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Ask Jo: managing fittings & LGBTQ+ inclusivity advice

This month Jo Stott covers how to accommodate a large volume of brides and discusses how you can ensure you are being inclusive towards the transgender bride.

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Clifton Brides - How do I manage fittings with last year’s and this year’s brides to accommodate?

This is an incredibly relevant question. Let’s first think about how best you manage your store and customer.

Try to always categorise your consumer:

Prospect Brides – Marketing and pre-sale. Look at your marketing preferences and how well you market to your client. What pre-sell techniques do you use and what sort of authentic connection do you make with your client?

New Brides – Experience/product/management. Look at the experience you offer, always attempting to enhance and inspire your client’s time in your store. Do your products sing to your consumer? Basically, do you buy the right product for your client needs and then how do you manage the diversity of appointments offered instore?

Advocate Brides – After-sales/management/attention to detail. After the sale and your very considered instore goodbye, what is your next step? Have you a full cohesive plan in place to manage your clients exciting transfer from ‘I said yes’ to gown arrival, balance payments, fittings, connections and wear date?

We should always be informing, supporting, and inspiring our clients every day. We need to reinforce that we have safe working practices in our stores. It has not been “business as normal” for a very long time and will it ever be? I would recommend keeping your brides needs covered and then ensuring you and your team are not overworked by the pepped-up demand we are experiencing now.

Staggered and extended appointment types are crucial to the pepped-up demand we are experiencing:

  • Sell your space to your consumer as clean and pristine with anti-bac as part of your usual routine. (It is always essential that you are seen to be looking after your people first).
  • Revisit your usual opening hours. Strategize how longer opening hours can substitute seeing less brides, without putting you and your staff at risk of burn out! This move is key to ensuring you can fit in your ‘advocate brides’ who need to either try on their gown, be fitted, need to pay a balance or collect.
  • Have key members of staff on crucial roles such as quality control/collections/managing fittings/accessory sales and collections.
  • Adapt your store slightly. This does not have to be at great expense. Consider appointment types and how you can best manage brides and your team safely with the addition of changing rooms or waiting rooms. This can be for an initial period until the pepped-up demand dies off a little.
  • Consider different wedding types from now on. Elopements and mini ceremonies are at the forefront of our consumer needs now. Ensure you have stock at the ready which will save on second or third instore visits and storage.
  • Be flexible and able adjust to meet extraordinary needs.
  • Lower anxiety by keeping connected to your brides… knowledge is key!

Managing your advocate bride is crucial and helps you to understand and manage how busy your store is going to be. For example, collections and fittings should have already been categorised with the bride and seamstresses (external or internal), hence allowing you to free up the diary and book new sale appointments.

Plan to fail

Plan to fail is something I say a lot and I think during lockdown we really needed to keep the momentum rolling and still do, trying our best to manage our consumer need. Hopefully, most gowns are now collected, and your storerooms are free of close wear dates and distant wear dates. Your diaries have waiting lists, coupled with advocate appointments flying out with balances paid and very happy brides.

In-store Management

I mentioned last time that I see our bridal businesses almost as two separate parts. The front of house (maximum hospitality and the beauty of our stores) and the back of house (our inspect and collect process). Regardless of either process, all gowns need to be protected, organised and identifiable to optimise the business thoroughly. If you manage your front and back of house strategically this will enhance the flow and consumer experience whilst helping you to sleep better knowing the organisation is being managed skilfully.

The sensory experience

Also try to consider other elements in store of how we can delight our bride and her small entourage now. We have recently completed a webinar on creating a sensory experience of touch, scent, taste, and sight. Have a think about how you can inspire the sale or the advocate experience within your store and how delicately curated changes make the biggest impact. Always being mindful of yourself, your brand, your gowns, your team and your clients.

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Natalie Ann Brides - We have had many requests this lockdown from transgender brides, what tips do you have that we can use to make sure we are being inclusive?

Diversity is key, and it is time for our stores to cater to the LGBTQ+ community now more than ever before. My passion is people, and I am often heard saying “If you get the people bit right, the rest is easy.”

Firstly, dedicate some new appointments which cater to a more diverse shopping experience and then shout about what this new type of appointment looks like, showing that you understand this bridal shopping experience can be different to the traditional set up. Create some packages which you think will work for your team, store, and consumer; a couple’s appointment with dedicated stylists working in sync or a unique dedicated stylist ‘only for you’ appointment. I think it is important to say you are diverse and inclusive as a business. Even though we may already see and believe we manage diversity well, to others it may not be so transparent. Creating a page on your site and/or talking socially about your belief system promotes transparency and will in turn encourage diversity and equality.

Most importantly, your transgender bride needs to feel super confident, comfortable, and secure walking through your door. I would suggest a full pre-consult beforehand, learning about their needs, their fears, what is current on their Pinterest and socials, where their inspiration comes from, which designers they love, silhouettes which they feel will work for them, etc. You can then confirm your ‘attention to detail’ during your usual bridal consultation in store. Establishing trust and connection is key to success!

The maximum hospitality that we talk about so much on our global webinars is crucial right now. As with all bridal appointments, you need to ensure your transgender bride is comfortable and assured. Winning in the fitting room is a skill which needs to be practised over and over to ensure quality is delivered with an intent to achieve a perfect experience for our clients. As professionals you must ensure you know what makes your bride feel relaxed, especially during the most vulnerable part of bridal shopping, the fitting room experience. A luxe robe is a must. Water or fresh spray can help, plus a full understanding and walkthrough of what is about to happen is crucial to achieve a maximum luxury experience for your transgender bride. Understand your bride’s fears and needs first and then begin your full store bridal fitting experience, ensuring your stylists pull the right gowns which accentuate your bride’s body shape and capture the emotion.

Jo’s Tip: Mindfulness can be described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment and doing what you need to do intentionally.

If you need more information, please don’t hesitate to email me at

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