“Many receive advice; only the wise profit from it.” – Harper Lee

Everyone needs a little advice now and then; even the most knowledgeable and experienced business owners can benefit from someone else’s wisdom. In the bridal retail business, there are many lessons to be learned, from financial considerations to merchandising and marketing to staffing advice and much more.
     One common denominator about good advice is that it begs to be shared. In this feature, retailers across the country report on the best advice they have received over the years relative to running a successful bridal business.



Best Hiring/Staffing Advice
    "I always ask interviewees to tell me about a time they failed at something and how they were able to move past the situation. It could be any situation, and it doesn’t have to be work-related. If they can admit a failure and give an answer as to how they overcame it with honesty and integrity, then that’s a good sign to me! One other note I would make on this is hire based on what you need; sometimes the personality you vibe with the best isn’t exactly what your store needs to succeed."
     Elaina Primus, owner
     Roselily Bridal & Tuxedo, Richland, Wash.
     10 years in the bridal industry

    "Staff can be one of the greatest sources of stress and frustration in managing a business. If you identify an employee who is disrupting the culture, sever the employment relationship. Employees who are not performing or have poor attitudes are like a cancer and can influence the attitude and work ethics of the others. Of course, it is important to work with such a staff member and provide them with additional training and opportunities to better themselves. But if change does not happen it is time to dismiss them before it affects the entire staff."
     Brian Fortin, co-owner
     Modern Bridal and Formal Shop, Bedford, N.H.
     37 years in the bridal industry

    "Hire on enthusiasm. After two interviews, I hired a 19-year-old over some older applicants who had bridal experience. I asked her, ‘Can you bring this kind of enthusiasm EVERY day to this job?’ And she said, ‘Yes, Mr. Kelly, I can!’ She’s been killing it ever since. I can teach someone this business, but I can’t teach enthusiasm."
     Patrick Kelly, owner
     J.J. Kelly Bridal, Oklahoma City, Okla.
     48 years in the bridal industry

    "Hire people that you believe are smarter than you; hire people that slightly intimidate you; hire people that you think are more qualified than yourself. Those people will help you grow, they will teach you and they will motivate you. To be successful you really need a team."
     Kristin Dugan, atelier manager
     Anne Gregory Couture, Pittsburgh, Pa.
     23 years in the bridal industry

    "Through our 53 years in business we learned to give everyone a chance, meaning some of the best salespeople we have had over the years never had bridal experience and adapted well, so keep an open mind."
     Charles Prokop, Jr., president
     Princess Bridals, Farmingdale, N.Y.
     53 years in the bridal industry


Best Merchandising and Marketing Advice
    "People shop how they drive; zone your shop to create a good flow from right to left. Put all of your new items on the right side because that will be what they see first. If you create a theme for your jewelry and accessories, it’s much easier to point people in the right direction and makes it faster to find what you need. I like to keep the shop in order by size, that way no one feels self-conscious about budget and everyone feels included and that they can find their dress here."
     Elaina Primus, owner
     Roselily Bridal & Tuxedo, Richland, Wash.
     10 years in the bridal industry

    "Know what sells by the numbers, not feeling. Feature what sells. Quickly mark down or throw away nonsellers. As for marketing, don’t skimp on advertising. Experiment and track results as closely as possible."
     Reed Pederson, owner
     MB Bride & Special Occasion, Greensburg, Pa.
     32 years in the bridal industry

    "It is so important to prioritize organization, cleanliness and the appearance of your boutique. With tons of new dresses coming in multiple times a year, it’s very easy for your boutique to become cluttered and disorganized.
     I find that separating your inventory by likeness, designer or silhouette makes it effortless for both your customers and employees to find what they are looking for. Your dresses, especially your most popular samples, are tried on sometimes multiple times a day. While wear and tear is normal, it’s important to look through your samples and repair any damage and replace if necessary.
    Dresses that appear damaged or dirty can leave a less-than-spectacular impression on your brides, and impressions are everything! In addition, pay attention to appearance. You can strategically place mannequins as a decoration and to showcase new styles. In addition, your dresses should be facing the same direction and not overcrowded.
     Any down trending styles should be removed from your main sales floor. These tips will help create a favorable environment for your bride to find their dream dress!"
     Jenna Dravilas, manager
     Here Comes the Bride, Glendale Heights, Ill.
     seven years in the bridal industry


Best Business Philosophy Advice
    "Focus the core of my business to provide exceptional customer service to make each bride’s experience memorable. Embrace the philosophy of going the extra mile, ensuring each bride’s journey is not only memorable but also profoundly personal.
     Create an environment for brides that is very unique, beautiful and welcoming. Running a bridal boutique requires a strong focus on customer satisfaction, attention to detail, and staying up to date with industry trends.
     Adaptability, creativity, and a genuine passion for weddings will contribute to the success of your business."
     Angelea Kuruc, founder and owner
     Blanc de Blanc Bridal Boutique, Pittsburgh, Pa.
     10 years in the bridal industry

   "The most transformative advice I’ve received came from my mentor, Allison Maslan. Her powerful words inspire me to dream big and break boundaries: 'We think too small – we need to think bigger about our businesses.' She taught me to recognize the abundance of opportunities that surround us daily.
     But even more importantly, Allison instilled in me the audacity to create opportunities instead of passively awaiting them.
     This nugget of wisdom serves as a guiding principle in my journey with The Wedding Shoppe, Better Bridal Group, National Bridal Retailers Association and Ivoryology – A Bridal Boutique, continually propelling us toward higher heights."
     Michelle McFarland, owner
     The Wedding Shoppe, Berkley, Mich.
     President of the Better Bridal Group & National Bridal Retailers Association;
     cofounder of Ivoryology Bridal
     24 years in the bridal industry

    "Work on my business and not in my business; this advice inspired me to see the big picture of a business rather than handling the day-to-day job duties that I was doing. Now, I focus on short-term and long-term goals, marketing efforts and strategizing for the future.
    This has helped me to be successful with my business, but also allows me more time for my personal life since other staff handles the day-to-day operations. As the owner and leader of my business, I am responsible for planning and growing my business."
    Deborah Collins, owner
    The Dress Matters Bridal Shop, Media, Pa.
    nine years in the bridal industry

    "The best piece of advice I have ever received in my 54 years in the bridal business was given to me by Jerry Payne, a wonderful older sales rep. Having just received my degree from LSU in medical technology and working in a lab, I was not prepared to run a bridal shop. We were trying to run the boutique remotely. He told me either get in or get out. I took his advice and quit my job at the Pathology Lab and it made all the difference in the world. Owners must be present for a business to succeed."
    Marie Gilley, owner
    Bridal Boutique, Baton Rouge, La.
    54 years in the bridal industry

  "Always, always be consistent in your customer service and treat all customers the same, no matter budget, size, skin color, or if this is their second or third visit to your store."
    Blanca Gonzales, owner
    Sposa Mia Couture, McAllen, Texas
    20 years in the bridal industry


Best Mindset Advice
   "Yes, it is your business with your name on the shingle but you do not need to take everything personally, especially when you get a complaint or bad review. At the end of the day if you did your best, sleep well. It is too easy to belabor over a complaint, which will cost you stress and sleepless nights. You cannot make every single client happy, so realize that and stay positive."
    Brian Fortin, co-owner
    Modern Bridal and Formal Shop, Bedford, N.H.
    37 years in the bridal industry

   "My best advice came from Nicole Roberts. Fiori was her baby, but she’s mine now. She told me that when I no longer LOVE the job, it’s time to retire. I have found that this is such an emotional and intimate experience for the brides, that not only me, but all of my consultants, need to LOVE their job. Brides can tell if we aren’t invested and will go someplace else."
    Geri Cardinal, owner
    Fiori Bridal Boutique, Essex Junction, Vt.
    13 years in the bridal industry

   "Don’t be afraid to pivot! Embrace the ever-changing world of bridal and knowing there truly are not a lot of “constants” in this business. Trust your intuition and know when it’s okay to trust your gut or to step into the unknown! If people are skeptical, it probably means it is going to be great!"
    Lauren Elliott, owner
    Brides & Beyond, St. Henry, Ohio
    seven years in the bridal industry


Best Buying Advice
    "When we first opened our doors, one of our very kind sales reps told us “Never buy anything you don’t love.” There are so many times we are told in this industry that a dress is a ‘bestseller,’ but our instincts tell us it will not sell in our store. Trust your instincts, folks! We have made the purchase of said ‘bestseller,’ only to have it sit on our racks and sold for less than cost at a sample sale months later. Don’t let anyone else tell you what will sell in your store. Your business instincts are the key to great success in your organization."
    Lisa Almeida and Heidi Nicholson, owners
    Bella Sera Bridal, Danvers, Mass.
    18 years in the bridal industry

   "Don’t make final decisions at bridal market. Come back to your shop to fully evaluate what your needs are before making decisions! This helps us fully evaluate what we may or may not need and helps stop any duplication of styles."
    Kristy Koryzon, owner
    The White Dress, Brighton, Mich.
    12 years in the bridal industry


Best Financial Advice
   "Buy our own property! While meeting with a realtor to find a new location we could lease for our store, he recommended we buy our own building if at all possible. Although that meant many years of sacrifices, it has definitely paid off in the long run, and I am very grateful for his advice to this day."
    Judith Snider, owner
    Celebrations Bridal & Fashion, Las Vegas, Nev.
    36 years in the bridal industry

   "Watch your numbers! If what you are doing doesn’t make sense financially, change it. Make sure you are making the most out of your dressing rooms, expand hours in the busy season and cut back in the summer, expand Saturday hours. Stop doing in-house alterations. Don’t overbuy from your wholesalers; it’s ex-tremely easy to overfill your racks and eat up your profit.
   It’s also imperative to sell dresses off of your racks to keep your inventory moving. Have a private line with higher profit margins and charge for the extras, such as shipping, garment bags, pressing and storage."
    Liz Stoner, co-owner
    Normans Bridal Shoppe, Springfield, Mo.
    43 years in the bridal industry

   "Serve one bride at a time. Charge for your time and knowledge, and it is a must to have multiple streams of income. It’s ok to only sell a few categories. Stop being afraid and worrying about what anyone in your area is doing. Be you, and be tunnel-focused."
    Kim Grayston, owner
    The Bridal Station & Wedding Chapel, Modesto, Calif.
    22 years in the bridal industry

   "Make sure you are paying yourself what you’re worth! If you are not paying yourself then you must find ways to become more profitable. Ask for help! There are many groups and consultants who can help you work on your business plan."
    Megan Jacks, owner
    After 5 and Weddings, Bozeman, Mont.
    20 years in the bridal industry


Best Miscellaneous Advice
   "Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and bring others to show them how well you do what you do."
    Kristin Dugan, atelier manager
    Anne Gregory Couture, Pittsburgh, Pa.
    23 years in the bridal industry

   "If you want your store to run the way you want, your presence is necessary. I think most of us can agree that even with the best managers, they likely don’t run things the exact same way as you would yourself, and while I have some wonderful, trusted, and hardworking managers, things are just a little different on my off days. Don’t ask, don’t get. This is from my dad and can be applied in a myriad of situations – whether it is when you need help, or if you are hoping for a discount, if you don’t ask the question, it’ll never happen."
     Kristy Koryzon, owner
    The White Dress, Brighton, Mich.
    12 years in the bridal industry

    "Make everyone feel like a somebody. Every customer that comes through your doors is about to make a memory that will last a lifetime, and that is something that should never be taken for granted! It’s definitely easy to get overwhelmed by the pressure that comes with being a small business owner, but my dad says “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and remember it’s ALL small stuff!” These small pieces of advice have made big differences in my life and business!"
     Audrey McCarthy, owner
    The Bridal Path, Jackson, Miss.
    10 years in the bridal industry

   "Always do the right thing, and the right thing will come back. It cannot always be just about the money when a problem arises. Step up, no matter what the cost, and own your part. It may come out of pocket today, but it will return to you another day. Also, focus on your own backyard and not what others are doing in theirs."
    Tracy Burke, owner
    New York Bride and Groom, various locations in North & South Carolina
    30 years in the bridal industry