Owning a bridal boutique

posted 2 years ago in Dress
Post # 30
Member
2020 posts
Buzzing bee

ohkae :  I’ll touch on the experience part since you’ve gotten some solid business advice. This sounds very similar to a bridal shop in my area, and here’s been my experience with them. I’ve actually gone twice, since I was previously married about 7 years ago and then just went again last week to shop for a dress for my upcoming wedding.

  • These very small boutiques tend to follow trends, so it narrows the market for what a bride is going to be able to try on. In my case, I wanted nothing overly lacy, blingy, heavy, long sleeved, high necked or keyhole backed. That eliminated almost 97% of what was available to try on at this small boutique salon. I pulled 8 dresses, and that was about all they had that was more on the “simple” side. I didn’t feel like my criteria was that narrow, I wanted something light, with a low back and a small amount of detail in a sheath or trumpet silhouette. I was open to straps or strapless, any colors, any brands. But, with only a few hundred dresses (I think she said they carry 300), I only had a few to choose from to fit that need. So in your friends case, I would make the website VERY specific on the types of dresses she will carry so that brides don’t come in there thinking there’s a large selection.

 

  • In addition to that, it was very cramped and I was having to constantly take the dresses off immediately and make a “yes/no” decision so that way my reject pile could get put back on the racks ASAP for those shopping. This was aggravating to me because I wanted to wear it for a minute to see how it sat, how heavy it really was, how it felt to walk around, etc. Also, they would allow NO pictures, so I couldn’t even see if it looked ok from the side or if I liked how to photographed. They used the whole, “the designers don’t allow pictures” things. Yeah— I’m sure Mori Lee would be heartbroken to know her white strapless satin dress was photographed–*gasp*– in a wedding boutique!

 

  • I know it’s not the salons fault, but I seriously hate the questions and “personalization” of it haha. I was asked a TON of questions before the appointment began for my “consultant to help me”. I’m OK with wedding date, grooms name, style preference, price range questions… but they seriously wanted me to put down floral scheme colors and bridal party info and yada yada that had NO bearing on buying a dress.  They were trying to create that TV moment by dimming the lights and giving me a veil and a fake bouqet when they felt I was close to making a decision. Not every bride is a first timer, and not everyone is having a pretty princess day… so I didn’t like the whole “this is the greatest moment of your life!” forced happiness from the salon staff. No, it isn’t. I’m buying a dress I will literally wear for 5 hours and take a few pictures in. It actually has no impact on how great my life is!

 

  • The sales pitch when dress shopping really aggravates me. The first time I did this, almost a decade ago, I had a hard time saying no and wound up with a dress that was very nice– but I think part of the reason I chose it was because there was a lot of pressure in the moment to pick something out. The whole bridal industry places SO MUCH PRESSURE on finding “the dress” that you go into it feeling like you must find something and buy it immediately. It’s unlike any other shopping experience, because I found at these boutique shops– they hover, and they are very involved in your entire process. Hell, most of them don’t even have mirrors IN the dressing room because they want you to come out and make it an experience. I don’t like removing that layer of independent thought from it, I am a grown woman, I should be able to put a garment halfway on and decide if I like it or not before being clipped into it and paraded around the whole shop for God and everyone to see!

In the end, I went to Davids Bridal immediately after my appointment with the boutique and found a dress, and bought it immediately. It wasn’t that my experience with the boutique was “bad” per se, but it felt pushy, cramped, and the selection wasn’t what I was hoping for.

 

Post # 32
Member
2020 posts
Buzzing bee

ohkae :  and since this is a dress thread, this is the one I ended up with from Davids Bridal:

Post # 34
Member
2021 posts
Buzzing bee

I don’t think this is going to pan out. I’d prob shop there, but doubt I’d buy anything.

In order to make this profitable, your friend is going to have to mark up the dresses pretty substantially to cover her costs. 1 bride at a time and limited selection means you’re going to sell a lot less dresses. You’re also going to invest a lof of money (and time) in brides who probably won’t buy anything. 

If you assume there’s 7 major styles of dresses- ballgown, sheath, mermaid, fit and flair, a-line, short length, empire, you’ve only got 10 dresses of each type (roughly). 

If I want a mermaid dress- you only have 10 that I can look at. Let’s assume 4 are sweetheart, 3 are illusion and 3 have straps. I want one with straps. Of those 3- one has lace, one is satin and one has beading. If I want a beaded dress- I have 1 choice. 

You’ve spent a lot of time and money on me (you opened the shop, you turned on the lights, you turned down other apointments, you came in, you bought me champagne and cookies) for me to really try on 1 dress. Chances are, I’m not going to buy a dress with you. 

If you are open 5 days a week (lets assume Wednesday, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun) and do 5 appointments each day, at two hours each, that’s 50 hours a week in apointments (which I think is being generous). That’s some pretty substantial staff costs already. Let’s assume you sell 1 dress a day (probably generous). You’re selling 5 dresses a week.  You’ve got to have a higher than average markup to cover your fixed costs. Which, I wouldn’t pay significantly more for my dress just because I got some free champs and a t-shirt. 

Sounds like a cool idea in theory, I don’t think the math supports it. Getting a bank loan doesn’t mean you have a rock solid business plan.

Post # 36
Member
57 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: March 2017

I wouldn’t go to this salon. I’m more of a davids bridal type where I want an impersonal experience because I’m just buying a dress. Not to be mean, but the whole idea of this salon makes me want to gag because the staff would be so far up my tush theyd hit my gag reflex. 

Post # 37
Member
1213 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

With the personalized service, I’d want to make sure I erred on the side of making absolutely sure you weren’t being pushy. I had a pretty bad experience at one salon where the consultant kept pushing me to rank each gown on a scale of 1-10 and every time I pointed out something I didn’t like all that much about it she said it could be changed in alterations. Like, I’d like to have a dress I like from the beginning, not one that I have to change once I order it in order to like! It was also one of those places that offered a certain percentage off if you bought on your first visit which I hated. Such a transparent tactic to try to sway brides who may have a limited budget to make a quick decision. 

I never had this experience in any of the shops I went to, but I know previous bees have- I’d tell her to allow photos in her shop! I would’ve HATED not being able to go home and mull over/show my friends pictures of the dresses. A true non-pushy personalized experience allows/encourages a bride to take pictures, go home, and think about it. She didn’t decide to marry her fiance in one day, why push her to make a decision about her wedding dress in one day?

The consultant at the salon where I eventually purchased my dress from didn’t use any of these tactics, she just put me in the dress, stood back, and let me look at it. And if I mentioned something I didn’t like about it, she used that information to try to pull a different dress that might fit more what I was looking at. 

I also liked a previous bee’s suggestion to use some of the shop for accessories. That way, even if a bride doesn’t end up buying a dress she still might remember and come back for that beautiful tiara or veil she saw there, especially if she had a good experience while shopping. Best of luck to your friend!

Post # 38
Member
828 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: May 2017

This sounds sort of like the place that I went. Honestly, I made the appointment there because they had a few of the designers I liked and most of thier dresses were in my price range. I saw on yelp that there was champagne and warm lighting, but it was the pricing and designers that made me want to shop there.

They offered us champagne, but my friend and I were running a race the next day and didn’t want to imbibe. There was some cutesy food, but I was more focused on visiting with my friends and looking at everything in the shop before I’d be interested in some cucumber sandwiches.

After I bought the dress, my consultant gave me a little candle and a big hug. That was a nice touch, but it didn’t make me want to scream to the heavens “Everyone in my region, go spend money at this shop!!!!” Same thing when I got a note a few weeks later. It was a great touch and she got a good yelp review from me, but it didn’t mean I didn’t cringe when I saw the charge hit my online banking, however much in budget my dress was. There’s no way in hell a free t-shirt that cost the shop $0.49 to make, that’s actually just surreptitious advertising would smooth that over. 

Post # 39
Member
2141 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

ohkae :  No. I would not shop here. I’d think this shop is trying way too hard to give a VIP experience without any true perks… limited slection of non-designer gowns and fake champange? No thank you.

I do however LOVE the idea that a PP suggested as a bridal accessories salon with alterations… now that’s a concept I could get behind! She could still do her “VIP treatment” if she wanted to with the clients who choose her for alterations.

Post # 40
Member
799 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2015

I would love to shop there 🙂

Post # 41
Member
9123 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2013

are you only able to buy what is in stock, or can she order in your size?

i’d proably go to check it out if it were in my area i wouldn’t be like, Oh i have to order from this place.

Post # 42
Member
942 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2017

I would shop here… but not for long because there is no way your friend would be making any money to profit and I can’t see how this business would stay afloat with her current business plan.

Also if she only carries 70 dresses.. with all the styles there are these days and she wants to carry a bit of each style that mean she would max have what 5 of each type of dress? 

Also no… don’t care for t-shirts

Post # 43
Member
3737 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

I like the idea in theory, but like someone else touched on, I’d actually feel more pressure to buy a dress from a store like this, and it would stress me out. I’d feel guilty about all the attention and fawning over me, so I’d likely say yes to a dress I didn’t necessarily love because I wouldn’t want to walk out empty handed. 

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