Be prepared. That’s the message from our resident retail columnist Laura Daly, of Bellissima Weddings. Here she looks at the threat of another high street and online operation that’s pulling in some quality labels…
This glorious age of all things being available on the internet has been both wonderful and dreadful in equal measure. While we can joyfully get our message out there to all more easily than ever before, the same thing applies to everyone else of course, like it or not.
Over the years, our sector has had to fend off copy gowns being advertised directly from China or through famous auction websites, genuine items being available to purchase in dollars through American bridal shops at prices we couldn’t possibly hope to match, and the proliferation of outlets for all the old samples swilling about, owing to the constant pressure to buy more pieces while a list of dissimilar styles is discontinued.
There have been retail casualties through all this, but those of us who have been wise in our buying, moved with the times and kept our bank managers sweet will have just managed to keep our heads above the water.
However, what is coming up is truly terrifying, and could well be the wave that pulls us under if we don’t plan for it right now.
“We need to plan for this right now”
We’ve all been aware of high street fashion chains trying their luck with bridal ranges. Inevitably they have taken some sales from the rest of us, but for the time being at least it seems that the majority of brides still prefer to shop in a traditional full-service boutique for greater choice and, hopefully in most cases, superior quality.
Think of your favourite bridal label; the one you’ve spent the last umpteen years supporting, placed repeat orders with and thereby helping it to expand and grow. Then visualise half a dozen or so of your best-selling dresses from that label. Would you be happy to find those styles readily available to buy online, through a prestigious website, at a lower retail price than you can offer, and with free returns to boot?
Sadly, this is apparently what is happening. The reasons for it will no doubt be complex and I was not privy to the dealings, discussions or agreements that brought it about, so I cannot lay blame squarely in one corner. All I can say is that, in my opinion, the impact of it could quite easily be disastrous for bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Ultimately, we could find ourselves being used as a place to enjoy the experience of trying on wedding dresses that are subsequently purchased online, cheaper and with the right to return.
So, where does this leave us? How can we compete? We need to be talking to our suppliers now, asking difficult questions, and doing some serious homework before spending any money on more frocks. Think carefully about the companies you deal with. Invest your money only where you are happy with the answers you get.
I believe that any supplier who supports such a venture either has not fully thought through the possible consequences, or has thought them through and simply the does not care – which is ten times worse.
Identify your market. Identify your bride. Buy for her, and sell to her in a way that she appreciates and understands. Selling online does not take a great deal of skill. You are the expert at selling face-to-face. Never forget that. It could be what saves you.
Got advice to share with fellow retailers? Suggestions for how to combat the competition? Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.