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Preparing for reopening

(The following article as sent to VOWS subscribers as part of our VOWSInsight mailing. If you did not receive, and would like to be added to our alert list, please email Peter@vowsmagazine.com)

 As we all prepare to re-open our stores and businesses to once again provide that connection and joy our brides need (especially now), there are a number of steps we must take regardless of the differing and potentially conflicting state, city and local requirements, and regardless of differing attitudes of our brides.

Though many of you have already taken these and similar steps, have successfully remained in contact with your brides through virtual consultations, live chat and social media posts, and have appointments pre-booked and ready for the re-opening, these points bear repeating.

Store and staff hygiene:

-Set a strict schedule for cleaning and disinfecting of salons and staff, especially high traffic and high use areas and facilities, and frequent hand washing by staff, to include steaming of gowns after each wear, and sanitizing between each appointment.

-Provide staff with a deep stock of gloves for these schedule cleanings.

-Place hand sanitizer and wipes in reception area, dressing rooms, break rooms, etc.

-Check the temperature of each employee daily before opening

-Be vigilant about practicing social distancing and adhere to local/state requirements regarding the limit of the number of clients and staff within your store at any one time.

-Limit the number of appointments you offer to adhere to local guidelines, and the number of brides and companions. Limitations range from 3-5 of bride and guests depending on size of store, dressing rooms, etc.

-With small dressing rooms in which social distances will be difficult to adhere to, consider asking the bride’s companion to help the bride with her dressing.

-Masks: If mandated or suggested by your state, wear facial masks and have them available for your brides and her companions. (One source: Chic Nostalgia is providing masks in minimum orders of 1,000 for a $1 apiece. Reach out to Jelly at jellywang@chicnostalgia.com for details, and to meet the minimum combine orders with other store owners.)

Also… plan now your approach if, in the Colorado state example, businesses and staff are required to wear masks, but shoppers are not. Consider allowing the bride to not wear a mask at key moments, such as when in front of the mirror, and for “I said Yes to My Dress” and other celebratory photos.

-Post a sign on your front door that very clearly discourages any customer who is feeling ill or displaying symptoms of sickness not to enter.

-Detail all steps you are taking to keep the boutique clean, and customers and staff safe, and post this list in visible places, such as near your front door, check-out counter, fitting rooms and restrooms.

-Share these safety steps on social media as well. Do not assume customers know what you’re doing; constantly tell them.

Operations

Though you may already have taken the following steps, they’re good reminders:

-Review your procedures and responses to brides selecting your Schedule an Appointment (and Schedule a Virtual consultation) button on website and social media.

-Update your About Us Page and clearly communicate the steps you are taking to ensure a safe and healthy environment for your brides.

-Clean up and/or respond to any negative reviews.

(A recent VOWS article on the lessons of one star reviews is still current: One Star Experiences; and A Blessing In Disguise.)

-Objectively evaluate the sights, sounds and (crucially) the smells that will greet your brides arriving for an appointment.

-Consider how and if you will accommodate the bride that wants only virtual consultations through to her purchase.

-Evaluate gowns you can sell off the rack to start generating revenue.

(For a recent article on selling off the rack: Strategies for Selling Off the Rack )

-Avoid deeply discounting your gowns for special order.

-Host a staff meeting prior to opening to discuss any of their sensitivities and determine what your flexibility you have to address them, such as changes in hours or tasks... for example if an employee prefers to handle the virtual consultation over the face to face.

-If possible increase your marketing efforts to fully benefit from all your efforts at actively engaging brides through this “shelter at home” period.

One suggestion offered by a store owner: If you have business interruption insurance, file your claim to get a letter of refusal which can then be used to join the class action suits that are already starting to be filed.

And to view Fall collections/lookbooks as compiled by the following markets:

National Bridal Market

The Knot Couture Show

The Bridal Council

***

Final note: I do believe that we’ll survive this transition, and will actually benefit from the steps and procedures we’ve all had to put in place to stay in contact with our clients and customers.

Wishes for a successful re-emergence from the entire VOWS Magazine team,

Peter Grimes

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