It appears the “bloom may be off the rose” this season.
   Nothing overtly alarming or bleak. . . as an industry we have successfully navigating many a stormy sea.
   It’s more a definite and noticeable ratcheting up of anxiety and stress as we deal with an evolving bride and marketplace especially when compared to the incredible season that was 2022.
   Though a bit early to make this call, anecdotal comments offered by a broad swath of VOWS subscribers across the country indicate that the overfilled appointment books, high closing ratios, and decisive brides unconcerned about the cost of their dresses and accessories that fueled a record-setting year for boutiques in 2022 appears not to be the reality today. What we’re currently seeing:

•  A decrease in the estimated number of weddings in 2023 from the record year of 2022 indicates that we may be at the tail end of the Covid bubble.

• Store traffic and appointment bookings have been inconsistent across the country… only some of which can be attributed to the impact of January’s brutal storms that forced a standstill and closure of businesses in several US regions.

• Brides are reverting to the pre-Covid behavior of visiting and shopping multiple stores.

• The growth in the number of smaller, single owner/operator boutiques that occurred in the later half of 2020 through 2022 has overly saturated some markets and regions.

• Staffing issues also continue to plague bridal boutiques, straining resources and stressing existing staffs. Many owners report near-debilitating frustration over the lack of job applicants and the high rate of turnover by those they succeed in hiring… a frustration compounded by the fear of losing existing staff members due to increased stress levels and the rankling at job and store policy requirements.

   With continued economic uncertainty, seemingly unending surcharges and price hikes, and increased local competition, 2023 will be a difficult and challenging retail environment to navigate.
   But as I stated earlier, we have faced and overcome many a difficult environment. . . often through our resiliency and ability to change our perspective.
   As Douglas Adams wrote in The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time:
   “He was constantly reminded of how startlingly different a place the world was when viewed from a point only three feet to the side.”