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Are budget high street stores competition?

Bridal is a multi-billion-pound industry, so it’s unsurprising that competition is high. It seems that challenges are greater now than ever before with the rise of high street chains. But are they really competition?

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David’s Bridal originated in the US, and today is the world’s largest bridal retailer chain; despite allegations that it’s facing trouble, the company has assured the public that speculation is false. So what does a giant like David’s Bridal mean for smaller, home- grown bridal boutiques?

Customer service begins with the first welcome and has to continue through to final transaction and farewell. Retailers who enter the Bridal Buyer Awards Best Customer Service category know this only too well. Which is why the small retailers score points and win customer loyalty.

David’s Bridal offers a host of styles and sizes at very small prices, with specially- designed lines from the likes of Jenny Packham, Vera Wang and Zac Posen and, with prices starting around £100, it’s easy to see the initial appeal, and the reason why others in the industry voiced concern when David’s announced its arrival in the UK.

But is David’s Bridal really the competition it’s been made out to be? And is the comment from former CEO Pamela Wallack, that David’s “has had a hugely positive response from UK brides-to-be,” still applicable?

We’ve visited countless bridal shops and David’s Bridal was a completely different shopping experience.

In the latest issue of Bridal Buyer, we wrote about what happened when we went undercover to the Stratford store, and also what happened after a visit to WED2BE - the operation that appears to be making a few specialist boutiques nervous.

And in response to the feature, one reader commented that while the content is true and customer service and a spectacular environment will give brides an experience they’ll love, brides are still turning to cheaper online and off-the-peg stores - continuing to say that flattery and endorsement doesn’t build a business and that the bridal industry is threatened.

She adds: “Do you know why most brides we surveyed who brought in a Wed2B gown for alterations said they bought there? Because they wanted to lose weight before ordering their dress and were then disappointed to learn they couldn’t get something in time. They were all delighted that, because of this, it took them through the doors of W2B where to their delight they also managed to save money on their original planned budget. All said they would recommend friends to visit several boutiques for “the experience” but then go to W2B.”

We’ve also heard from a retailer that WED2BE opening a block away was the best thing that happened to her business, bringing brides into her store because WED2BE, which they had visited having been woo’d by the website, was absolutely not for them.

What do you think? We’d really love to know your thoughts on this subject, get in touch or comment below!

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