Lockdown has given us the time – and incentive – to review how we do things and examine if there is a better way. Maria Musgrove has come down in favour of paid-for appointments
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life; making lemonade is turning them into something positive or desirable.
I’m sure that we would all agree that Covid-19 falls into the category of both sourness and difficulty so how to turn this around to something positive?
BC (Before Covid) many boutiques wanted to charge for appointments but were too scared to, fearing it could be the kiss of death to their business. Five years ago I was filled with fear when I started charging £25 for Saturday appointments as the first few requests were met with refusals to pay! To charge or not to charge? That is the Question. Like Hamlet’s well-known quote “To be or not to be” this is a question of life or death.
The questions should be: “To have our time wasted or not?” and “To value our expertise or not?” If ever there is a time to introduce a charge it is NOW!
Why now and how to do it? With a robust risk assessment of quarantining dresses, a cleaning protocol that rivals that of Mrs Hinch and a stockpile of PPE and hand sanitiser, it inevitably means that our cost of sales will increase and the number of brides we can see will decrease. I’ve already spent £1,000 across two boutiques and I’m reordering masks already. We need to ensure that every bride counts and that we have the maximum chance of selling to her.
BC shopping for a wedding gown was a recreational hobby for many brides with comments like: “I’m going everywhere with everyone to try on everything and then I’ll make a shortlist of my favourites and go back to all of those shops again”. Even Randi Fenoli himself would have zero chance of a “Yes to the Dress” to this bride with her FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) mindset.
I had two other catalysts that helped my decision to charge for all appointments and not just Saturday appointments. One happened BC and the other was DL (During Lockdown).
At my Go Bridal boutique I didn’t charge for Saturday appointments and our no shows and last minute cancellations in January and February were at an all-time high. So I started charging a £20 booking fee refundable upon ordering a gown. The first Saturday in March when everyone paid I had the best Saturday I’ve ever had with four new bridal orders, two samples sold, two bridesmaid orders and two prom orders – a 100% conversion rate. And nothing had changed apart from the charge.
My next example doesn’t have such a happy ending. During lockdown, a bride who had been back to the boutique in July 2019 contacted me saying her wedding was now in October and she wanted to re-try her favourite dress. She had a new baby, lived 20 minutes away so I said I’d do a mini virtual appointment and take over three dresses – her favourite and others. I flirted with the thought of charging her £150 for my time and as a deposit but, big mistake, I didn’t.
The good news is she said “Yes to the dress” but the bad news is that it wasn’t with me. What she did was choose the dress she wanted (courtesy of my concierge dress deliveroo) and went online and bought it from a competitor at half the price. This gown, from a 2020 collection, was so new that I still hadn’t paid the invoice – I’m not sure I’ve even paid
I spent a fair bit of time analysing what had happened. Had I charged for that appointment and she was ‘into me’ for £150, I know that we could have worked out a deal. I naively thought that being kind to a new hormonal mother living locally during lockdown would have guaranteed me the sale.What I learned was that the rule of reciprocity is much more effective if there is some financial commitment.
Who was at fault? Not her… but me for not charging. I felt well and truly ‘mugged’ and vowed that I need to either ‘Earn or Learn’.
So learning from that (still slightly raw) experience I made a decision that all appointments both weekend and during the week would be chargeable at £35 at Pantiles bride and £20 at Go Bridal, refundable upon ordering a new gown (not on purchase of a sample gown or with any other discounts or designer day offers).
The result is that from reopening on 15 June in the first week I took 11 appointments at £35 (£385 almost paid for my PPE, infrared thermometer, LED ring etc) and eight out 11 brides bought. Boom!
Learning from the experienced
The other way I’ve been making lemonade out of my ‘lockdown lemons’ is to further develop the new Get Savvy membership group. Most days have seen me on a Zoom call with my co-founder Christine Skilton designing and delivering new learning modules from Instagram to Ideal Customer, Pinterest to Partner 100, Mailchimp to Making Money. And our specially-created Get Savvy War Room has been dedicated to reopening with confidence.
The main Get Savvy group was created with the aim of unlocking the secrets of successful bridal boutiques. It is a members’-only group that offers online training and networking accessible any time, any place anywhere – with or without a martini.
Whether you’re starting up, selling up, fed up, or somewhere in between, this group could be the answer to your problems. Get Savvy is the 2020 way of working on your business rather than in your business.
To find out more and get on the waiting list for when membership re-opens, go to https://boutiquepulse.com/