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This too shall pass...not the end for independent bridal boutiques

This too shall pass…

though there’ll be plenty of pain until it does with an equally painful extended recovery period that could dramatically lengthen if “Shelter in Place” orders from state and federal governments become widespread.

This however is not the end for independent bridal boutiques, though we may see closings in numbers consistent with other retail and service business categories struggling through this period.

Bridal retail is uniquely positioned to survive, based primarily on its fundamental ability to adapt to dramatic changes in the brides’ desires and shopping preferences while maintaining a personable and emotional connection. The extravagance of the event may dramatically change… but the emotional significance of her gown and accessories will not dramatically change, regardless if the event itself is scaled back.

(We are blogging updates daily at VowsMagazine.com, commencing this afternoon. To join the conversation, or ask a question, email Shannon@VowsMagazine.com)

To get to the other side of this, many of you are already implementing a number of steps:

-Outlining a plan of the actions you must take in the event a “Shelter in Place” order forces the shutdown of your store (i.e. requesting a postal hold of incoming mail, communicating with customers about a pick up or the security of their purchases, etc);

-Identifying and reducing variable costs prior to a shutdown;

-Reviewing and updating insurance coverage to more accurately reflect and protect your current inventory levels, to include coverage against loss for customers’ dresses you may be holding;

-Reducing hours, requiring appointments, limiting the size of bridal parties, and in some cases requesting that a companion to the bride helps her in and out of the gown;

-Clear communication with staff as to what to expect;

-Updating websites with current information on sanitation procedures, changes in hours, and other “What to Expect” details.

And two other important issues to consider:

1) Continue to promote!

Stay active on your blog and with social media.

History has proven that companies that continue to do so in times of economic downturns rebound much more quickly than those that vanish from the marketplace.

Also... there'll be a lot of brides sitting at home in need of information… your information.

2) Stick to no refund policies.

In today’s environment, with government mandates causing the cancellation of weddings and proms, you may be faced with brides and prom girls asking to return their dresses for a refund, or cancel their orders and receive their deposit back.

Assuming you have a clearly defined No Return, No Refund policy stipulated on all sales contracts and receipts (and that the dress has already been cut or is in their possession) the answer, gently worded, has to be no… applied uniformly with no exceptions.

The reason: Unless you are financially capable of refunding every request, you have to protect your business. If you make one exception, other customers you denied will hear of it… and worse, your Merchant Services may abandon that protection if they see your policy is not uniformly applied.

Yes… you may get social-media backlash. So as always be prepared with an authentic response. In all situations, it is how we respond to the bride and prom customer that matters greatly.

Brides, for example, need to be gently reminded that their wedding has been postponed not canceled, and how beautiful they will look in their gown regardless of when the wedding occurs.

For prom customers, Dan Adrian, president of Clarisse, Inc., has an intriguing suggestion, one adopted by other prom houses:
Change the narrative.

In an e-mail sent to stores this week, Dan wrote:

“Many of you are getting inundated with calls from parents about refunds because of cancellations. You need to calmly let them know that ‘Prom is not cancelled. In fact as we're speaking right now there are already a number of parents in the community setting up private proms for a later date.’ Then you direct the conversation back to the person who just asked about a refund: ‘We could really use your help as well in coordinating this private event.’” 

His goal: if each retailer gets 10 parents to move in this direction, under the #PromForever campaign, no one will miss out on Prom this year.

And this example from Alexandra's Boutique's, Massachusetts, recent Facebook post:

"We are heartbroken that some girls may not get to experience prom night this year due to the current environment we are in today. We do not want you to miss out so for all our Alexandra’s Angel’s, if your prom happens to get canceled we are planning a big surprise for you. We want you to wear your dream prom dress to prom and share this magical night with your friends. So don’t worry the Alexandra’s Too family is planning a party for you. So stay tuned for more information in the future as we are planning a big party"

***

In this ever-changing New Normal, regardless of how long this lasts, the essential approach and attitude we must all follow has not changed:

Be aware, be prepared, be calm.

Thoughts and prayers for everyone’s health and well being from the entire VOWS Magazine team

❮ Return to Publisher's Blog articles

Comments

Sal Macaluso, EStyle Central

I am so glad you posted this. We will be sending out an email blast to all eStyleCentral clients in the weeks ahead with suggestions for how to address this concern should it happen. Even if schools don't officially cancel their proms girls may prefer to stay home just for their own safety.
I like Jacqui Wadsworth's idea of "Summer Proms", but how about another option like small groups of friends that have been tested and self-quarantine for 2 weeks and do mini-proms in homes?

I think the common thread here, which we all agree on is, "No returns" or "No Credits". Yes, girls want to have the Prom experience, but it is not any of our faults that they may not be able (or may choose not to) attend.

Another thing to highlight is that Photos are a big part of that experience. Emphasize that they can still have a a wonderful intimate dinner, perhaps even at home, with their date and have great photos taken.

I think emphasizing that they need to be creative with how they can experience SOME kind of joy that they will be missing out on due to no fault of their own, is the best way to reply to the initial question...

"What if I buy a dress and our Prom is canceled?" A great reply is, "You should not let this situation completely ruin what you have planned for all these years, which includes the experience of wearing a beautiful gown for a special occasion. Let's talk about ways that you can be creative about how YOU can make the most of that day!"
KEEP POSITIVE!!

Kyle Yin, Jasmine Bridal

This is very good information and very important to our stores who may be worried about losing business completely if they cut down their hours or are forced to close their stores for now.

I agree that they need to stay visible and active in their Social Media promotions to stay in contact with their brides shopping now, and to start the conversation and connection with those brides who have yet to begin their preparation and shopping for a wedding planned in 12 months.

They need to let their brides and prospective brides that they will be available for them when stores are allowed to reopen.

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