10 Questions with Jan Caroll, Owner of Boca Raton Bridal

1.  How did you become interested in owning a bridal salon and how long ago did you open?

It was actually quite accidental that I came to own this salon. The woman I had purchased my own gown from years earlier called me out-of-the-blue one day and asked to meet with me. During that meeting she told me she knew of a store for sale and thought it would be perfect for me. I had a fashion degree I wasn’t using and was growing tired of being on the corporate machine, so I mortgaged my house and here we are. That was in 2005. 

2.  What is the philosophy of your store?

We are in a very upscale area and people expect us to be a certain way, very uptight and snobbish. So I have always run us the exact opposite. My sales girls aren’t on commission because I don’t like the vibe that throws off. We are very relaxed but we also run a tight ship. I don’t mark things up higher than suggested because brides automatically assume we do, given our location. More than anything I care, probably too much at times, but it makes all the difference in the world when a problem arises. We have the largest couture store in Florida and we really try to provide a wide range of styles you can’t always find elsewhere. 

3.  What designers do you carry and what are their price points?

We have a wide variety of designers from all over the world: 

Alyne by Rita Vinieris, Blush by Hayley Paige, Eve of Milady, Flora, GALA by Galia Lahav, Galia Lahav, Hayley Paige, Justin Alexander Signature, Lazaro, Le Sposa Di Giò, Lee Petra Grebenau, Legends by Romona Keveza, Martina Liana, Mira Zwillinger, Netta BenShabu, Peter Langner, Rivini, Romona Keveza, Stephen Yearick and Viktor&Rolf Mariage

Prices range from from $2,000-$15,000. 

4.  Do you find brides are different today then when you first opened?

Definitely!  When we first opened, print advertising was where your money went and there was no social media. Brides didn’t have to go to 10 stores and try 500 dresses to make a decision. They were far more educated on the actual process then they are today.  Today’s bride tends to wait until the last minute, insisting she gets what she wants when she wants it - she has no clue reading the time it actually takes. She’s armed with a ton of photos from online so she thinks she “knows” exactly what she wants. She runs all over town, trying everything and has a hell of a time making a decision. On the flip side, I don’t feel like they are price shopping in the way they used to. Now it’s more about getting them to actually settle on something. 

5.  What is your point of view for merchandising?  

I like a clean aesthetic. Clutter and mess drive me crazy so I tend to keep things very organized.  We are organized by designer and then within that designer the gowns are organized by silhouette and color.  We do keep all of our inventory out on the floor so girls can look and touch. I like it to be a visual experience. That being said, we control the gowns being pulled to try to minimize people pulling things the bride doesn’t want or can’t afford. 

6.  Who is your customer and where do they travel from?

The population in Boca is very heavily Jewish and fairly wealthy, so most of our girls fall into that demographic. We also get a very waspy clientele from the coast. Because of our proximity to Miami, most of the South American brides shop there, so we do not deal with too much in that demographic.  We get a lot of east coast brides that fly back and forth from New York, as Boca is called 'New York South' due to the number of transplants from that area. We have seen an uptick of Southern girls making the trip down in the last 6-8 months. 

7.  What new trends have you been buying for your store?

We’ve added a lot of clean silhouettes, as well as ballgowns.  Gowns with an interesting mix of fabrics and laces and lighter, more ethereal silhouettes.  We’ve eliminated the allover lace in future buys, as well as the sheer mesh backs. Again, a lot of girls think they want the new “boho” look but find it’s not flattering on the body.  We’ve been searching for that medium of fit and lightness in feel. 

8.  Where do you see the bridal industry going?

I see a real split in the industry. I see a lot of brides veering back towards the traditional gown, however I also see a lot more options for the casual bride that we don’t handle. That being said, I don’t think that client was necessarily ever our bride. We do see girls getting married later in life, in terms of age, and we do see them getting far more creative in their wedding ideas. However, I still feel that a traditional wedding with a true wedding gown is and will always be what most clients desire. She’s getting more creative, but the traditional celebration still dominates.  I think our biggest challenge is educating the brides on how it actually works and getting her to make a decision. Social media has drastically changed the client, the way she thinks and her lack of understanding.  We are going to have to adapt as an industry in many ways to keep up. 

9. Do you travel to other markets?

The additional markets I travel to are for my other store for the lower price point bride. New York is so short on time and spread out geographically now I don’t have enough time to buy for both stores. I have not traveled across the pond as of yet, as all the designers that have interested me have shown in New York or simply don’t show at the Barcelona or London markets.  If there is no shift in the way New York is done, I will definitely be heading to the international markets. 

10.  What is the criteria for you to carry a bridal collection?

At this point, because we’ve been in business for awhile, the collection must fill a void. It also depends heavily on the fit and quality of the gown, as well as the quality of the company producing them.  A collection should also have some diversity to it. We’ve covered the niche markets that we wanted to cover, so we don’t need a designer that produces 30 versions of the same gown. Gone are the days of chasing a designer based on name, as very few brides seek them out that way anymore.  I have to like you to work with you, and I have to love what you design.