Clare Laird opened her boutique, Clare Suzanne Bridal, in Liverpool in 2018
I have worked in the retail industry for over 20 years and have been fortunate to have a great career which I have loved every minute of. I have had various roles with some big corporate companies and some small family run businesses. It was working in these roles and the talented and passionate people I met along the way that I decided to set up my own business.
I have always been passionate about my work and taken great pride in everything I have taken on. I decided to open this boutique as I have always wanted to work in a more intimate, private setting, where I would have the opportunity to offer VIP treatment and make the choosing of a bride’s gown the celebratory experience it could be. I am aware that it is a great privilege to be part of a very special occasion in a brides life and therefore will do everything I can to ensure I provide a professional service that is fun and pleasurable from the first moment to the last.
Yes. I knew it was a bridal boutique that I wanted to open from early on, therefore I started researching straight away. I was confident with the business side of things and therefore as soon as I could, I started visiting bridal shows, looking around and asking lots of questions regarding fit, styles, fabrics, different designers, bespoke gowns, buying off the peg etc.
I was so passionate about it I was constantly reading books, magazines and researching on the internet. I registered to attend several trade shows and from there I got talking to designers which enabled me build up some great relationships. By keeping in regular contact and visiting their showrooms I received great support. This gave me even more motivation. After attending a consultancy, I contacted a bridal store that I loved the look of, followed on social media and had great reviews. I wanted to spend some time there for the experience. I loved it. The owner was very supportive, friendly and most of all helpful! She also talked very passionately about the whole experience and told me to go for it!
It is so hard to choose. All of it has been enjoyable!! Once my mind was made up to start this new venture I was thinking about it 24/7; I was constantly looking for premises to get the ball rolling, I enjoyed looking at different shops and designing the layout in my head.
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The feeling I had when I did find the right place was scary and exciting. I just knew this was the one, so from that point on was when it became real. The whole learning process was great. I like to know everything inside out so the more research and hands-on learning I was doing motivated me more each day. I love meeting people and building relationships. With everybody being so positive, this was made very easy. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect.
Every day for me is filled with different tasks. I am always busy and there is always an opportunity to grow. When a bride makes an appointment to visit the boutique, I look forward to it as it’s not just a case of selling a dress, it’s providing an experience for them and their families.
It is celebratory and special, and it is important to me that the bride feels this way whilst she is here from the moment she walks in. Its great watching brides’ faces when they try on a gown ‘for their mum or friend’ but it’s not really one they would choose, then you pull back the curtain and see the shock on their face when they look in the mirror as they love it!
If I am not helping brides choose their dream dress I am often posting on social media, writing a blog or changing mannequins to create different styles for different wedding themes.
The most challenging part for me was the actual buying of the bridal gowns. There are so many beautiful gowns and talented designers, where do you start?
More importantly, once you start, how do you stop?! There is no such thing as a typical bride. Brides want something unique to them. This means there are no limits to what we can buy. I chose designs that I personally loved. It made perfect sense as I can talk more passionately about the dresses. It was so much fun. I spent a long time looking and making the selection process. When I was done, I was completely happy and confident with the collections I had purchased. When they arrived in the boutique I loved them, they were worth the wait!
There are so many things to consider when opening a boutique. Is there plenty of footfall? What other retailers are in the area? Is there adequate parking/transport links?
I looked at a few different premises in different places, all of which were a nice space and in a nice location. After refitting and decorating I knew they could look good but for some reason I was hesitant. None of them jumped out. Allerton Road is a busy vibrant area in South Liverpool.
There are lots of small independent retailers, coffee shops, bistros, bars and places to eat. It is also only a 5-10 minute walk from Penny Lane which was made famous by The Beatles. I walked up and down this road looking for a vacant premises on several occasions, then a friend told me about a shop that used to be above a hairdressers but was not sure if it was still there. I walked back down the road to the hairdressers, enquired and was told that it was vacant and asked did I want to see it?
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At first I was worried that people would not know I was there. I decided to take a look anyway. I opened the door and straight away thought ‘This is fate! Thank you universe!’
The Boutique is above Toni & Guy Hairdressers in a prime location at a crossroads where Allerton Road and Queens Drive meet. It feels mysterious as it does not have a shop front, you can’t see in. It has that little hidden gem feel about it.
That is what I love, it feels private, intimate and a perfect fit for the service I wanted to offer. When you walk up the stairs and open the door to the boutique you get that ‘wow’ factor. I always let my brides open the door and walk in first as I love seeing their reaction. It is an old building and therefore has large windows, as soon as you open the door you are flooded with light. It is beautiful and I love coming in here every morning!
With there being so much light, the scene was set. I didn’t want to take away from this. Everywhere was cleaned and painted white. The wall where the gowns were going to sit was wall papered with soft silver/grey feathers.
The flooring is large off-white tiles and the furniture and curtains are a very light grey colour. The greys have been lifted with soft blush tones in the way of cushions. We have a nice big rug in the seating area for a warm feeling as I wanted the boutique to feel light, stylish and classy but not too minimal.
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I want brides and their families to feel comfortable and welcome from the off-set. The boutique has plenty of mirrors throughout, so the brides can see their dream gown from all angles. The fitting area is very spacious with the same colour pallet and a big fluffy rug. Our brides love it, we always receive lovely compliments!
I would like to be in my own premises, have grown the collections and have a second premises for new ranges to offer such as bridesmaids, mother of the bride collections, shoes, hats etc. Fingers crossed!
Don’t miss our feature on the White Collection to find out why they chose to expand their business in 2018.