How to start up a bridal shop business

How to start up a bridal shop business

Starting a bridal boutique businessA bridal shop is a retail establishment that specializes in selling wedding dresses, bridal party gowns, veils, shoes, and other wedding-related accessories. In many cases, bridal shops also offer services such as alterations, dress rental, and in-house consultants who can help with the planning of the entire wedding. While the vast majority of bridal shops are brick-and-mortar stores, there is an increasing trend of shops operating solely online.

Bridal shops typically target a specific demographic, such as budget-conscious brides or brides who are looking for designer gowns. As such, most shops carry a limited selection of gowns in order to appeal to their target market. However, some stores – particularly larger ones – may carry a wide variety of gowns in order to appeal to a broader range of customers.

In addition to selling gowns, many bridal shops also offer other services such as alterations, dress rental, and in-house consultants who can help with the planning of the entire wedding. As the wedding industry continues to grow, so too does the demand for bridal shops. For those looking to enter the business, now is an ideal time to open a shop of your own. Starting and running your own bridal shop should be a breeze after you read through our handy guide.

Estimating demand for bridal wear in your area

In order to open a bridal wear retailer in your area, you need to determine whether there is enough demand for it. There are several reasons why the sector is competitive:

  • There has been a decline in the number of marriages over the past few years
  • Many people getting married in alternative venues want outfits that are not traditional. Church weddings have fallen in popularity.
  • A growing number of couples are getting married abroad without as much ceremony as they might have had at home
  • As a result of the recent economic downturn, wedding outfits and celebrations have become less expensive
  • The number of internet traders selling counterfeit or poor-quality gowns has risen significantly

There are too many suppliers competing for fewer and fewer brides, resulting in a saturated market. Approximately 4,000 bridal wear retail outlets exist in the UK, and you will compete with:

  • Various independent outlets
  • Companies that offer exclusive designer bridal wear
  • In department stores there are bridal departments
  • Mail order companies and internet bridal shops – Asos recently launched a bridal range at an affordable price
  • Ex-samples and end-of-line items are sold by home traders
  • There are a number of high street clothing retailers that offer bridal collections, including Monsoon, Phase Eight, and Dorothy Perkins.
  • Gowns are available at factory outlets at significant discounts

Additionally, more people are buying second-hand or vintage wedding dresses from charity shops like Oxfam or online from auction sites like eBay – reducing the need for bridal boutiques.

Identify how many other wedding outlets are already targeting your area’s wedding market by checking out your competition. Yell.com provides an indication of the number and kinds of services offered by existing outlets. Consider that you may also be competing with bridal wear outlets that are a distance away but able to attract customers from your area due to their high quality or specialised services. Find out if certain bridal wear outlets are highly recommended in related businesses, like ladies’ clothing shops. Take a look at what makes them so special, and you’ll see why.

Why will customers choose your bridal shop?

Your bridal wear shop must attract enough customers to beat out existing competitors. It is possible that you can fill a market gap as a result of your market research. You might not find anyone in your area who offers designer services or sells wedding dresses at a budget price.

Make sure that local competitors don’t already sell the labels you hope to sell – if so, you’ll probably want to stock exclusive ranges.

Reliability

When preparing for their wedding day, people invest a lot of time, money, and emotion, and it is crucial that you don’t let anyone down by not delivering the wedding dress on time. In order to make sure they can deliver on time; some businesses accept only a limited number of commissions each season.

Most existing bridal wear shops mention this in their advertising as proof that they have been in business for some time and have always met deadlines. Your new business must demonstrate its commitment to reliability in order to win customers. Having a wedding dress ready in a timely manner has become even more crucial now that couples plan weddings more quickly than in the past.

Check out future developments

You should locate your outlet in an area with plenty of parking and a high volume of passing traffic. You should check that no new road systems are planned, which would bypass your shop, and that there are no parking restrictions.

In order to attract potential customers, you may want to be located near businesses like florists, clothing stores, hairdressers, and beauty salons.

Decide what bridal wear and accessories you will sell

You will probably stock samples of perhaps two to three hundred wedding dresses from a variety of manufacturers and designers if you plan to offer ready-to-wear bridal collections.

You will help potential customers choose their ‘dream dress’ within the price range they can afford. This service could cost around £30 for a consultation or appointment. You might only charge if the bride doesn’t show up.

An individual might take between an hour and an hour and a half to try on four to six different styles. When you have measured the customer, you will place an order with the manufacturer for the appropriate size. Ready-to-wear wedding dresses usually come in standard dress sizes. There is a good chance that it will need some alterations, so the customer needs to know if the price includes alterations. Before ordering the dress, ensure that it will arrive in time for the wedding. It can take several months for the dress to arrive. You might consider holding some popular ranges in the most requested sizes in stock to cater to the growing number of couples who want to get married quickly. If you place an order less than three months before your wedding, some bridal wear shops charge a ‘rush cut fee.’

In the event that a customer requests a specific gown from your stock while she decides what to buy, you may consider a non-refundable charge. The amount she has already paid would be applied to the cost of the dress if she places an order for it.

You may offer the following ranges to cater to as many brides as possible:

  • White, cream, and ivory wedding gowns for younger brides
  • Older women may prefer more sophisticated outfits in pastels, pale gold, or even burgundy
  • The wedding dresses you choose need to be easy to pack if they are to be worn overseas in exotic locations. Fabrics that are lightweight and floaty are popular
  • Warmer dresses suitable for winter weddings. Red is becoming more popular for winter weddings
  • A vintage-inspired wedding dress or accessory will give your wedding a unique touch
  • Asian brides wear lenghas, saris, and salwar kameez suits. Some brides are experimenting with colours other than red, maroon, and gold for their Asian weddings, such as cerise, cream, or light blue.
  • Dresses for maternity weddings

Bridal accessories

You can also sell the following items to customers who want to put together their wedding outfits under one roof:

  • Lingerie, petticoats, basques, corsets and tights/stockings
  • Shoes
  • Headdresses, tiaras, veils
  • Bags and gloves
  • Jewellery

A fabric garment bag is sometimes included with every wedding dress at bridal wear outlets. When the wedding venue is overseas, special boxes are available to store or transport the wedding dress safely after the ceremony.

Second-hand and vintage bridal wear

Stocking once-worn designer wedding dresses in good condition might be a good idea. Brides looking for something unique can find original vintage wedding dresses and accessories at some outlets.

Other bridal items to sell

Consider selling a variety of wedding party clothes if you have the space, such as:

  • Mother of the bride outfits
  • Adult bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Page boy and flower girl outfits
  • Grooms’ suits and accessories
  • Evening wear, prom dresses and ball gowns

If you stock temporary white wedding tattoos, for example, you will stand out from your competitors.

Annual sales

It may be a good idea to hold a wedding gown sale (possibly in the summer) where you discount all of your stock samples. In case they have been worn a lot, you may need to dry-clean them first.

Seasonality

It is likely that you will take most orders outside of the peak wedding season between April/May and September. Wedding dresses can take between six and nine months to arrive from the manufacturer, since it can take time for them to be manufactured. It would be ideal if someone planning a June wedding ordered their wedding dress in November of the previous year, so any alterations could be completed in time. If you want to deal with last-minute alterations, you need to ensure that your bridal accessory stocks are high during wedding season. Between April and September, you will be in high demand if you offer wedding outfit hire.

Establish your customer profiles

It is highly important that you fully understand who your target audience is.

Your market

You will target brides of all ages, as well as grooms, mothers of brides, and bridesmaids as members of the wedding party. Traditionally, the bride’s family paid for the wedding dress, but now you are likely to find that many brides pay for their own dresses. The majority of buyers are high earners who are willing to spend quite a bit of money on a dress they really like.

You should also keep in mind that some of your customers may be older women who aren’t comfortable wearing a traditional white wedding gown. Stylish and sophisticated alternatives could also be stocked, perhaps in pastel colours. Today, more and more marriages are taking place between people who have been married before, and these customers may be seeking an entirely different kind of outfit, particularly if the ceremony isn’t going to take place in a church.

Deposits for bridal dresses

In order to order the gown from the manufacturer or designer, you’ll need to receive a deposit from the customer once she’s chosen her gown and placed her order. In most bridal stores, a 25% to 50% deposit is required for the gown. There is generally no return policy for this item. The Brides Protection Scheme is offered by members of the Retail Bridalwear Association.

Final payment

We will send the wedding dress to you for the customer to try on once it is ready (usually 12 to 16 weeks later). It may need to be altered in many cases so that it fits perfectly. In addition to the original price of the dress, you may charge for this separately. You must ensure that your customers know exactly what is included in the price, regardless of what course you choose.

Upon completion of all alterations, you will request the final payment from the customer.

Cash or cheque

You may receive payment from your customers in the following ways:

  • In cash
  • By cheque, debit or credit card
  • By electronic payment (for example trade customers which you supply on a regular basis might prefer this payment method)

Credit facilities may also be offered. Once your customer has paid the full amount, you would then supply the order after the full amount has been paid.

Trade customers

Consider supplying bridal wear retailers with your own designed and produced wedding gowns. The gown is then made according to the customer’s measurements using samples from your collection. Bridal wear retailers are commonly offered exclusivity within a certain radius in order to create something unique that attracts customers. Retailers are usually required to stock a minimum number of lines, and a trade price is offered to them. The retailer and you will need to agree on a price within 50% of the retail price.

Decide which bridal services to offer

It is likely that you will offer a variety of services to customers in addition to offering bridal gowns, accessories, and other wedding items, such as:

  • A system of appointments so that customers can try on different gowns with your undivided attention. Depending on your customer’s needs, you may decide to charge a small fee for this, which you then deduct from their wedding outfit order. Appointments could be scheduled throughout the week as well as on Sundays
  • Delivery of wedding gowns and storage until the wedding day
  • Providing wedding outfits for hire
  • Shoe dyeing
  • Wedding planning/organisation
  • Wedding insurance
  • Wedding list management
  • Made-to-measure/designer gowns
  • Fitting/alteration service – you might also offer this to customers who have been unable to try on their wedding dress before they paid for it, because they bought it from an online bridal retailer.
  • Sales of once-worn wedding dresses, on behalf of their owners
  • Supply of wedding party accessories like personalised chocolates

Additionally, you may establish contact with related businesses, including florists, photographers, stationers, limousine companies, caterers, hairdressers, and beauty salons. Your customers might be able to get a small discount from these businesses. You can link to these businesses on your website.

The right image

The image of your bridal wear outlet is very important. The staff at your store will do everything they can to guarantee that the bride-to-be has confidence in your ability to deliver her wedding dress on time. You will benefit from a reputation for excellent customer service and reliability if you are able to provide excellent service and reliable results. If you can assure them that you will offer a first-class service, potential customers will travel considerable distances.

Advertising your bridal wear outlet

Even though you are hoping for word-of-mouth recommendations, you need to make sure that potential customers know about you and the products and services you offer, especially in the early stages.

You can promote your business in a number of ways:

  • Local newspapers, bridal magazines, and local directories can be used for advertising
  • List your business on Yell.com
  • Be present at wedding fairs and exhibitions in your area
  • Websites dedicated to weddings
  • Create a website that allows e-commerce
  • Keep people informed about new ranges and upcoming events using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram
  • Included in online directories such as the Retail Bridalwear Association Directory or the Confetti Suppliers Directory (bridal wear stockists) can benefit your business.
  • Establish relationships with florists, photographers, caterers, etc.
  • Gain local publicity by running an annual ‘Win a wedding dress’ contest

Price your bridal products

How will you decide on your prices?

Pricing correctly is very important. Your operating costs, including your own drawings, must be covered by the difference between the cost price and the selling price.

Wedding dresses are expensive because people spend lavishly on their wedding celebrations and want to look their absolute best on their wedding day. Many wedding items fall into the following price ranges, although designer gowns can cost many thousands of pounds:

  • Gowns – between £300 and £1,000
  • Designer gowns – often between £1,000 and £5,000, but in some cases much more
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses – between £180 and £500
  • Headdress/veil – average price between £100 and £150
  • Tiaras – between £40 and £200
  • Veils – between £35 and £200
  • Shoes – between £45 and £200

The cost of an Asian wedding outfit might range from £2,500 to £3,000.

In the bridal wear industry, margins are generally high, and you are likely to mark up your bridal wear ranges and accessories by 100% or more.

Annual sales

A shop sample sale might be a good idea to prepare for the upcoming season’s styles. Consider offering these gowns at a significant discount – perhaps 50% off.

Be sure the sale price covers both the gown and the dry-cleaning cost if you have to have them dry-cleaned first.

Alterations

The bride-to-be needs to alter a large number of wedding dresses made in the Far East to make them fit perfectly. These alterations are usually included in the gown’s price. If the bride-to-be gains or loses weight before the wedding, you will need to decide whether to charge another fee to alter the dress again. Any additional alterations may have to be paid for by your customers.

If you don’t supply gowns, consider offering an alteration service. The quality of wedding dresses ordered from unauthorised online sellers often turns out to be poor and counterfeit. If you wish to improve the fit of these gowns, you may be willing to make alterations.

Cancellation policy

When your customers place an order, they may be required to pay a deposit. A cancellation may result in a refund, or the customer may be required to pay more in the event of a cancellation. The terms you have negotiated with your suppliers will have a significant impact on your business.

Buy an existing bridal wear business

Instead of starting your own bridal wear business from scratch, you might decide to purchase an existing one. When you buy a going concern, you may be able to:

  • The premises, business equipment, and shop fittings have already been installed
  • A reputation has been established for the business
  • There may be a website for the business
  • There may be established customers
  • Income can be generated immediately by the business
  • Relationships have been established with suppliers and bridal wear designers
  • If you are seeking financing, the track record of the business will be useful
  • It is possible that staff have already been hired

Make sure you negotiate a fair price with the seller for the business you are interested in, however. If the owner is interested in retiring or there is another personal reason for selling, try to find out why the business is for sale.

You can determine whether a business owner is selling because they cannot generate sufficient income from the business by researching the sector and locality as a whole. There are many businesspeople who believe they can turn a failing business around – so this may not deter you. To avoid paying too much for the business, it is important to have established the current position.

Other matters to consider include:

  • The condition of the premises, fittings, equipment, etc. Are you going to have to spend money on refurbishing or replacing assets?
  • Any stock you are buying should be evaluated for its condition and value. Ensure the items are trendy and are not shop-soiled or damaged before agreeing on a price
  • If you take over the existing business, will the owner provide you with some training
  • Rights of existing employees
  • Once you have taken over, how to retain key personnel
  • Does the business owe money that you will be responsible for?
  • How much does the seller’s skill and personality affect the value of goodwill? Can you continue to offer designer or made-to-measure gowns if the business offers these services?

Discuss the selling price with your accountant based on the business accounts for the past three years. You should also budget for legal fees, valuations, and surveys.

Starting a bridal boutique business

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