It’s Harrogate Bridal Show this weekend – and our Bridal Buyer Awards are taking place a week today, so to mark the countdown truly beginning, we take a closer look at the judging panel!
Susi is Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Buyer. Susi has been involved with the Bridal Buyer Awards from the start, 15 years ago, orchestrating the programme each year. She is particularly passionate about the Student Designer category and finds it especially rewarding when finalists and winners take inspiration from the experience and choose to remain within the bridal environment after they have graduated.
“Each year the brief is one that allows for vivid flights of the imagination and freedom of interpretation,” Susi explains, “I never look for what could be deemed ‘commercial’ but rather at what makes a brave and confident statement.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s design stars and we want the best to be admired and encouraged. This Awards category is not about drawing pretty pictures; every design has to be workable, and every entry has to be backed up by full explanation of pattern and makeup details.”
Antony Behiels has almost 20 years’ experience of the retail display industry, previously running both visual merchandising and point of sale companies. He was an SDEA member for many years, with seven of them on the Executive Council, before becoming the Director of the Association.
SDEA is Europe’s leading retail display trade organisation and provides exceptional support for both its members and the retailer including the SDEA Retail Display Directory, website, SDEA Retail Group and the InfoLine helpline.
When asked what he was looking for when it came to determining the best in-store design, Antony revealed: “I am looking for displays that reach out to the bride and evoke the magic that will be created on her special day. Great retail display should bring the focus of the customer to the merchandise on offer.”
Bradley Taylor is the Global Head of Visual Merchandising and Store Design at Mulberry. He has over 15 years’ experience in the world of luxury fashion working with brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, as well as experience as a celebrity stylist.
He now travels the world designing stores, concepts and developing creative with Mulberry, so we asked him what makes a great in-store experience: “I’m looking for a fresh and innovative customer-focused experience, using a modern and contemporary approach. A store that is easy to shop in, with all the details and finishes consider. Great décor, great style, great use of space.”
Stephanie Hanks is an accomplished sales manager who took over bridalwear boutique Bride to Be from her mother in 2009. Since taking over and running the store her way, the turnover has doubled and Bride to Be has won several awards, becoming one of the largest and busiest bridal stores in the UK.
When asked what she was looking for in her category, Stephanie had this to say: “I look for unquestioning support from the suppliers. If there is a problem I would look to the suppliers to work hand-in-hand with the retailer to solve any issues. Another important aspect I look for from suppliers is beautiful imagery that is available for their stockists to use on their social media and websites.”
Sassi Holford Sassi Holford is a leading British designer who has been creating elegant, timeless wedding gowns for over thirty years. Her designs use dramatic silhouettes and exquisite fabrics and are renowned for the unparalleled Sassi Holford cut and fit – she was selected to design Autumn Kelly’s wedding dress for her marriage to Peter Phillips, the Queen’s grandson, and has won the Bridal Buyer Best British Designer Award twice.
When judging Bridal Retailer of the Year, Sassi was looking for: “great customer service, a calm and inviting boutique ambience and an eclectic range of gowns.”
Susan Marot is a global sales coach, trainer and speaker – as Master of the Institute of Sales Management and with over 30 years’ experience selling successfully to the consumer, retail, B2B and the challenging public sector, she is more than qualified to cast her discerning eye over the retailer categories at the Bridal Buyer Awards.
When asked what she was looking for as a judge, Susan had the following to say: “I want to see what steps retailers are taking to better understand what the modern bride really wants and how to give her exactly that. I also want to know how they are adapting the sales process to increase sales and be recommended by their brides as the go-to bridal retailer in their area.”
For many years, Linda Laderman was a journalist and editor for Drapers (Record) and menswear magazines, before branching out and establishing Linda Laderman PR Ltd, her own PR and marketing consultancy business. She specialises in fashion and retail and is also the co-founder of Textile Forum, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.
“I’m very interested in how companies are using digital technology to get closer to their customers, so I’ve considered how entrants were performing online with social media and using their customer analysis to increase sales,” Linda explained, “I’ve also considered international expansion as well.”
Maria Musgrove-Wethey has been director of Go Bridal and The Pantiles Bride since 1997. She is a retailer, coach and mentor and, prior to working in the bridal industry, spent 20 years working for an international training company. She’s a regular contributor to Bridal Buyer and offers sales training and consultancy to other bridal boutiques, making her an ideal candidate to judge our supplier categories.
We asked Maria what she was considering as a judge: “Suppliers who consistently engage on all social media platforms to drive business to retailers, and appreciate that our approach needs to change to engage millennial brides.”
Alongside Bridal Buyer’s Editor-in-Chief, Susi, Amanda Bradwell will be judging the Student Designer of the Year category. She is the Creative Director and MD of Eternity Bridal, as well as being the chair of the British Bridal Suppliers Association.
“I’m looking for something that catches the eye,” Amanda revealed, when asked what she was considering whilst judging her category.
Nick Cook is the Portfolio Director of ITE Moda Ltd, part of ITE Group plc. He is the organiser of Moda UK, Scoop, Jacket Required and Bubble shows as well as the publisher of WWB, MWB, CWB magazines. Nick was involved in judging the supplier categories at the Bridal Buyer Awards.
“I was looking for a value-driven company ethos, creative, evolving designs, market relevance and high standards in production,” explained Nick, “as well as appropriate price points, excellent customer service, dynamic photography and marketing campaigns and strong attention to detail in design, sales and service.”
Jeanette Stevens is the Managing Director of the European Enzoani office. She leads both Enzoani teams at the head office in South Wales and the branch office in Amsterdam. After starting out as an accountant and branching into contract management then specialising in analysis, systems and procedures, her passion was team development and management, which lead Jeanette to her role at Enzoani.
She is judging our retailer categories and is looking for the following: “So many of the applicants were head and shoulders above already ‘as standard practice’ offering an exceptional level of customer service and the experience all brides dream of, so to narrow this down to the top six meant scouring the applications for that X-factor.
“Sometimes it was the passion, and emotion that leapt out in bucket loads, or the innovative approach, or the long term vision, planning and realism. Looking for a retailer that was striving to be more innovative, had a creative USPs and in particular taking a commercial and strategic approach, instead of ‘on a wish and a prayer on the back of a cigarette packet’ was definitely something that was of interest to me.
“There was an exceptionally high calibre of entries this year which surpassed expectations making the selection process incredibly difficult!
“We are so fortunate to be in this incredible industry and despite being tough out there, with this much excellence, determination and commitment the future is looking very exciting!”