This month the ‘problem’ is one of local bridal shows – is the time and effort worth it in the grander scheme of attracting customers to your business? We got three experienced retailers to come up with the solutions for you
I am new – well, new-ish – to bridalwear retailing, and I’m aware of how much effort is needed to get those potential customers into the shop. My question is this: do local bridal shows in hotels and country houses actually work for others, and deliver business? And do the results justify the costs?
The Dressing Rooms
Halesowen, West Midlands
Exhibiting at small local events, usually at local venues, can be a double-edged sword.
Time out of the business, extra staff for cover, models (if there is a catwalk)… This can all add up, so these events must have a return that can be measured. Data capture, email addresses and wedding dates are crucial to this return, though with GDPR, it is imperative that you ensure you have covered this when taking these details.
These shows can be a great way to connect with brides close by and create brand awareness, locally. It’s a nice way for brides to get a feel for who you are and the ethos of your business, if it’s done right and attended by staff who you are confident will portray the image you want.
In years gone by, I would take as many dresses as possible – perhaps a rail of dresses, too – but having done so many local shows, we now limit it to five or seven mannequins and we don’t take accessories or shoes (simply because we want to attract brides who have not yet purchased their dresses, rather than those just looking for accessories).
It’s a good idea to take different styles to show the diversity you have, while ensuring that the dresses you take compliment each other when displayed.
Ensure you have plenty of leaflets, professionally designed and printed, because this also portrays the type of business you are. Above all, it’s a great way to reassure brides that they are in safe hands when they purchase from you and to give them confidence to visit you without feeling pressured into buying.
Rob and Andrew Pearce
Creatiques Bridal Boutique
For many years now we have attended local bridal shows; like others, we think of this as the window to our store, an initial ‘introduction to us’ as a boutique.
Given the small display area that is the norm at local shows, we learned early on that a ‘taster’ is what’s needed. We take five styles – slinky, t-length, ballgown, A-line and a fishtail, and find this works incredibly well for display purposes. We place the three full gowns on a draped table and the other two standing in the floor in front.
Don’t forget that you are there to represent your shop, so banners with your branding are a must-have.
Another advantage of exhibiting is the social networking possibilities with other like-minded wedding-based businesses. Those relationships mean that other local suppliers will be promoting you, too.
Find out which shows work best; ask your brides where they are getting married and if that same venue keeps coming up, you may find it is worth your while exhibiting there.
Yes, these shows can be costly to exhibitors, so it’s important to evaluate which work best for you. We colour-code the business cards we hand out – that way, when a bride brings the card into the boutique, we can tell in an instant which show brought her to our door, without asking.
Having done a huge amount of research into the retail sector – not just as the buyer, but the supplier, too – 100 percent of the interest in your business comes within the first seven seconds of meeting someone for the first time; 70 percent is based on whether they like you as people, and 30 percent on whether you have the designer or product they are looking for!
Things to remember:
• Research if a particular show is right for you and will produce results
• Always make sure your branding is prominent in your display. And smile!
• Always look smart. A badge is effective – wear one with your name and shop name. You want to make an impression, and brides to remember you.
Ellie Sanderson Bridal Boutique
Beaconsfield and Eynsham
Love them or hate them, wedding shows are a brilliant way to get in front of your target market.
A few years ago I changed direction from national shows to more local shows and small intimate events; now I handpick the venues I want to work with.
I like to know the following before agreeing to attend, so now I do some investigating and ask (or do) the following before I attend such shows:
• How many bridal shops are going to be there?
• Who are they and do we each represent a different market segment in terms of price or style?
• Does the venue profile match that of my bride?
• How will the venue promote the event, and what is the expected number of guests expected to attend?
• Will there be a fashion show? (If there isn’t, I offer to host one.)
• I always have a model at the show and collaborate with others to do her hair and makeup.
• Consider how you will present a pop-up of your brand. Myself, I have a personal loathe of banners and mannequins on tables. I take a capsule edit that represents my collection.
• I also do demonstrations to get the girls talking.
I try to do as many shows as I can, personally. It’s great to build relationships with the venue; it’s also great for networking with other like-minded businesses.
But, more than anything, these shows put you personally in front of your client. This is your time to put on your game-face.
Talk to them about why they should choose you, get them booked in, see them personally when they come in and foster that relationship. I also ask brides to opt in to our database, so that we can stay connected.
Four hours on a Sunday is a big ask, but to convert one or two is well worth the effort. Often it’s a lot more than that. Everything I do now is small, intimate and personal, and wedding shows should be the same.
Got a problem in your boutique that’s 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 anonymous, we’ll respect that. Drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.