Another hot topic – should retailers be transparent about prices? Many say they are but just as many are nervous, it seems, for fear they’ll be under cut by competitors
Emma Hartley of Emma Hartley Bridalwear (Colne, Lancs) says:
Yes of course a bride should be able to find out the price of the dress she has fallen in love with on your website. Often, unfortunately, when she contacts a retailer she will be subjected to an intense interrogation or a point-blank refusal to hand over the price. In my opinion the simple reason this is happening in bridal retail is because no one is prepared to play nicely!
We have all been there, Saturday afternoon, a bride trying on your brand-new collection, the one you had researched thoroughly and were so excited to take on because no one else within 30 miles was a stockist.
” I love this dress – I tried it on this morning at a different shop,” says your bride excitedly. It feels like a dagger to the heart; how can this have happened? You carry on the consultation trying to be jolly whilst feeling slightly nauseous. Of course, your bride “wants to think about it”.
You then check the website and your worst fears are confirmed, shop X ten miles down the road now also has the collection and to add insult to injury, of the 30 dresses in the collection, the ones they are promoting are the same eight you stock! So then (full disclosure) you ring shop X to find out the price and this is where the frustration really sets in hard.
Shop X refuses to reveal the price to your bridal enquiry even when you explain that you are on a tight budget and your mum lives three million miles away and you don’t want to waste every one’s time by booking an appointment.
The only way to find out the price it seems, is to book an appointment – only then will the price be revealed!
If this seems frustrating and ridiculous to us trying to do a price comparison how frustrating and bizarre must this seem to a bride?
So, do we immediately contact the supplier and demand to know why shop X has the dresses? Probably not and here lies another flaw in this industry: we realise the supplier has basically shafted us, but we have 25 of their dresses hanging on our rails and there is no opportunity or cash available to take on a replacement designer.
We don’t want to be a difficult customer because they’ve got shop X now and if we drop the label we are handing exclusivity to that competitor, leaving ourselves with empty rails.
So we secretly fume every time a bride says: “Oh, I’ve just tried this on” or “I have an appointment at shop X next.” They are probably undercutting us, but we never know for sure due to the secret pricing policy.
This is what is wrong with this industry: many retailers daren’t speak up or rock the boat for fear of the implications and this is what some suppliers rely on.
Why is this happening? Where is the bridal retailers’ code? Why, when there are so many designers out there, do retailers copy the designers of their local competitors? If every store had a reasonable range of exclusivity, brides wouldn’t be price-matching and if they had to travel 20-30 miles just to save £100 they might not be bothered.
We are doing ourselves no favours stocking the same dresses and how boring for our brides to see the same dresses in shop after shop. It’s easy to say that they will choose the one with the best service but if the service is comparable then they will choose the best price.
I think there should be a bridal retailers’ code that every retailer signs up to. Absolute minimum exclusivity of 20 miles and RRPs that we stick to.
For the record, we always give our prices when requested and if a bride rings to try to get a better deal on a dress she has tried elsewhere, we ask her the price and if she was happy with the service. If the answer is that the price is reasonable, and she is happy with the service, we will tell her to order the dress wherever she tried it on. We are not about to try and steal a sale from someone.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do as you would be done by. But I am updating my strategy: you play nicely and I’ll play nicely, but if you decide to stock one of my labels I might just take a shine to one of yours!
Carol Roberts of Carol’s Bridal Boutique (Carlisle, Cumbria) says:
They do say ‘honesty is the best policy’ and this ethos has been adapted into every part of my business. I’ve made the choice to be open and honest with all my customers since I opened the doors to the boutique back in 2010.
It’s well known that the majority of brides take to the internet to research everything for their wedding including their dress. I made the decision to list our pricing structure on the store’s web page to ensure our customers are fully informed before they arrive and therefore there are no surprises. This also helps us avoid any embarrassing situations such as a bride falling in love with a gown that she simply can’t afford.
Obviously, with the launch in the UK of a big bridal chain selling off the peg and at incredibly low prices, I also want to ensure that the customers who visit my store are not wasting their time and, more importantly, my time.
If that high street offering is what they want to buy then they are simply not my customers. I feel that by providing our pricing structure we will attract those brides who have the budget and are ready to commit to a designer gown.
We provide our brides with a professional consultation and for me this includes ensuring that every one is fully informed of everything she needs to know when choosing the most important dress she will ever buy – from the pricing of gowns through to additional costs such as extra length, modifications, alterations, etc.
My team is fully trained and versed in the store policies, which they discuss with the customers during their appointments.
We follow this strategy through in black and white in our terms and conditions, thus ensuring we build a solid relationship with our customers.
Having just completed our eighth year in business, and having made a significant increase in sales this year, I will continue to pursue a course that clearly leads to success; we will carry on doing what we are doing well.
For me, being open and honest is the only way I can truly offer a professional service to my customers.
I believe in the same policy when is comes to supplier and retailer but that’s for another day!
Rebecca Baddeley of The Dressing Rooms (Halesowen, West Midlands) says:
So for me this debate is a double-edged sword. I am all for being upfront and transparent, especially before a bride books with us so I rejoice!
YES YES YES – let’s put our prices on our website….
Then the little guy on my shoulder says: NO NO NO don’t do it!
Why? Well I’ve analysed and agonised over this. Of course, it makes perfect sense, we all want to know the price before we buy or even consider anything we look to buy. However, here, I think, is the problem: We are selling a luxury item, a beautiful, emotional, once-in-a-lifetime purchase… and there are literally millions of cheap copies out there! However, many of those cheaper offerings look amazing online having been treated to fantastic photography and shown within a highly professional website.
Brides have no idea what a true designer dress should not only look like but feel like when it is tried on. This is the dilemma we face, and it is one that can only be resolved with education.
In my opinion, massive financial investment from our suppliers is needed if we are to educate tomorrow’s bride on just what the difference is between the two. Until then, I think I’ll sit tight on the price thing… but then again, I might change my mind tomorrow!
Nicola Garton of The Wedding Shop (Colchester, Essex) says:
There is no doubt that brides are becoming more savvy with their shopping habits and price comparing has never been so relevant. The bridal entourage can be sitting in an appointment and as soon as a favourite dress is agreed on, they are openly on their phones shopping around for other shops where they can potentially get it cheaper.
I completely agree with transparency in pricing and all prices are clearly displayed on our website. Being honest and open with your customers is crucial to build trust. Brides can research dresses in advance (which they always do and come armed with a long list!), and knowing the prices before they arrive in store eliminates any shocks and that awkward moment when they want to try on a gown three times their budget.
Price transparency cuts down on the number of brides waiting to order, leaving us ‘hanging’ for weeks while they visit
It is frustrating when brides are travelling to various destinations for what is a bargain in their eyes, when in fact the £100 they may be saving they have spent on petrol!
Many bridal shops are now stating on their website that they offer a clear pricing as an incentive for potential brides to choose their store and I believe this ‘honesty is the best policy’ approach works.
Using a more transparent approach throughout the industry will only work if all designers set their own RRP.
Brides price comparing wouldn’t be an issue – it simply wouldn’t happen – if all shops across the UK agreed to use the same price structure.
But this is not the case: it is known that retailers do alter their prices based on location, and this is where the lines get blurred.
Unless all designers set their own prices and follow the same rules, it might be a struggle for nationwide transparency to work.
We’d like more views on this topic. And we’d like links to website that are showing prices –
we can’t find many. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org