Clare S Thompson is the Director of The Wedding Club, with three luxurious stores – one in Birmingham, and two in London, in Knightsbridge and South Kensington. Her success story sets an example…
When was The Wedding Club launched, and which of the branches came first?
We launched in 2001 with our first store in Birmingham.
Were you involved in the bridal business before going into retail?
Yes. The business began as a wedding planning company for UK brides getting married in the US.
Was owning a shop a long-held dream?
Actually, it was more of a natural progression from the wedding planning to the love for fashion.
Was extending to London – twice over – always part of your ongoing plan?
Although we think strategically and have long-term plans, we allow ourselves flexibility, as we are aware of the need to adapt to a fast changing market. Extending into three stores has been a response to demand.
How many staff do you have at each branch?
We have three at each.
Do you offer out-of-hour appointments?
Yes. Late night Thursdays and weekends, as standard.
What days/times are the most requested?
Weekends are still the most requested, with Fridays also becoming very popular.
Which were the first labels you carried and how did you source them?
Jenny Packham, at the Harrogate Bridal Show, and Pronovias, during Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week.
Where is your hunting ground today – which shows do you visit each year?
New York and Barcelona.
With so much talk about the challenges in the market currently, how are you finding the climate… and the 2020 prospects?
We are busier than ever but we now have global competition, rather than just UK, making the conversion much tougher.
Which labels do you carry now?
Many! Alexandra Grecco, Atelier Pronovias, Berta, Bliss Monique Lhuiller, Bramley Rodgers, Carolina Herrera, Chosen by One Day Curve, Costarellos, Ghost, J’Aton, Katie May, Maid with Love, Naeem Khan, Muse by Berta, Marco & Maria, Savannah Miller, Rue de Seine, Rita Colson, Suzanne Neville, Steven Khalil, Temperley London, Two Birds, Victoria Percival, Valentini Sposa, YolanCris, Zuhair Murad.
With so many, is it difficult to do them all justice in terms of number of pieces stocked?
Each store carries a different edit, which allows each designer a good representation.
What criteria do you apply before taking on a label?
Most importantly, we need to love the brand ourselves, both in terms of the dresses and design direction and also the people with whom we have to build a relationship. Pricing, exclusivity and popularity are then taken into consideration.
Do you demand exclusivity?
It depends on who the designer is and for which store we are looking.
What sort of support do you expect from your suppliers?
We look for companies who view
the relationship as a partnership and who offer flexibility. We need to be able to work together and do whatever is necessary to service
Are most of your brides local and how many visits do they make before settling on their dream dress?
Our brides differ across all stores. We see brides from all over the world. Most brides decide by their second appointment.
How do you get your message out to potential brides – what works best for you?
Social media is our main marketing tool, alongside recommendation from previous brides and industry colleagues.
How long and how private are your first appointments?
We offer an hour-and-a-half first private appointment, unless we are staging a particularly popular event such as a sale or trunk show.
Do you find much price resistance today?
Yes, our brides and collections tend to fall into clear brackets.
What makes you stand out?
We offer a luxury experience that is also friendly.
Three pieces of advice to other retailers?
1. Be original and don’t just copy what your competitors are doing. Look for the gap that you can fill.
2. Listen to what your clients are asking for and don’t be afraid to take risks.
3. Put in the hours and the hard work if you want your business to be a success.
Find out more at thewedding-club.co.uk