Discover how to build new revenues around your bridal boutique business thanks to Erica Wolfe-Murray, the UK’s leading business and innovation expert…
Odd though the comparison might be, bridal boutiques have a similar commercial dilemma to driving instructors… Once you have courted, won, and satisfied your customer, sending them off with their wedding gown (or having got them through their driving test), it is unlikely you will ever see them again. Both types of business have a constant, unremitting search to keep the new business pipeline full.
Other than adding new and different elements around the dress sale, how can boutique owners build new revenues around their business?
The answers to this question lie in your knowledge, the behaviour you spot, the customers who know you and trust you… so let’s take each one and unpack it a little.
Your knowledge : if we spent time writing out a list of your knowledge, it would range across designers, materials, decoration, etiquette, family nerves. The list would be lengthy.
Let’s just take materials – you have a deep knowledge of the delicate stuff wedding dresses are made from. You know how to alter them, mend them, adapt them.
Hawick-based knitwear designers and weavers, Love Cashmere, no longer just sell cashmere but offer a specialist service mending and redressing customers’ own cashmere garments. You sign up and pay online, sending the garment to them. On receipt, they check it, mend it perfectly, wash it and return it to you beautifully boxed with a cedar-wood moth-repellent gift. This type of service widens their customer base, brings in work during quieter summer months, and evens out the cash flow. And it is doing it through using the existing team’s existing knowledge and expertise.
What additional services could you offer your own customers based on your extensive knowledge? It’s worth asking past customers what their thoughts are. And don’t feel you have to just offer this to your own customers – with easy access to marketing through the internet, the whole of the UK can fall within your catchment area.
The behaviour you spot: We’ve all heard about ‘big data’ and how it can impact business, but ‘small data’ – the data you have in your business – can be just as valuable. Data is generally about how people behave – so when they shop, who they like, how many visits they make to you before purchasing, but also what they want to do with their wedding dresses after the wedding.
Certainly there is an after-wedding service in adapting the dress to other uses, mending or dyeing it, but for those who want to treat is as the precious heirloom it is – perhaps you could offer an annual clean, refurbishment, repack service? Add to that a storage service… or if divorce looms further down the line, you could offer to auction it for them, keeping a commission in the process.
Your customers : Having developed a close rapport with both the bride-to-be and her mother over several months, it must be wonderful yet sad to see them walk out of the store for the last time prior to the wedding.
What can you offer them ‘beyond the wedding’? Could you host evening events inviting the local brides and/or their mothers to share a celebratory post-wedding glass of champagne, contribute ideas to a blog of wedding tips, meet the designer, watch a movie, share details and laughter about the event? Make it a warm, welcoming party group. By engaging with them in this non-commercial way, you will be at the top of their mind for recommendation to other friends when they decide to get married.
There are always so many surprising ways of finding new revenue streams, of developing ideas out of the unique core of your business. Try to look for the unexpected, beyond the edge of your current business footprint. Be imaginative putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. And have fun – do it with delight!