10 Questions with Joan Pillow
1) You’re so stylish, how did you get into bridal retail?
Thank you for your compliment. I have always loved fashion and I think your compliment truly belongs to my Mother. She was very fashionable and her love and appreciation of fashion was something that she shared with me from an early age.
My career path started with retail, but it was never directed towards bridal. I do think it was headed there because of the level of merchandise I was surrounded by. The designers that I was exposed to at Neiman Marcus were of the highest level. Their construction, design and originality are only matched by bridal.
2) Who is your customer?
Our customer is someone that appreciates fashion and quality. She is fashionable with a certain edge. She is able to understand fine fabrics and does not necessarily need "a name" in order to decide on her gown.
3) Do designer brand names matter to your bride?
I think a brand name might mean more to a Mother then to a bride because they own the designer's clothes. I think the bride wants something that expresses her style, is a great fit and is different than what her friends have worn.
4) How do you manage both stores in two different states?
Managing two stores keeps me on my toes, and I enjoy the challenge. I am blessed with great girls in both stores. Today's text and emails keep lines of communication open. In the morning, the first thing that I do is look at my emails. I am familiar with our customers and am available to staff throughout the day. Our consultants have commented that I remember their customers sometimes more than they do. I also plan my travel so I am at either store for our many events.
5) What are the similarities and differences of customers for each store?
I find the Atlanta bride more classic and conservative. She appreciates understated elegance but is not that attracted to beading or other adornment unless it is subtle.
Our Houston bride is classic but also fashion forward. She is more willing to try, if not buy, a new style. Often she wants to stylize her dress with her own change to a neckline or sleeve. We are able to make these changes with many of the designers that we carry or with our in house alterations.
6) What kind of changes would you like to see the bridal industry make?
I think social media has been a double edge sword. The gowns are out there for brides to see as soon as bridal market happens. This offers the bride the opportunity to see new and it is a forecast on trends but often this causes the bride to wait for trunk shows so they can try on the various designers before they purchase. Also, the turnaround to actually have these gowns in your stock takes companies months. Many of our designers also produce ready to wear lines so they are pushed to design and manufacture for the various collections thus putting their production at a disadvantage.
I think the main request I would like would be to have gowns in the stores closer to when they are shown. Some ready to wear designers bring in their key customers to preview and chose what will be strong items. They then produce these selections and when market is over they are able to ship them in a more timely manner.
7) One NY bridal market or two a year?
I think it is important to have new merchandise. If there was one market, stores would need to pick more units but have manufacturers stagger deliveries, allowing new to ship creating a continuous excitement for the stores and customers. The expense of market is great for out of town store owners. Hotels have become so expensive plus if you require two rooms the cost is double.
The Designer show locations are often far apart making transportation and time between shows a challenge as well. Scheduling review appointments are not that difficult because I try to group them close to one another by day. I think renting one hotel where all the designers who do not have their own showrooms is a very great way to help stores conveniently see their vendors. I question why "shows" have to be since seeing collections "up close and personal" ultimately is where a buyer will make their decisions.
8) Does technology play any part for your store?
Technology is a major plus for our stores. Our Instagram has attracted new customers to both our Houston and Atlanta stores. In a very short time our following has grown substantially. I think our younger customer is more inclined to look at Instagram and be influenced where as our Mothers are more inclined to look at Facebook.
We have an online system for scheduling appointments and clients are used to that having other industries offering that means of communication.
We build our customer base and inform our brides through emails of upcoming designer trunk shows. I think Brides are overwhelmed with emails from where they register to where they shop for their gown so we try to respect this.
9) What is the challenges you face for todays brides?
I think the younger bride is not as concerned about what designer she wears. I think they are practical and question why spend so much on something that they will only wear for one day. However, our Mother's know that wedding pictures will live on so they still want their daughters selecting a gown that will not simply be trendy but high quality, and special.
10) How did you find the market this season?
Overwhelming. I move very quickly when I'm at market. Unfortunately there is only so much time to get around and see all of the designers. When I first started, there were maybe 25 designers going to market.
Today, there are designers from all across the United States, and the world, all colliding in NYC at one time. With such a plethora of designs coming on the market each year, I would need a month to see them all.