This past nearly year-long period of political strife, economic uncertainty, and social upheaval has added considerable stresses to US brides-to-be. . . and to store owners and their staffs.
   And unfortunately, this turmoil will not soon end, certainly not by the end of an election cycle, nor prior to the beginning of the 2023 bridal buying season.
   While worst-case scenarios may be accurate for specific segments of the economy, I don’t believe that is the case for bridal retail. . . not that I think bridal is recession proof, but because historical cycles have shown that bridal is recession resistant.
   In the short term we may see a softening of the retail “sweet spot” price point, and a possible reduction of the number of participants in the wedding party, but I don’t anticipate a noticeable decline in the number of weddings in 2023-2024.
   This coming period of economic uncertainty, while potentially difficult and stressful, will rank as a distant second to that which bridal retail has already survived. . . and succeeded.
  Boutiques’ ability to create and provide a safe haven, a sanctuary from the cries, the rabble and the drama that overwhelms and is so prevalent in our brides’ everyday lives is exactly what she needs, what she longs for: a valuable experience for which she is willing to pay, and one that she can revel in telling others about.
  The recent 2023 Predictions report from market research company Forrester Research includes a conclusion that supports my point:
   “Unlike previous years, 2023 will be a jumble of mixed signals, reflecting a unique environment characterized by opposing forces: exuberance as the pandemic wanes, tempered by caution in the face of economic turbulence. In a nutshell, don’t expect consumers to be shy about spending in 2023. But expect them to be far pickier – seeking out fewer, richer experiences that blend the digital fluidity of the pandemic with the familiarity and intimacy of the times that came before.”
   So therein is the challenge for US boutiques: to continue to evaluate and improve each contact point with their brides, across all platforms; continue to “raise the bar” of customer service and of the in-store experience; continue to train an engaged work force that is product knowledgable and customer sensitive. . . and to ramp up marketing and advertising programs that educate and entertain their brides.
   And a key aspect of this approach… an attitude of challenge, not fear.
   For as Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, reportedly said when asked his thoughts about a recession:
   “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”