• “Customers are getting so demanding!
• They can’t make up their minds!
They have this entitled attitude that is so exasperating!
I can’t believe how picky they are. . . and if it doesn’t meet their expectations, they demand a price concession or refund!
I’m getting slammed on social media for situations that aren’t even my fault!”

Sound familiar?
   These laments are not about brides per se, but describe the actions and frustrations of consumer-facing businesses regardless of category.
   So. . . if you are feeling frustrated from dealing with this consumer behavior, and complaining about it. . . Stop! This is the reality. Accept it and deal with it in the same manner in which you’ve worked through other past changes in consumer behavior and business cycles.
   Focus on your strengths, and those of your staff, with an added dash of compassionate patience for stylists and brides alike.
   To successfully interact with today’s brides’ shopping preferences and behaviors, and to strengthen your foundation for when this storm clears and the next batch of brides comes your way, concentrate on:
   Convenience: go through the entire process as a bride, from initial contact and appointment setting, to presenting gown choices and asking for the sale, as well as follow-through. Also include the process of follow-up for the bride who didn’t acquire her gown from you.
   Knowledgeable staff: In addition to being knowledgeable about fit, fabrics and bridal style, stylists also need to understand that it is the hospitality you provide your brides that is the foundation upon which your brand is built. They are not selling gowns, they are hospitality ambassadors for your store and brand.
   Mobile/online experience: Is it easy and convenient to locate information about your store, your expectations, your story. . . as well as the process, your stylists, etc.? Look at all online and social efforts through fresh eyes.
   Consistency: Is your online experience consistent with your face-to-face…and vice versa? Are you telling a consistent upscale story regardless of platform?
   And while reviewing procedures and promotions, track your numbers…review incoming shipments against orders; track store visits/traffic and closing ratios; track performances of all your gown and accessory collections as well as your social-media platforms. . . and finally, track your stylists’ performance rates.
   This storm too shall pass. . . and demographics as presented in this issue indicate that all is not lost, that we will have a return to more “normal” brides.
   Let’s just be prepared for them!