Kimberley Fairfowl from Eden Bridal in Belfast explains why she doesn’t hold sample sales at her bridal boutique.
With over 15 years’ experience in the bridal industry, Kimberley Fairfowl is the manager of award-winning bridal boutique, Eden Bridal.
Following her business advice clinic at London Bridal Fashion Week we caught up with Kimberley so she could share her opinion on why you don’t need to have sample sales to run a successful boutique.
We took Eden Bridal over in October 2015 and inherited the ’dead dress’ stock along with what was current. We had a sample sale a couple of months after opening and sold what we could whilst maintaining our appointment structure, so it wasn’t a ’free for all’ or a ’first come, first served’ environment.
With what was left we kept some of the gowns in the main bridal suite in a sale section for those budget-conscious brides. However, I didn’t like how that felt in the store and it was that rail that you just couldn’t get excited about.
We also offloaded quite a number of gowns to a fabulous couple of girls who had a pop-up shop, but unfortunately, it was below cost price. However, this still worked well in clearing what we had inherited, and what they didn’t want, we gave to charity. Once all the dead stock was gone I implemented the system that I had always used in previous stores that I had managed, which is "we don’t have a sale section, and we never have sample sales."
I genuinely am very passionate about the bride’s experience when shopping for her gown. It is one of my biggest motivators to ensure service over the sale, so the concept and format of sample sales just never appeals to me and I refuse to give in to the need for it.
There is a trend for brides who want to get that bargain and buy from a sample sale, however, I find those girls are expecting to get something that was £3000 for £300, and that doesn’t serve anyone trying to run a business.
At Eden Bride we’ve held firm and refused to be drawn into price wars, instead, we will offer some off the peg gowns. This honestly works very well with us and we never have to offer crazy reduced prices.
We would generally tend to sell two or three gowns off the peg a week, and I will replace them with a new sample of the same gown (if it’s a strong repeater), or I’ll let it go for the new gowns that are always due in-store.
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It has cost us at times to say no when people are asking for discounts, but we won’t ever compromise on what we believe we offer here at Eden Bridal. I realise it’s difficult to strike the balance and not seem desperate for a sale when in reality you know you really need it at times.
I would say if you feel it necessary to have a sample sale, then change it up in how you approach it, be passionate about the service and the bride, and not the sale. Alternatively, if you have a lot of gowns no longer active, then find a pop-up shop and send to them, or offload to charity, and going forward embrace the off the peg system.
So what can suppliers and retailers do to reduce the number of sample sales? A key factor affecting the amount of sample sales boutiques have to hold is the minimums that are required by labels. At times this number can be high which causes a backlog of unwanted gowns.
However, this issue can be easily resolved by suppliers decreasing the number of dresses they discontinue as it will allow retailers to repeat or sell off the peg. Additionally, some of our designers offer a sample swap kind of program whereby you can send a sample back that isn’t working in your store and take another that may work better in your boutique.
This is a fantastic concept and takes some administration, but it’s invaluable to the retailer and you know we all have gowns that we’d happily swap out for something else. If another store has something you would like and you could do a swap, it’s a win for the supplier if you start making more repeats.
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I would also say in terms of the boutique owners, master your buying. Don’t feel pressured to place the order until you have a feeling of peace about what you’re buying. I have found that the gowns I’ve sold off the peg, are the gowns that are on the discontinued lists, so I’m not left with too many discontinued styles season to season, they are mostly gone before we get to that stage.
However, I don’t profess to have everything figured out! I realise there’s always more to learn in this ever-changing industry. I have a passion and a drive to serve the bride, and I feel this has gathered momentum over the last few years of trading.
I have recently been booked by other bridal boutiques as a consultant. This is something that motivates and excites me because I don’t want to be the only store that stands out for an amazing experience.
There are relatively new traders coming into the industry all the time with the right passion and heart, but who lack the experience. If I could have employed someone years ago to help me avoid the mistakes, I would have.
If you’re interested in consultancy with Kimberley then get in touch by email.
Do you agree? Tell us your thoughts on our Facebook page. If you enjoyed reading this, why not check out another opinion piece - Why I’m banning photography in my boutique and think you should too.