Boost Your Bridal Business
By Libby Dowd
Three innovative ways you can target this growing market
Bridal season is already in full swing, and now is the ideal time to attract brides and wedding parties to your store. The bridal industry is growing. According to Brides magazine, women spent and average of $1,289 on their wedding gown last year—that’s up almost 20 percent since 2009. And today’s bride is shelling out almost $600 on wedding accessories like jewelry and veils.
While it’s proven that brides will spend money on designer shoes, very few are splurging on, or even considering, their wedding day foundations. “I did not give my wedding day undergarments much thought in the beginning and I regret that,” says Wendy McNew, a Chicago, IL, bride who will wed this summer. McNew purchased a strapless bra at a major department store but is unsatisfied with her selection. “The moment I stepped out of the store I regretted it. I wish I had done more research before I went shopping. It’s not that the bra isn’t nice, it’s a beautiful nude color, with pretty lace details on the side and it’s very comfortable,” she says. “As a bride I think every detail of my wedding should be special, even the bra that I’m wearing. This bra does not scream special.”
Laura Hardiman, owner of The Ivory Corset in Andover, MA, agrees that the average bride spends less time than she should shopping for the correct undergarments. “Many of our brides were referred by their bridal shop seamstress, and without their subtle insistence to get profession help, may not have happened on our doorstep,” she says.
You have the tools required to give brides what they want:
A unique product selection and attentive customer service. Now is the time to ramp up your marketing efforts. You can drive more bridal traffic into your store by carefully curating inventory, building relationships with wedding professionals and educating customers about the services you offer.
The Lingerie Journal spoke to established intimate apparel retailers to learn how they are successfully becoming the go-to bridal lingerie source in their area. Read on to learn more.
1. Reach Out to Other Wedding Professionals
Cross promoting with other wedding professionals, such as bridal storeowners, can be influential in building your bridal business. Established vendors already have access to a large database of clients, and know the value of good word of mouth advertising. Emilia Kutrovska, owner of Lilac Lingerie in Ottowa, Ontario, visits local bridal stores to meet the owners face-to-face and tell them about the services she offers.
Hardiman, who opened The Ivory Corset in January after seven years of experience fitting bras, also gains a large portion of her business from bridal retailers—specifically Christina’s, which is located in the same building. She initially approached the store about running an in-house boutique. However, when plans for a “Bridal Center” emerged, she was able to open a freestanding shop. “The Bridal Center is one-stop bridal shopping,” she explains. The newly constructed building located in a busy downtown area houses a bridal retailer, DJ and entertainment company, a wedding planner and photographer. Hardiman has become close with these wedding professionals and the relationships have helped deliver a constant stream of bridal traffic.
Location alone does not account for Hardiman’s growing bridal business though. “I network with dress shop owners and reach out to bridal salons through mass mailings,” she says. “Most referrals come from bridal boutiques and other formalwear shops. They all understand the importance of undergarments and they don’t know any place for women to go to get fitted properly for special occasion bras.”
“As a lingerie retailer we have the ability to make sure clients are wearing something that makes them feel and look good,” – Emilia Kutrovska
2. Plan Events that Cater to Brides
Kutrovska knows the value of special events. She teams up with local bakers and massage therapists to host bridal showers and private lingerie parties in her store. “We like to keep them small, between five and seven people, so it’s intimate and people have enough room to try things on,” she says. In addition to offering hand massages and local treats, Kutrovska can also arrange for guests to have their makeup professionally done. “Some girls like to couple the event with a bachelorette party,” she says. “It depends on the group and what they want, but I can bring in anything they request.” In addition to helping Kutrovska build cross-promotional relationships with local businesses, the events help boost sales. “Usually all the girls do their shopping for the bride and some will buy lingerie for themselves, too,” she adds.
Kutrovska recently began hosting boudoir photography events, as well. “We book a hotel so the client can feel more relaxed,” she says. “They get their hair and makeup done and work with our stylists to select their outfits and any props they might like to purchase and incorporate into the shoot.”
The boudoir photography trend has taken off in recent months and it’s even more popular among brides. Kutrovska is planning to capitalize on the business it will create. “As a lingerie retailer we have the ability to make sure clients are wearing something that makes them feel and look good,” she says. “I’ve hired two photographers to work with me exclusively. Everything stays within our brand and the customer gets the whole Lilac Lingerie experience.”
3. Carefully Curate Your Inventory
Retailers must keep up with the current bridal fashion trends to be sure they are stocking the right styles for their customers. “Ninety percent of the brides I have fittings with are focused on garments for their gown, and they don’t know what they need,” says Hardiman.
To determine which foundations she’ll order, Kutrovska visits local bridal boutiques to learn about the newest dress trends and styles. “I even try on some of the dresses to see how they fit,” she says. “And I talk to the owners about what’s coming up next so I can tailor my inventory towards those looks.”
“Stager your sizes. Make sure you have something in every other size, and stock samples,” – Emilia Kutrovska
Currently Lilac Lingerie carries mostly bridal basics, and Kutrovska plans to expand her inventory in the coming season. “I make sure we have bustiers with low backs, strapless bras in all sizes and waist cinchers to squeeze the tummy in a little,” she says. “We try to choose pretty styles. Even though they are basic bras, we try to make sure they still look nice.”
Size matters, too. While Hardiman admits she can’t stock everything, she’s proud that her collection is diverse enough to fit every bride that walks through her door. Her best advice to others: “Stager your sizes. Make sure you have something in every other size, and stock samples,” she says. “You don’t have to have one of every size. Brides are used to having items ordered for them.”
Next Week: Bridal Buying
Best-selling bridal intimates available for immediate order
This is part one of this series with next week’s story featuring intimates and accessories available for immediate order from In Bloom by Jonquil, Toad Lillie, Maison Close, La Gartier, and Florrie Mitton. Check back on Monday!