It’s important to go to The Harrogate Bridal Show armed with a well-planned buying strategy. Maria Musgrove-Wethey talks you through it
“The Harrogate Bridal Show is northern Europe’s most important event. Go there armed with a buying strategy, but first, take a long, hard look at what you’ve got.... and get shot of anything – and any supplier – that isn’t working for you.
"If “We’ve got another ten of these” sounds all too familiar then maybe it’s time to re-assess how you get the perfect mix of gowns and accessories in your shop. What seemed a good idea at a fizz-fuelled fair in foreign parts often doesn’t have the same appeal five months later when your first stock order lands! So what do you do to get the perfect mix of stock when you next go buying?
"Be brave and pull out ALL the dresses you’ve never taken an order on and think what it would be like if you were a start up. Imagine you’re just opening your shop and ask yourself “Who is my target bride?” and decide what of your remaining stock would appeal to her. Only after this cull (possibly a massive 50% has now gone) should you analyse your gaps.
"If you’ve discovered a new label don’t be complacent – several of your competitors may also be circling. So you need to have a seduction strategy. Acquiring a new label is a seduction – you may have to sell yourself to them as much as they need to sell themselves to you. Think about how you position your brand and what will differentiate you from other boutiques who may want that collection. Be proactive pre-show – booking early appointments has secured four labels for me over the past two years. Get in early to secure the label before anyone else does.
"You need to stick to the schedule. Plan your time at the show like a military operation and finalise orders at the end of the show or as soon as you’re back in the shop. Often we’re into another buying round before our last stock order has been delivered. Make sure that you have visuals of what’s already on order and take photos of all the gowns you are considering buying. Before signing off new orders, compare all these images otherwise that savage cull may need to start all over again. This means burning the midnight oil with little time for socialising.
"Size matters so analyse what you repeat in. Some brands attract size zeros and others size 16 plus. Experiment with ordering 8s and 10s in certain styles with larger sizes in others instead of the automatic “size 12 or 14”. Our repeats soared when we did this with a well-known Spanish brand.
"And finally, if all else fails, employ a savvy soothsayer, preferably with extensive bridal experience complete with crystal ball who can predict next season’s trends and pick out the best sellers. Anyone know where to find one?!"