10 Questions with Beth Chapman of The White Dress by the Shore
1) As stylist, consultant, mentor, author and bridal store owner — with so many hats, what drives you?
What drives me is pursuing my passions of styling and educating, but my real motivation is my family.
2) Is there a common theme to what you do?
With all of my hats, my common theme is to empower women to look and feel beautiful.
3) What was your background before and what brought you to open The White Dress by the Shore?
Prior to opening my boutique, I was a Vice President of Merchandising for Ann Taylor in their corporate office in New York City.
4) How did your corporate retail training contribute to your skills of running a bridal salon?
I grew up at Ann Taylor. I started with the company right out of college and worked my way up to VP. Ann Taylor really ingrained me the notion that it is all about the client and the customer experience is what sets you apart. I of course, also gained financial aptitude, and honed my merchandising skills, both of which have proven beneficial in running a successful bridal boutique.
5) What unique experiences are offered at The White Dress by the Shore?
We strive to create an exceptional experience at The White Dress by the Shore. The boutique is situated in a historic home built in 1763, so the space itself is inviting and unique. Each our private suites are named after European cities and we serve our guests tea and coffee in my grandmother’s antique tea cups. Our stylists goal is to guide our brides through the shopping experience and assist them in selecting the bridal fashion that not only captures the essence of their wedding, but also their personal style.
We also offer private shopping experiences. For a bride who wants a truly unique experience, we offer White Carpet Appointments. The bride and her guests have the entire boutique to themselves for 3 hours. They are served champagne and wedding cake and all of the memories are captured by a photographer. At the end of the appointment the bride receives a swag bag filled with some of our favorite things! We offer a similar experience for bridesmaids in our bridesmaid atelier, chic by the shore, which is a separate building on the back of our property. The bride and her maids have the space for 2 hours. They enjoy mimosas and cupcakes while shopping and each maid receives a pashmina as a gift, that the bride can later have monogrammed for them.
6) What determines which designers you carry in the salon?
My goal is to have our gowns be of one hand and taste level, so that they appeal to our target bride. The White Dress by the shore bride wants a classic gown with a bit of a fashion twist. We look for designers that have this aesthetic. We also look to work with designers that provide exceptional customer service to us. We cannot provide exceptional service to our clients if we don’t receive it from our designers.
7) What is The White Dress Society about?
The White Dress Society is a forum for independent bridal store owners. I created it as resource for store owners to be able to learn, share ideas and be inspired by those that are doing exceptional things in the industry. We have grown to over 700 members worldwide. The retail aspect of the bridal industry is evolving so quickly. This forum acts a support system for store owners to navigate through these changes. My belief is that we can each elevate the way that we are doing business, we can elevate the industry as a whole.
8) What are the biggest concerns retailers have today? Can they find solutions to increase sales?
There are quite a few concerns right now for retailers. I think one of the biggest is how oversaturated the market has become. I created a video series for bridal store owners called The Series. It contains a bundle of videos for store owners to empower them to run their businesses profitably and a bundle of videos to train and educate their staff on sales techniques and product knowledge.
I believe that there are several ways that we can increase our sales and stand out in a crowded market. Firstly, educating our sales associates is a key to success. Our stylists need to be thoroughly trained on product knowledge and sales techniques so that they can present themselves as an expert to their brides. Today’s bride will only purchase from someone that she trusts, so this is key! Store owners also have to be clear on who their target bride is. In this day and age, it is difficult to be everything to everyone. You need to hone in on your target bride in order to market to her properly and to buy for her.
Lastly, store owners need to look at the experience that they offer in their boutique and take it to the next level. We can no longer do things the way that they have always been done. In order to stand out, the experience that you offer to your brides has to be exceptional and it has to be unique. This experience is the thing that will provide you with a competitive advantage that will allow you to stand out in a sea of bridal stores!
9) What time of year do you prefer to shop for your salon and how many markets do you usually attend?
I would like one main market and second market that is just to find out what is trending and to fill in what you feel that you are missing. The ideal time frame for market for me is in the Spring. That way, gowns arrive in store for the Fall when sales start to rev back up again.
10) How do you see the future of the bridal industry?
That is a BIG question! Weddings are not going away. There will always be brides…we just have to work to capture them as clients. I think that the bridal industry needs to get back to basics and a take a good hard look at the level of service that we are offering to brides. Service and the experience is the key to success in the future. Certainly, technology is going to play a key role in the future of the industry, but we can’t lose sight of the bride and forging a personal connection with her. That is the key to success!