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Discussing the bridal market

Barcelona’s annual fair, Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, starts off with a series of exclusive catwalk shows and culminates in a three-day trade fair. We talked to Event Director, Ester Maria Laruccia, about the research that the exhibition carried out in advance of this year’s event

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First, tell us a bit about the history of BBFW

Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week has been going for 27 years and since 2014, Fira de Barcelona has been directly responsible for its organisation. Throughout its history, the show has undergone some major changes, reflecting a sector that has followed an upward trend in every respect. But the most important thing is that its essence has not changed: it is an event that continues to be committed to top-quality products created from fine materials, in many cases produced by artisans. This spirit is precisely what we intend to maintain, showcasing a product that represents elegance, art, beauty and joy. Hence our new theme, ‘Unexpected Dreams’.

Which big brands do you have this year?

On the catwalk, we have featured 25 names including Rosa Clará, who opens the programme and Pronovias who closes it, as well as other leading international labels such as YolanCris and Raimón Bundó. At the trade fair, exhibitors include the Italian firms Alessandra Rinaudo, Nicole Spose, Pat Maseda and Cleofe Finati; Justin Alexander, Morilee, Demetrios, Allure, Maggie Sottero and Sachin & Babi from the US; the UK’s David Fielden, Charlie Brear and Ellis; Marylise, from Belgium; and Pronovias’ St Patrick. Other firms exhibiting include Jesus Peiró; Franc Sarabia; Patricia Avendaño; Isabel Sanchís; Novia D’Art; Inmaculada García.

How is the bridal industry faring in Spain? What are the biggest threats to the market currently?

Spain is one of the world leaders in bridal fashions thanks to its international scope, and it now holds second place in the ranking of export markets. Today, the sector has a turnover of around €1,300m in wedding dresses. At present, Spanish products enjoy a particularly high rating abroad, where the ‘Made in Spain’ design and quality continues to garner great acclaim.

Rather than threats, I believe it would be more accurate to speak of challenges which, in the case of this sector, lie in opening new markets and adapting to the demands of the millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 2000, who will be setting the trends in the bridal universe in the coming years.

And what are the greatest opportunities?

According to the study Millennial Brides, born in the 1980s, getting married today, which the show commissioned to IESE professor José Luis Nueno, an expert in the fashion industry with a PhD in Business Administration from Harvard, the drop in domestic demand managed to be offset by our exports to other countries, which account for 40.7% of the turnover from ‘Made in Spain’ bridal dresses. Thus the best opportunities are found in Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia, followed by the USA and finally Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Asia.

According to the results of the survey, the forecasts for global sales of wedding dresses for 2020 are positive: Mexico and the UAE are the countries with the greatest potential for growth, with rates of 3.6% and 3.5% respectively, as a result of the number of weddings and the average spend per wedding. The USA will continue to be the biggest market with the best prospects among Western nations, with a growth rate of 2.6%. In Spain, even though the number of weddings will drop due to demographic reasons, expenditure in 2020 will reach or even surpass the pre-recession levels of 2006, reaching an average of 1,729 euros for the wedding dress.

Furthermore, if we make a demographic analysis by dividing the planet into zones, the first being the ‘northern’ zone made up of the 1,048 million inhabitants of Europe, North America and the Far East, and a second ‘southern’ zone comprising the other 6,229 million inhabitants, the difference is quite evident: today, for every person of marriageable age in the northern hemisphere, there are eight in the southern hemisphere, and by 2030 the ratio will be 1:9.

Is the internet a problem - are brides in Spain buying cheap copies online?

The internet is not a problem but rather a great tool for disseminating content. The millennial bride is the first digital bride and this is changing the way they buy wedding dresses, so potential points of interaction with future brides have multiplied. This means that the shopping trip no longer starts with a trawl of physical stores but rather the websites, apps and blogs of Google, Instagram and Pinterest.

Brands and retailers are having to adapt to this new situation by broadening their scope of action: for all of them, taking a multi-channel approach is imperative today. However, the European millennial bride, especially Spanish ones, use the internet only to get information, because when it comes to actually buying the dress they prefer to go to a ‘proper’ store, which is still the final stage of the whole process. Generally speaking, millennials go for prêt-à-couture with customised adaptation to the original model created by the designer. Customisation and exclusivity are increasingly highly rated by the brides of this generation who continue to appreciate design and quality.

And what about chain stores like Mango, H&M, Zara, etc. - are they destabilising the traditional bridal boutique business?

No, because they are very distinct market segments. Moreover, in their process of internationalisation, 91% of operators are choosing to distribute their products through multi-brand stores that specialise in the bridal and eveningwear sector.

How can retailers fight back?

It depends on the country, because each has its own situation. Generally speaking, they are going to have to adapt to the changes we mentioned earlier, such as going for multiple channels and paying particular attention to the likes and habits of the millennial generation.

What is the average price - retail - paid for a bridal gown in Spain?

Those priced between €1,000 and €2,000 euros account for 45% of sales and are the most popular with future brides.

And bridesmaids - what is the average number per wedding?

In Spain, bridesmaids are starting to play a bigger role, though this tradition is much more deeply-rooted in countries with an Anglo-Saxon culture, where according to protocol the ratio is one bridesmaid per 50 guests.

What can/should designers and manufacturers do to better support their stockists?

The need to carry out market research in the areas where their distributors operate, defining a customer profile and only choosing the products most suited to their characteristics, preferences and habits. They can also help with international advertising and marketing campaigns that maximise the flow of information through the most effective online and offline tools in that particular region.

You can see many of the top international labels at White Gallery London, 14-16 May at Battersea. To register, click here


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