What Makes A Great Bridal Retailer?

RACHEL LEONARD SPEAKS WITH BRIDAL SALES EXECUTIVE LORI WEIL.

 
 

RL: WHAT IS YOUR RETAIL / MANUFACTURE EXPERIENCE IN THE BRIDAL INDUSTRY?
LW: I HAVE BEEN IN THE RETAIL/MANUFACTURE INDUSTRY SINCE 1985. FIRST, I WAS THE BUYER FOR A CHAIN OF BRIDAL STORES FOR 12 YEARS, WHERE I BOUGHT BOTH COUTURE AND MODERATE GOODS FOR SEVERAL STORES. FOLLOWING MY RETAIL CAREER, I BECAME THE SALES DIRECTOR FOR BOTH CHRISTIAN DIOR AND GIVENCHY BRIDAL LICENSES FOR SEVERAL YEARS BEFORE JOINING MONIQUE LHUILLIER WHERE I SPENT 14 YEARS AS FIRST THE SALES DIRECTOR, AND THEN THE VP OF BRIDAL SALES UNTIL DECEMBER 2015. I AM CURRENTLY ENJOYING SOME DOWN TIME.

RL: HOW MANY STORES DID YOU OR YOUR TEAM VISIT A YEAR?
LW: WE WOULD VISIT APPROXIMATELY 25 OR MORE RETAIL STORES A YEAR, MOSTLY FOR TRUNK SHOWS.

RL: WHAT MAKES AN A+ BRIDAL SALON?
LW: WHEN LOOKING FOR A GOOD RETAIL PARTNER (A+ BRIDAL SALON), I ALWAYS LOOK FOR SEVERAL CRITERIA.
     1. BRAND MATRIX - HOW MANY BRANDS DO THEY CARRY? AN A+ STORE DOES NOT WANT TO BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYBODY. WE LIKED STORES THAT FOCUSED ON 10 OR LESS LABELS DEPENDING ON THE SIZE OF THE STORE. BELIEVING IN YOUR DESIGNERS AND HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM IS MORE IMPORTANT THEN CARRYING EVERYBODY.
     2. STORE APPEARANCE - WHEN A STORE GETS TIRED LOOKING, PEOPLE NOTICE. CHANGE YOUR CARPET EVERY 3-5 YEARS DEPENDING ON TRAFFIC. GIVE YOUR STORE A FACE LIFT. IT ALSO HELPS YOUR EMPLOYEES FEEL SHINY AND NEW! ALSO, MAKE SURE YOUR DRESSES ARE CLEAN. NOBODY WANTS TO BUY FROM A STORE THAT HAS DIRTY DRESSES TO TRY ON!
     3. IN-HOUSE ALTERATIONS - HAVE A FITTER ON SITE FOR ALTERATIONS. A GIRL THAT BUYS AN EXPENSIVE DRESS EXPECTS TO HAVE HER FITTINGS IN THE STORE, NOT BE SENT OFF TO A REFERRED SEAMSTRESS. IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH THE DRESS, SOMEONE THAT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU WILL ALWAYS BLAME YOU OR THE DESIGNER AND NEVER TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. YOU ALSO WANT TO HAVE SOMEONE PRESENT AT ALL CUSTOMER FITTINGS SO SHE FEELS SPECIAL.
     4. CUSTOMER SERVICE- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE WHOLE PIE. WITH SO MANY OPTIONS IN THE SECONDARY MARKET FOR BRIDES, CUSTOMER SERVICE HAS BECOME MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER. FOR EVERY UNHAPPY BRIDE THAT YOU CAN TURN INTO A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE, YOU WILL GET 5 MORE REFERRALS. MAKE SURE AS MANY BRIDES THAT GO THROUGH YOUR STORE LEAVE HAPPY! SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO SPEND A LITTLE EXTRA TIME AND GIVE A LITTLE MORE TENDER LOVING CARE, BUT ITS WORTH IT IN THE LONG RUN.
     5. KNOWLEDGABLE SALES CONSULTANTS - MAKE SURE YOUR CONSULTANTS KNOW THEIR PRODUCT. THEY NEED TO BE EXPERTS ON ALL OF THE DESIGNERS THEY CARRY. GIVE THEM THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO SELL AND BE SUCCESSFUL AND MOTIVATED. AFTER ALL, THEY ARE YOUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET! 

     6. HOW OFTEN DOES THE A+ SALON CHANGE THEIR STOCK-
AN A+ STORE HAS TO KEEP UP WITH THE NEWEST TRENDS. THEREFORE, THEY DON’T OVERBUY EACH SEASON, BUT ALWAYS STAY CURRENT WITH TWICE A YEAR. IF GIRLS SEE IT ON INSTAGRAM, YOU HAVE TO HAVE IT!

RL: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN TELL A SALON OWNER WHO IS STRIVING TO BE A+?
LW: STAY CURRENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING OUT THERE. THIS IS WHERE GIRLS ARE NOW LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ON DESIGNERS, VENUE’S, ETC.. REMEMBER, IT’S NOT HOW MANY GIRLS COME INTO YOUR STORE. OWNERS ARE COMPLAINING THAT TRAFFIC IS DOWN. THE KEY IS TO CONVERT A LARGE PERCENT OF THOSE GIRLS INTO YOUR BRIDES BY WOWING THEM. ONCE THEY LOVE YOU AND YOUR STORE, THEY WILL BUY FROM YOU. KEEP YOUR BRAND MATRIX UPDATED. PAY ATTENTION TO WHO YOUR CUSTOMER IS AND BUY FOR HER.

RL: HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE BRIDE CHANGE OVER THE YEARS?
LW: THE 2016 BRIDE IS A NEW GIRL! YEARS AGO, A BRIDE CAME IN WITH JUST HER MOM AND GRANDMA AND BOUGHT A DRESS. TODAY, WE SEE UP TO 12 PEOPLE COME IN WITH A GIRL TO BUY A WEDDING GOWN WITH CHAMPAGNE, CAVIAR AND BALLOONS. THE “SAY YES TO THE DRESS” SHOW REALLY CHANGED OUR INDUSTRY. ALSO, THE BRIDES NOW ALSO WANT A MORE SENSUAL LOOK THAN EVER BEFORE. THEY ARE WEARING DRESSES CUT DOWN TO THE WAIST, BACKLESS DRESSES AND THINGS WE WOULD HAVE NEVER LET OUR DAUGHTERS WEAR BEFORE. SHE IS ALSO GETTING MARRIED AWAY FROM HOME, MORE NOW THAN EVER. THERE ARE MORE DESTINATION WEDDINGS EVERY YEAR. WE SEE A LOT OF NAPA VALLEY, ITALY, FRANCE, GREECE AND MEXICO.

RL: HOW DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG TO SPEND WITH A BRIDE WHO CAN’T DECIDE ON A DRESS?
LWTHAT IS ONE OF THE TOUGHEST QUESTIONS THERE IS. IF A BRIDE IS BETWEEN TWO DRESSES, SOMETIMES YOU HAVE A SHOT AT GETTING HER TO DECIDE BETWEEN THEM. I USUALLY MAKE HER CLOSE HER EYES AND ASK HER IF SHE WOULD MISS THE OTHER DRESS IF SHE WORE THIS ONE TO HER WEDDING. SOMETIMES THAT WORKS! HOWEVER, IF SHE IS STUCK BETWEEN 3 OR 4 DRESSES, SHE WILL USUALLY NEED TO GO HOME AND SLEEP ON IT TO SEE HOW SHE FEELS IN A DAY OR 2 OR BRING SOMEONE ELSE BACK TO SEE THE DRESS. SOMETIMES, WE CAN ASSIGN A MOOD WITH EACH DRESS SO SHE CAN “FEEL” HERSELF IN THE DRESS. A WEDDING GOWN IS AN EMOTIONAL PURCHASE AND MOST BRIDES ARE TRYING TO ANALYZE THE GOWN. IF WE CAN GET THEM TO “FEEL” EACH OF THEIR FAVORITES, WE CAN USUALLY GET THEM TO “FEEL” WHICH ONE SUITS THEM THE BEST.

RL: IS THE BRIDE AWARE OF DESIGNER NAMES? WHO’S HOT NOW?
LW: BRIDES HAVE BECOME LESS AWARE OF DESIGNER NAMES RIGHT NOW AND MORE AWARE OF LOOK. THEY WANT WHAT THEY WANT. THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF BRIDES OUT THERE RIGHT NOW. MANY BRIDES ARE TRENDING TOWARDS THE MORE SENSUAL LOOK RIGHT NOW. IT CAN RANGE FROM VERY SEXY (BERTAGALIA LAHAV), OR SENSUAL BUT NOT AS OBVIOUS (INES DI SANTOINBAL DRORMIRA ZWILLINGER). THERE IS STILL THE BRIDE FOR THE CLASSIC LOOK (MONIQUE LHUILLIEROSCAR DE LA RENTAHERRERA). OF COURSE THERE ARE ALL THE CLASSIC BRIDAL LINES AS WELL.

 
 

RL: IS THERE A TREND RIGHT NOW IN WHAT SHE IS BUYING?
LW: GIRLS TEND TO LIKE LIGHT AND AIRY SHEER DRESSES. THEY ARE EITHER VERY TIGHT SHEATHS OR LIGHT AND AIRY BALL GOWNS. HOWEVER, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THE GIRL FOR THE HUGE BALL GOWN. THE DIFFERENCE IS SHE NOW HAS A SHEER BODICE AND ITS OFTEN GOT SOME DARING FEATURE.

RL: DOES THE BRIDE UNDERSTAND TODAY THAT SHE HAS TO WAIT MONTHS FOR THE DRESS TO BE MADE?
LW: MANY OF THE HIGH END BRIDES COME IN AND UNDERSTAND THEY HAVE TO WAIT AND COME TO TRUNK SHOWS TO PURCHASE WELL IN ADVANCE. HOWEVER, THERE ARE MORE RUSH GIRLS THAN EVER THAT NEED DRESSES IN 8 WEEKS OR LESS. THEY ARE EITHER PLANNING WEDDINGS LAST MINUTE OR SHOPPED TOO LONG LOOKING AT EVERY DRESS IN THE MARKET FOR 2 SEASONS. THIS IS CAUSING STORES A LOT OF STRESS IN ALTERATIONS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE AS BRIDES STILL WANT EVERYTHING TO BE PERFECT.