According to Rob and Andrew Pearce of Creatiques Bridal Boutique, forging the right relationships, and treating them with care and respect, is more vital than ever in today’s tough climate. Have trust in your suppliers, they say, and always ask questions when you need answers
When they say it takes two, it certainly does! Having a bridal store is not just about the bride and the sale – where would you be without the support from suppliers and industry professionals? Building a relationship with ‘them’ is something that takes time. You need to plant the seed and watch it grow; some will wither and die. Others will flourish.
An award-winning business has longevity, but it does not happen overnight. When we very first went to Harrogate we were designing and making our own label (and not just bridal dresses, but also costume, ballroom and theatre gowns), so for us it was an inspiration to view, choose and speak to so many suppliers about their labels.
We did meet with some negativity; there were those who questioned our very presence, asking what we knew about retail. But we had a good background – Rob had been a store manager for Next and also a section manager for John Lewis, so he knew more than most.
We researched many brands before we attended the exhibition, diligently checking out who was represented in the surrounding areas and who was already well-established. The first label we bought into was Justin Alexander.
Ten years ago we placed it in our new retail store in Southsea. Based on our business projection, it performed well, and we were soon ready to consider further additions. With care, we chose three labels. We flowered and grew the business to the next level; within three years we moved to a larger store, taking Justin Alexander with us and adding more labels to our offering, including Mark Lesley.
By then, we had built a very strong bond with all our suppliers. Going back to the ‘it takes two’ ethos, that bond is vital in business – a well-affirmed connection does take time to develop, but it has to be a priority, based on trust. And you have to have trust in that label and the supplier for it to succeed in your store. You have to find the gowns that work for you and your bride (it takes two, again… The brides need to trust you). After all, you are only as good as the dresses you are selling, and without that special connection with a label, where would you be?
We feel now that the designers are listening to their stockists’ needs and requirements, but we want to know about suppliers’ social media activity. What they are doing to drive their label into to your store? How much advertising is being put behind the collection? What interaction exists between the designer and your store? We can all have budgets for social media, but without interaction from both sides, how will this work?
And looking at the other side of the coin, designers know how tough it is out there for us retailers… But has anyone considered how tough it is for them, too? The investment that they are making for us as stockists is also huge.
There are now the big boys and the ‘pop up’ stores happening, as well as the brides out there who believe that they can do what you do, because the experience they had with you was amazing. How many brides who you delighted with your service have gone on to open their own shop in your area?
Strengths and weaknesses also help to build that brand we are constantly talking about. We all ask ourselves what else can we do to promote our shop, to bring more brides in? What events can we hold to show that what we do is really different from other stores around us? How can we be more interactive with brides? How many hashtags can you actually add to each Instagram picture? And should you plan Facebook posts for the entire week – is this itself a full-time job? But the FOMO (the ‘fear of missing out’) becomes stronger – and none of want to miss out.
Since social media has become the key promotional arm to any business, everyone is looking at what other stores post and trying to be quirky in filtering their own images to make their post stand out. We think that this is an incredible route to successful interaction, without your having to be in your store 24 hours a day.
But how many stores interact with their brides? What is your response rate to answering your brides back on social media? Ours is a maximum of ten minutes!
We can remember back to years ago when no one spoke about their business, no one asked about which gown was your best seller. Today it is different. We have made very good and close friends in the industry by talking ‘shop’, and engaging with other retailers, exchanging ideas and, where needed, giving advice. Yet again, it takes two!
In our area, we have very good relationships with other stores – something that would not have happened in the past; support has shown its value time and time again. Supplier to boutique to client to bride to recommendation – without all of these, where would you be? It takes two.
We have been in business now for 27 years, through the good times and the tough times. Today, these are definitely the tough times. But we’ve stayed strong, and feel that we are working with the best in the business. It’s a two-way thing. We’ll bang this drum again… It takes two.
We here at Wedding Trader are always interested in your own business’ ethos or mantra. What is your business approach to the industry? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.