shielded by an entourage of family members. She has that distinct look in her eye that says something like:
“I know I’m engaged and definitely will be a bride, but right now I don’t feel like a bride and I have no idea what I’m looking for and I stupidly ate a double-cheese burger precisely 16 minutes ago and in the name of all that’s holy I think I’m wearing black underwear and my nan says she’ll disown me if I don’t wear a veil and I have no idea what high-low length means and I’m FREAKING OUT, MAN!”
This is why ambience is so important. For exactly this reason right here. Your boutique is a haven. In physical form, it ought to afford the bride the equivalent emotion of, “Lady, I got you. I’ll take it from here.”
There are a million different ways of creating ambience, most of them well known (think tactile, layered textures, incredible lighting, and decadent seating).
So let us take the road less travelled…
Why not open on a Sunday in time for Steve Wright’s love songs? Ambience, atmosphere, something different: it’s all there.
Let brides truly step into a wonderland and create themed ‘pockets’ in your store (Boho-Chic, English Country Garden, and so on).
Do your homework and be in the know: read Love Our Wedding for its Find My Theme features and recreate the look. Then team with four or five dresses that epitomise this style. Help brides visualise their day. Make your boutique a feast for the senses inspired by the Lookbook, mood board approach.
Top tip: Plan ahead and be inventive. Who can you team up with in the community to put on events with – how about photographers florists, or venues? Offer to be the venue and start the collaboration.
Create a framed table plan-style ‘what’s on’ for the week/month ahead’ at the entrance of your shop and be high-vis. Tea-length Tuesdays, anyone?
It doesn’t need to look like a Moulin Rouge set
You’re aiming for your customers to be so enamoured with their surroundings and your exemplary service, that they nestle in deep, breathe easy, relax, and stay. They forget they’re here for a dress, because they’re being treated to so much more.
Your boutique need not be a theatrical, Moulin Rouge-style spectacular (although if Ewan McGregor is about, we’d definitely get him in for his rendition of Your Song), but it does have to be memorable. An experience.
The bridal boutique industry undoubtedly faces challenges from both the high street and the internet. But neither of these can create your unique atmosphere.
And it’s precisely this irreplaceable experience that brides want and will keep coming back for. Plus, you’re not fazed by a challenge, right? And no one can do what you do, correct?
Like anything worthwhile, getting it right will be hard work. But where there’s passion, creative flair and commitment, there will also be a beautiful bespoke bridal boutique…