Mori Lee gowns are sold in more than 80 countries across six continents. Rebecca Evans explains how the bridal house adapts to each market to ensure it keeps its stockists - and their customers - happy
US manufacturer Mori Lee has expanded north, south, east and west from its New York base to cover more than 80 countries across six continents, from Asia to South America. And it’s big business in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, too; more than 250 authorised retailers stock its bridal, bridesmaid and special-occasion gowns.
The secret of its success is that it has made its four core brands as relevant to as many markets as possible. “Our intention is to develop collections that have universal appeal,” says Graham Connell, general manager for Mori Lee’s UK and European arms. “We do not offer country-specific collections, but we will include styles designed for a particular region that still have some attraction for brides all over the world.”
Mori Lee is the house’s core brand, offering a range of trend-influenced silhouettes and luxurious fabrics plus plenty of embellishment. The second brand - Blu - is a more competitively-priced range featuring modern designs with ruffles and layers, while Voyage caters to beach, cruise and less formal weddings with a range of lighter, less structured styles. Julietta, Mori Lee’s plus-size range, is available in UK sizes 18 to 34; bridesmaids’ dresses, prom dresses and special occasion wear complement the bridal range.
Its customers may be spread far and wide, but Mori Lee believes tastes are converging. “With many countries and cities having an increasingly cosmopolitan society, we are finding that there are fewer differences between markets,” says Graham. This trend is driven by internet access, increased foreign travel and migration and is set to continue, he believes. “Our best-selling dresses tend to be consistently good sellers in most markets,” he adds. Some differences remain - tulle is not popular in the US, but does sell in the UK and Europe so Mori Lee makes sure to include some of these gowns in its collections.
UK bridal retailers agree that Mori Lee is a style leader in the bridalwear industry. “They are spot on when it comes to reflecting trends,” says Lyndsey Barker-Hewitt, proprietor of Barkers Bridal Boutique in Sandbach, Cheshire. “When I go to a Mori Lee show I feel confident in buying dresses that are a bit different, a little bit unique, because I know that will become the popular style.”
The China factor
Like many manufacturers, Mori Lee is having to deal with cost increases in China, where most of its dresses are made. Graham acknowledges that this will “affect everyone, not just bridal manufacturers. The impact will be seen in all consumer goods over the coming months and years”.
One of the key strengths of Mori Lee gowns are their affordability and the intention is not to change this. Therefore, the company will only pass on cost rises to retailers where there is no alternative, and it will keep these to a minimum.
While the US remains its largest market, Mori Lee has identified plenty of opportunities for further growth outside its homeland. The UK and European markets could match the US on bridal sales in three to five years, says Graham. Excluding the UK,the company’s fastest-growing markets are Italy, Germany, Poland and Scandinavia thanks to a firm sales and advertising push. Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and Australia are all showing promise.
While Mori Lee has ambitious expansion plans, it is also doing a good job of keeping its existing stockists happy. UK retailers tell Bridal Buyer that Mori Lee means big business. “They sell well from the moment we got them in,” says Elaine McCloskey, owner of Bridal Elegance in Derry, “It is a real success story and long may it continue.
Read the story in full in the new issue of Bridal Buyer, out soon.
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