As part of our Q&A series on the state of the industry, VOWS is reaching out to industry brands and thought leaders for each company's comments including those on Covid's impact on style, and thoughts of a post-Covid future.

Today's Q&A is with Joseph Murphy, President and CEO, JLM Couture.

VOWS: How would you describe the impact Covid-19 is having on bridal design?

Joe Murphy: The dresses we shipped in 2020, when the pandemic started, were designed in the latter half of 2019, an obviously more optimistic and innocent time. I think the industry has had to downsize because there isn't the bridal demand and our stores were only operating at 50% for most of the year. It was a year to preserve capital as much as possible and still serve our market on a price and early shopping basis.

VOWS: What trends have you identified, and are addressing in JLM Couture 2021 collections?

Joe Murphy: 2021 should be a snapback year which is usually the case when you have an economic and societal shock. JLM Couture is approaching 2021 as a recovery after derailment, that will likely generate strong demand.  

VOWS: What aspects of today's bridal customer should store owners be particularly aware of?

Joe Murphy: Customers and store owners expect fresh merchandise in the stores, defined by dresses that stand out in their craftsmanship and originality. Brides-to-be want something new.  

VOWS:  How has Covid-19 impacted the operation side of JLM... and what's your strategy for dealing with a potential long term disruption?  

Joe Murphy: Because most of our operation is out of New York City, we were closed for three months at the outset of the lockdowns. Many of our store customers experienced the same thing and many brides postponed their weddings. We downsize as little as possible and have resumed normal hours since July.    

VOWS: What do you see as the most critical areas for our industry to concentrate on for today...and long term?

Joe Murphy: Making our gown more size-inclusive and partnering with our stores to drive more traffic into their place of busines - working together through social media and digital advertising methods.  

VOWS: What is your forecast for the bridal and formal industry for 2021 and beyond?

Joe Murphy: In the early first quarter of 2021, we anticipate there will be more weddings taking place vs the same time period for 2020, whether they be small gatherings or Zoom weddings. As Pfizer, Moderna, and other vaccines become widely available in May, they will encourage larger weddings to again take place in the second half of 2021.  

Personal savings rates are 2x last year's and will increase with a new stimulus, as is expected with President Biden. The pandemic, as a post psychological feature, will drive millennials to stage more celebrations with families and friends in the form of weddings. Household formations are also at multi-year highs - all pluses for the bridal industry.

With regards to the industry changing, stores have accommodated smaller shopping groups than before due to Covid restrictions, but we expect closing rates on appointments will rise as brides look to limit the number of stores they shop at due to health concerns. Stores have been selling stock pieces in 2020 to generate cash flow. In 2021, there will be a shift to increase stock inventories in order to stay competitive.