A lot goes in to running a bridal boutique, and if you want to make sure your shop is as successful as possible, it pays to follow advice.
We asked Polly Parkin, who until recently was the owner of award-winning bridalwear shop The Bride, for her top 10 tips to guarantee success.
Polly has sold her shop to sisters Natalie and Lynsey Dalvarez in order to move back to her previous role as a buyer at Next.
Read up more about Polly’s business in our digital editions of Bridal Buyer.
Don’t try to be all things to all people. At The Bride I focused on and knew my target customer so I carefully selected the four designers I most wanted to carry within the price range set.
High end dresses need to be presented alongside other high end dresses; it’s about deciding on where you want to pitch yourself and creating a clear story.
I was always very strict with my spending budget. You can easily top up on samples if you missed out on a key trend or bestseller. If a new sample isn’t repeating, then move it on quickly and turn it back into cash so that you can switch it for a better dress without incurring further cost or increasing your stock count.
Want more budget advice? Read Ellie Sanderson’s advice on managing your bridal business budget.
Manage the showroom sample dress count to stay between 45 and 75 dresses in total. By September when the new dresses start to arrive, I had run the showroom stock down to the lowest level. So long as you can sell two to four ex-display samples each month then you can maintain a good equilibrium and tight stock management is one of the biggest facts when it comes to running a profitable business.
Service in a high end sales environment is key, and this for me largely involved having enough staff in the shop on any given day. At The Bride, each customer was allocated a sales consultant to complete the appointment without interruption, right up to saying goodbye.
Additionally, a junior would tidy, fetch and carry dresses, serve refreshments and generally be there to assist the sales consultants. A manager would always be on the shop floor to be front of house, deal with queries and offer support to the sales team.
Customers often commented on how lovely and calm the shop felt even when we were packed to capacity on a fully-booked Sunday.
Want to hire more staff? Read our guide to hiring staff – including what to look for and what to ask.
Quality bookings are vital to converting sales; only taking bookings that were well vetted and well appraised of our offering/price range was key to managing the quality of appointments.
Attention to detail is everything. Make sure that your shop is pristinely presented at all times. The brides arriving at 5pm should experience the exact same neat and tidy environment as the brides arriving first thing.
Keep on top of it; employ more Saturday helpers if needed. You wouldn’t expect to walk into Selfridges and find a blown light bulb or even a hanger out of place, so reassure your brides that you are in control of every detail.
Want to redecorate? We ask the experts to recommend their top interior design ideas for bridal boutiques.
When I set up the business, I wanted to create the perfect buying experience for my brides to fully enjoy and cherish. As a sales business, the customer has always been first and foremost in my mind. So when choosing the name to put above the door, it was an easy decision – ‘The Bride’!
Allow time at the beginning of a first appointment to really get to know your customer and identify exactly what she’s hoping for. Ask her for her back story so that you go into the appointment fully appraised enabling you to start building the relationship and pick out the right dresses for her body shape, her style and her venue.
Record the guests’ names – mother, grandmother, sisters, bridesmaids etc. – in the customer’s notes for future reference and make yourself learn them. It’s that simple. This is really important when operating a professional and personal service – customers want to feel known.
Don’t mess up – find out what happens when customers don’t find their shopping experience to be inspiring.
At The Bride I had spreadsheets set up from day one to record sales and marketing data. This was invaluable to me when making any business decisions. You can’t record too much data, just get it all into Excel and can you sure that you’re making decisions for your business based on facts.
Want even more advice? Find out how you can make your bridal boutique stand out against competition.