If you’re heading to White Gallery and London Bridal Week with a view to buying, then you need to be organised and plan your visit perfectly
It is always best to be prepared! Research is key as there is so much to see at the events. Take a look at the exhibitor lists on the White Gallery and London Bridal Week websites, and think about who you would like to see. Make sure you head over to those stands as a priority and book an appointment. If possible, ensure you spend at least two days at the shows as a minimum. On the first day, look around and really get to know what’s on offer – take notes, ask questions and become as well informed as you possibly can. Then take the evening to discuss your thoughts with your colleagues or business partners. When you return the next day, you’ll know exactly what you want and where to go.
If you are meeting new suppliers, then you have to have an organised list of questions to ask them. What collections are available in your area? What’s the price point? What else can they offer you in terms of support – will they help with trunk shows? You need to make sure you are going to be working with companies that suit you.
Avoid any confusion when you arrive at the show by making sure you pre-register for your pass. Get hold of a show guide as soon as you arrive and take some time to plot a route around the exhibitions – saving time on your feet will be a godsend at the end of a busy day. Have a pen and notebook ready for jotting things down, and use business cards to write down information on the back so you remember exactly who you have spoken too. You can also use your notebook to keep track of orders placed, which will help you to stay within your budget.
You need to consider your market carefully and what your brides like. Take pictures of what you have in stock, especially the best sellers, and take this with you as a reminder of what you should be looking for. If you have time, look on the websites of the brands that you are interested in seeing – you’ll be able to have a look at their signature styles, which will give you an idea of what they may have in store this year.
This is your chance to talk to designers and brand experts. Find out everything you can about the gowns you order. It is much easier to sell what you know, especially when you have key titbits of information direct from the designer. It will make the dresses, and your store, that much easier to promote.
Make sure you have the catwalk shows on your agenda. This is a brilliant way for you to see what’s in store for the season ahead – you’ll review colours, materials, silhouettes and detailing, and see exactly how the gowns move on a person.
Having a budget is key, this will enable suppliers to give you a ballpark idea of what you can afford in terms of a sample buy. A balance between what you know you can sell commercially and fashion-forward styling is key, so create a budget for each group and discuss the trends with a designer to get insight into why they chose particular designs for the season.
The extras that you offer in store will be a big draw to brides, not to mention be an additional revenue stream. It is wise to confirm which gowns you want to invest in first and then select accessories that match. You’ll get a good idea of what styles work best together from the fashion shows - so make sure you pay attention to more than just the gowns.
Suppliers will have a responsibility to set terms; as a retailer, you have to respect this. However, you don’t want to overbuy as a result of the minimum set order. Depending on the size of your boutique, the standard terms of a particular brand simply may not be ideal for your store. It’s fine for you to ask if terms can be altered – just do it with respect. Many companies will have flexibility, but some simply won’t be able to bend the rules. Remember to ask when payments are due, what the minimums are and how much shipping costs.