Judging from your answers to our questions about the challenges and triumphs of 2023 in VOWS’ end-of-year survey, you are quite the resilient group.
   No surprise really. . . I’ve seen this exhibited hundreds if not thousands of times throughout the years each confirming what I believe to be a central characteristic of bridal boutique owners regardless of location or specific niche.
   You told us of specific challenges that tried your patience, creating frustrations that in so many cases caused you to question your abilities, your understanding of this business and of brides, and whether you still had relevance.
   Challenges with staffing, with satisfying terribly indecisive brides, with double-digit increases in costs, with a debilitating decrease in store traffic, and with the ever-changing demands of social media were the most common of that particular hit parade.
  Yet with the exception of the few comments about forced retirement or closings due to insurmountable financial pressures, you not only found a way through this tumultuous year but finished stronger than you feared, often gratefully acknowledging the performance of staff and the authentic impact on your brides.
   In recounting triumphs, you told us of successfully adapting your approaches to appointments to better reflect what your brides wanted; updated procedures throughout the selling process including pre-appointment information gathering to post-visit follow-up; intensely evaluated existing collections and discarding those that didn’t perform to expectation or offer appropriate customer service; investigated private label collection to increase your margins and promote your store brand; elevated price points… and “learned how to say no!”
   Resilience. Creativity. Ability to adapt, and, in most cases, lead a business you love.
  2023 was rough. Yet all you went through and triumphed over sets you up very nicely to thrive in 2024. . . which is why I also agree with the vast majority of you that hold a positive view of this year and beyond.