The news that has the industry wondering and worrying about, including VOWS Canadian and UK subscribers, is the April 14 announcement that David’s Bridal, Inc., has cut its workforce by upwards of 75%, followed by yesterday’s notice of a filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Filing were also made for its Canadian and UK divisions.

In the US, David’s Bridal, Inc., operates approximately 300+ stores, which it claims accounts for almost a third of all bridal sales in the country.

It previously filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2018 as it then struggled with an immense debt load, emerging a year later with a restructuring plan. This current filing, according to James Marcum, CEO, was taken partially in an effort to restructure its business for a possible sale.

“Our business continues to be challenged by the post-COVID environment and uncertain economic conditions,” said Marcum in an accompanying announcement,  “leading us to take this step to identify a buyer who can continue to operate our business going forward.”

Other factors reportedly include competition from online retailers primarily in the Prom and bridesmaids categories; a shift by its core budget customers to more casual wedding attire, and the costs and pressures of a staggering debt load.

“An increasing number of brides are opting for less traditional wedding attire, including thrift wedding dresses,” David’s Bridal said in a bankruptcy filing. “These shifting consumer preferences have significantly exacerbated” the company’s financial circumstances.
Though David’s Bridal claimed in that announcement that its stores remain open, it did caution that if a buyer is not found, it will be forced to liquidate all stores.  

In the short term, the layoff of 9,236 positions out of the company’s total US workforce of approximately 11,000 will make its under-staffing exponentially worse, threatening to further erode fragile customer service and selling departments…a drastic step that bridal industry and retail consultants suggest is an indication that store closings have to be an integral part of its plan to attract a potential buyer.

The unanswered question many are asking: Who, in this lending environment with other large scale retail operations in financial trouble and in the midst of restructuring, would be interested in acquiring a scaled back David’s Bridal?

Reaction to this news among the industry has been mixed, from muted celebrations to concerns about the impact on independent boutiques of David’s store closings and a corresponding “dump” at fire sale prices of the estimated 150,000-300,000 gowns currently hanging in its stores.

“Buckle up,” one East Coast boutique wrote confidentially. “This is going to be much worse than Alfred Angelo abruptly closing, and will have much more of an impact than David’s routine $99 dress sale. Could be a quarter of that on current merchandise instead of old stock!”

(Many well remember Alfred Angelo abruptly filing chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2017, closing 60 company stores and leaving its estimated 1,400 wholesale accounts to pickup the pieces with angry and distraught brides… )

Another comment echoed by others stated that “Hooray… glad to see they’re finally going out. It might be short term pain until the industry recovers, but long term this is good news.”

Boutiques are not the only segment watching the news. Because of its size, David’s bankruptcy/closure will be felt throughout the supply chain. Manufacturers/distributors have already reached out to their factories to ensure they are in sound financial health and capable of fulfilling orders… especially those factories known for producing David’s Bridal goods.

There is a further silver lining worth considering: your potential labor pool just expanded.

A sizable number of stylists and alteration /seamstresses nationwide are now out of work and quite probably wanting to stay in the industry. Though a David’s stylist may not have been trained in the selling style of your boutique, they do have indispensable product knowledge.

And a seamstress capable of doing the delicate work of alterations would be an asset to any bridal boutique, either as part of an in-store department or as a source for alteration referrals.

Regardless of what you think or anticipate about a possible outcome and its impact, and regardless of your price point or the demographics of your brides, one outcome  seems very clear: a David’s sale and/or liquidation will impact you and your boutique as these headlines will unnerve your brides and add yet another straw of stress.

So.. be prepared to respond to her extra stress or “random” questions by emphasizing your core strengths: your history, stability, reputation and commitment as an independent, locally owned boutique.