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Is it Time to Charge No-Show Brides?

Bridal Buyer’s expert columnist Abi Neill looks at booking fees for appointments and discusses why they may be a perfect solution to no-show brides

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Abi Neill on charging no-shows
Abi Neill on charging no-shows

I note with interest that The Office for National Stats has reported an increasing correlation in the rise of gin sales and bridal retail business ownership! I know in part why this is; it relates to the dreaded ‘no show’ problem - customers who are way too busy or distracted to let you know they’ll not be attending. We hate this, so we drink gin.

We’ve all been there; you’ve advertised, you’ve booked several fabulous and excited brides-to-be in your diary. You’ve apologetically turned away several disenchanted brides because you are fully booked with a bunch of seemingly fantastic Saturday sales opportunities! Saturday arrives; a day that often promises our bridal tills and terminals so much... The week’s takings so far have been less than average (gin consumption is up) and now what you need is a successful day in order to rescue your end-of-week sales! But alas, no, it takes a dive bomb at 10.30am and again at 12 noon when two brides, back-to-back, don’t show up! Frustrated, you call them and they don’t answer their phone. It’s too late to contact those that wanted an appointment instead either.

This, my bridal buddies, is something we need to avoid! I took action four years ago and applied a refundable booking fee to all of our appointments. The good news is, it worked. My advice is to script the conversation with your customers so that there is consistent, clear and positive communication from your team in a touchy feely ‘bridal friendly’ welcoming language. You need to present it as a positive system and deliver it as part of your booking process.

In the last few years we switched from a refundable booking fee to a pre-auth of customer card details because there is less administration involved in terms of the terminal card processing. Both methods have definitely reduced our level of no shows. We’re soon moving to a flat £25 consultation/styling fee for all of our customers across all of our departments, refundable against a purchase. I know of at least four UK retailers who work in this way. It hasn’t negatively affected their appointment levels and (in some cases) has increased sales because it is attracting committed brides!

Here are a few options to potentially steal and adapt if you think it’s a useful concept. The amount of £25 works for us and you may decide to implement a no-show precautionary measure for Saturday appointments only instead of all week.

  • Refundable booking fee. £25 is charged to the customer’s card when an appointment is made and refunded upon arrival in-store.
  • Consultation/styling fee. £25 is charged to the customer’s card when an appointment is made. £25 discount is applied against a dress purchase.
  • Pre-auth of card details. Card details are processed (often in hotel mode on your terminal, you may need to ask your provider for extra programming). The charge is applied in the case of a no-show customer.

Discuss your system at the end of your appointment call with your bride and note that you may need to have another discussion about their bridal appointment and wedding. If customers are calling to book an appointment and you ask for basics you’ll probably find that your attempt to apply a booking fee (refundable or otherwise) will be met with discontent! You must work on hooking in your bride, conversing by grabbing her attention and talking in some detail about wedding dress shopping. Paint an exciting picture about visiting your fabulous shop! Let her know that you’re going to do everything you can to help her find the one and tell her how! You’ve got to become the shop that she definitely wants to visit especially if you are planning to apply a charge.

If you’re nervous, why not trial it on your next five customers that book in. I predict that you’ll be surprised at the lack of resistance. The more boutiques that participate the better. Let’s make the move together, we can drive down the no-shows and make it the industry norm! Or at the very least we’ll add a few quid to our bottom lines whilst trying!

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