You sent us another interesting ‘problem’ this month – how do you deal with a bride suggesting that the offer of a discount will help you get her business? We got views from three retailers: how do they respond to requests?
As you all know, brides are always asking for – and expecting – discounts. I’m never sure how best to handle the question, and my staff aren’t, either. Is there a percentage discount we retailers should all agree to, for example? After all, in this climate, no one wants to lose a potential sale. And, if you offer an accessory instead of a discount, what value should it have? I heard recently about one shop who gave bride a free hand, and the girl picked up a Swarovski headdress that was worth hundreds of pounds, claiming it as her ‘discount’…
Rebecca Doyle (Isabella Grace, Royal Tunbridge Wells)
“Don’t do it! Discounting dresses does one thing to your business – it directly attacks your bottom line.
Think about it like this: you sell a £1,500 dress that cost you £500+VAT to buy from your supplier. Of the £1,500 price tag, £300 goes straight to the Government as VAT. Then, taking off the £500 cost of the dress, you are left with £700. Off of this come all of your overheads – your rent, rates, lighting, power, wages, advertising, banking charges, marketing fees… The list goes on. Our overheads per full bridal appointment work out as approximately £225. This leaves us with £475. That’s less than a third of the sale price of the gown. Not a lot, is it? Considering all of our hard work we put in to getting that sale?
Let’s look at the same example with a £200 discount given off the dress. The £1,500 price tag now becomes £1,300. Of that, £260 goes on VAT and after the cost of the dress you are left with £315, just over a fifth of the original £1,500 price tag on the dress. That’s alarming.
Both examples assume that the bride only comes in for one appointment, which, in this day and age, is unheard of. Once you take off another half of the cost of one appointment you’re left with even less (£362.20 on a £1,500 dress with no discount given, and £202.50 on second example, the the discounted dress). Then, if the bride comes in for more than two appointments, you are running at a loss on the discounted dress. And then you have corporation tax that will come off of anything that’s left!
If you’re going to offer any incentive to the bride, offer a small amount off accessories or a free veil that only costs you £30 to buy in. The bride will still think she is getting a great deal and you can clinch that sale. Alternatively think of ways to add value to the sale, in-house alterations, styling appointments, or a goodie bag that doesn’t cost more than a few pounds to put together.
I strongly recommend you work out the cost of a full bridal appointment in your store. Then you can work out what you are worth and you’ll realise what you can and can’t afford to discount.”
Helen Lord (Lulu Browns Bridal Boutique, Walley, Lancs)
“We stopped offering discounts just over three years ago and I can honestly say we have never felt the need to go back on this approach. It makes our staff feel confident when confronted with the question of a discount, to be able to simply say “Sorry, we don’t offer any discounts on full price gowns.”
But do you lose out on sales you ask? Possibly. However, I think our reputation for excellent customer service and the trust that now comes with our brand means that our brides wouldn’t feel the need to consider asking for one in the first place.
There is no skill in selling full price gowns with any form of a discount. The art of great retail is knowing your worth and understanding your profit margins. Brides are not ‘expecting’ a discount. We, as an industry, have made her used to being told yes, she can have one.
If you absolutely feel like you have to offer her something, then a £50 accessories voucher is more than enough. For example, a veil that you sell for £120 might cost you £30, by offering her a voucher off the price off a veil, you will still be making a profit and you will also have your full dress price in your till. That’s much more cost-effective than doing something as drastic as taking 10 per cent off a £1,200 dress and it costing your business a direct £120.”
Jess Russell (Stunning Bridal, Northampton)
“We have become increasingly more strict about discounts. We do a number of Designer Trunk Shows throughout the year and at those events we do offer a small percentage off all orders placed over that weekend on that particular designer’s gowns. However, as policy, in order to secure the discount, a bride is required to pay a 50% deposit that same day.
We always advise our brides of the date we expect to receive the dress from the designer, but if a wedding date is too close to allow for normal deliveries and a rush order is necessary, no discount is given on the order that is placed at the trunk show.
If there are samples on the rail that we are prepared to sell – though this is not always the case – we will offer a small percentage discount.
During a bride’s first appointment, if she does raise the subject of a discount and we believe it may help us close a sale there and then, we do dangle a little incentive – but it applies only if an order is placed at that first appointment.”
Got a problem in your boutique that is causing you headaches? Don’t panic. We’ll get your fellow retailers to give their views and words of wisdom on the topic. If you’d like to remain annonymous, we’ll respect that. Drop us an email on email@example.com.