Sue Lovell, of Susan Nichols Opulent Bride, has learnt some important lessons over the last few months and has refocussed her approach to meet the needs of her brides…
As we approach the autumn of the longest, strangest and most confusing year ever, I have had time to reflect more than ever before on the direction I want to take with my business, and Covid has not only guided me, but led the way.
In early September 2019, I moved from very large, modern premises, back to my roots, my own private bridal studio. As is often the case, it wasn’t a deliberate decision, but a series of events, some I could control and felt good, some I couldn’t, and felt like a kick in the ribs and some felt like the world was falling apart around me. Good or bad these events led me back to my own commercial premises. My new studio had a new vibe, a new energy and a new concept – and it was terrifying and exciting all at once.
Thankfully My brides stuck with me, followed me and continued to recommend and support me, and so it seemed as if I may have made the right decision, despite my hand wringing and constant self doubt, things were going very well. Then came Lockdown! Self doubt, second guessing became my default setting. So when I wasn’t sulking, I was able to spend quiet time in my studio. That time was invaluable, it gave me time to think, try out, re-organise and role-play. It gave me the time to really look into what was working, and what I should change now I had the time to. I went back through every review, every bit of feedback that I had ever had. I read all the thank you notes, and cards that I had saved over the years, to build up an idea of how my brides saw their experience with me and my staff, and it really gave me surprising results, My brides found me first, then they found their dress. I was not expecting that, I thought they came for the dress, the designer label, but the common thread in all the feedback, was they found me, then they found their dress.
So as the doors re-opened, I had once again, re-designed my studio. This time, the focus is completely on one, the only element of the business that is true for us all, The Bride. Everything I do, everything in store is focussed on her, her comfort, her needs, her safety, and what she actually requires of me.
When she is with me, she knows she has my full attention, she knows that I see her, and I listen, and most of all she knows that she is sharing this space with just me. She has me to guide her. The phone gets answered away from the studio when I am with an appointment, there is no other bride in the building, no crossing over of appointments, it is completely one on one (with Mum of course) and she is not considering avoiding other brides, and their entourages, she can focus on what matters to her, finding her dress. So whilst my appointments are undoubtedly down, my work load dramatically reduced, mainly due to the lack of alterations and collections that would have us all spinning in a normal year, I am very pleased to see that sales have increased. Covid has made me focus on each individual appointment, to be in charge and to lead the way.
I have utilised all the tools of Bridallive – I am guilty of using just what I know, not what I need to know – and found my brides are split. It is almost a 50/50 split between business as usual brides, date set, all systems go for the ‘perfect wedding” whether 2021, 2022 or surprisingly 2023, and the ‘lets do this’ bride, who got engaged last Saturday, wedding is in 6 weeks. So that will be reflected in my buying this Season. I have two markets, the specific and the spontaneous, but the needs for both are the same, in terms of the experience they have, the support they get, the only difference is the availability of the dress.
I have been visiting some BrideCo stores over the past 3 months, and what I have noticed, is that the same is true for most stores, independent bridal retailers are exactly that – independent. What brings brides in, is no longer just the big brand, the label, but the people welcoming you in, the uniqueness of us as individuals.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, the unknown, one thing is constant – and that is for a bride, nothing has really changed, her focus is still on having a beautiful dress and amazing day, and marrying the person she survived lockdown with. What has changed, for us all, is how we meet her needs, and her timescales, and for many of us, the realisation that we can change labels, as we will have to adapt how we buy, and who we buy from. Relationships between retailer and supplier matter more than ever now, and many shops are not label led, but customer focussed – US being the customer. How a supplier treats their customer counts, and like our brides, we retailers share the good experiences we have. We are all just like our brides, individual’s who want to be seen, we buy from someone we can trust, someone who we know will look out for us, and someone who will adapt with us, as our needs change.
Happy buying and selling – see you at Harrogate !