Andrew and Rob Pearce of Creatiques have never been busier! Since bridal retailers have re-opened for business, they’ve had more yesses to more dresses than ever before And during lockdown they worked harder than ever developing new strategies and setting their own style for the future
“We are back… and back bigger, brighter, and better than we were before,” say the Boys. “While lockdown for many was isolating, we were so motivated that it actually did us the world of good. It made us realise that for a small business with two members of staff, we can close for an annual holiday and that we aren’t being held to ransom on the FOMO front; we have actually enjoyed time away to re-evaluate and refocus on our business strategy.
“We went virtual throughout lockdown. We created dream appointments for brides and sent out a questionnaire in advance asking for all the information that we would normally gather for a ‘regular’ appointment – ideas, colours, looks and their top five favourite dresses from our collections.
“We created a private Pinterest board so they could see their story and we added our suggestions of colour ideas, flowers, items that their partner might like and more and had everything ready for their virtual appointment, (VA).
“The programme was a huge success with girls pre-booking the gowns they wanted to see, and we decided it was a process we’d incorporate ongoing when we opened, creating a ‘story’ of gowns in advance of a bride’s appointment.
“Since welcoming brides back into the salon on 15 June we have sold to everyone from the selection they had chosen.
“Did we miss London? Yes of course, but we had the opportunity to work with all our designers and see their virtual presentations of the new 2021 collections. This was a real eye opener.
“Like many other stores we would never normally make our buying selection from images – we want to see gowns in the flesh. But these have not been normal times and we appreciate now more than ever that if you know your designers then you know the quality of their product.
“As an example, the virtual fashion shows from the team at Justin Alexander were informative, creative and extremely detailed. We were able to partmentalize our store into sections then choose from the collections being showcased exactly we were missing. It worked, and worked really well and proof is that as the new gowns have come through, we love them and know we made the best decisions.
“We do love attending the key trade shows but sometime your focus shifts because you have the opportunity to see your bridal friends and colleagues. By categorising the entire shop, we were able analyse which styles were our best sellers, take out the dresses that were not even being tried on, and spend the time concentrating on creative buying.
“The virtual system worked for us with many of our designers. Maggie Sottero hosted zoom meetings; Justin Alexander produced designer showcases. We felt empowered with knowledge about the new collections, and had the material to tease and tempt brides with what was to come.
“Importantly, we felt that the designers, also, came from a different perspective, and changing the way they dealt with us as clients.
“There is no question, this new world we live in sits on a forward-thinking platform – who would have thought this time last year that we would have been hosting zoom parties, wearing masks and literally covering ourselves and our shops in liberal doses of Dettol spray. The pandemic has definitely made us all think outside of the box.
“While we were closed, we redecorated the store, and extended the rear of the property to create what is now an ‘inner boutique’ for our brand-new mother of the bride/groom selection. With the department stores closing in our area we are now one of the only stores in Southsea that focuses purely on this sector of the market.
“We had originally planned that the redecoration programme would take place over Christmas 2020 period; lockdown simply brought the schedule forward and we have already had very positive feedback, with mums wanting to see the collections and accessories virtually.
“But we didn’t stop there. We wanted to use every minute of the day getting our business ready to move into the next chapter. With the rapid growth in social media as the key communication tool, accessed on mobile phones, we surveyed what people were looking at, and what platforms they were using. Instagram was number 1 and tik tok second.
“Every day at around the same time we posted – whether it was the progress of the store, new gowns we had seen, or going ‘live’ with our hysterical virtual chats online. Yes, we were the old married couple, but we made it fun and had excellent feedback.
“Going forward, it will be different to anything we had become accustomed to previously. We have made under-gowns to go beneath dresses before they are tried on – the concept came from thinking about skin on fabric and the fact that clothing will need to be quarantined for 24 hours.
“As a very busy store, we were aware of the difficulties that would result if best-selling gowns were on a ‘do not touch’ rail. Now our under gowns are being worn throughout the trying-on sessions and then placed in a laundry bin to be washed, that quarantine is now lifted.
“At the same time, we took lockdown as an opportunity to remodel our bijou independent hair salon that is in the grounds of our bridal store. We had already planned for major building works but little did we know then that the pandemic was coming or that the builders’ merchants, plasterers, wood, workers, hair dressing wholesalers and IKEA we had ordered from would all be closed.
“But once the builders were ready, deliveries were rescheduled and now, 12 weeks later, the salon is finished, and we are delighted… it looks wonderful
Much time was spent trying to decide the colour scheme.We discovered wallpaper online from Zoë Glencross. Her service was unbelievable and three days after ordering, and thanks to her helpfulness, the wallpaper arrived – ‘Bollin Bird’ in gold and deep ocean for a luxurious texture and touch of shimmer. We had bought mirrors, basins and salon seating from Alan Howard, and incorporated a combination of natural wood, gold, rose golds, ink blues and metallics into the colour scheme.
“A brand new website – www.thehairdresssir.co.uk – was built by@sarahbonddesign who also recreated the hummingbird logo we had drawn. The outdoor space is astro turfed and clients can relax in the garden whilst their colour develops.
“We have created a little piece of London in Southsea. And now we are looking forward to watching our business blossom.”