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Re-opening round-up:

We talk to four boutiques from across the country to find out how it’s been since re-opening their shops post-lockdown.

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As we come out of lockdown, one thing is clear, most people have emerged with a greater sense of community and understanding between both friends and competitors. Businesses have taken time to help others and share experiences, which has proved vital in ensuring widespread success.

Four boutiques have given us their re-opening stories, and we hope that if you have already opened or are due to soon, these case studies may give you some insight and information that you could implement in your shop.

Lily Christina Bridal Collection

Location:
Suffolk

Owner name:
Rashida Agboke

Brands stocked:
Pronovias, Essense, Susanne Neville, Allure & Dando London

Number of staff:
Myself and one seamstress

Appointments held at one time:
We have always operated on an appointment only service at Lily Christina. Our brides always had exclusive use of the whole boutique before lockdown. This hasn’t changed and has been hugely beneficial to us as we haven’t had to change much in terms of how our appointments operate.

How have the first few weeks been for your boutique?
To be honest it has been great. There was so much uncertainty when lockdown started but we used the time to keep our brides engaged, reassured, excited and most of all positive. Our waiting list has been a massive success, as well as our free VIP appointments for our first couple of brides. Brides have been excited to be able to plan their weddings again and consequently more brides excited to say yes. It has been lovely seeing our brides again for fittings and also helping them stay positive if they have had to postpone.

How have new ’rules’ impacted the store?
Limiting the bridal party to two guests has been a blessing in disguise. Having less opinions about the dress means the bride can focus on what she likes and has really helped my brides convert on the the first visit.
The only negative, is that we are offering fewer appointments per day to allow time to clean in between appointments but on the flip side. The extra time in appointments has made our brides feel less rushed and as a result our they are more relaxed adding to even better customer experience.

Have you seen an increase in appointments and sales conversions?

We definitely have seen an increase in both sales and appointments so far. What’s been great is that my brides have been able to see more of my personality through the TikToks I’ve posted with my daughter. They were just a bit of fun but also helped keep our brides engaged. I’ve had so many messages and comments about them and people said they had fallen in love with me before coming to the boutique, which is such lovely feedback. The come back is definitely better than the set back.


What would your top tips be for other bridal store owners?

  • Limit the bridal party to two guests maximum
  • Wear a mask as much as you can in appointments and social distance as much a possible once they are in their dresses
  • Ask everyone to wash their hands when they arrive - all of these steps help your guests feel like they are safe and you are following all procedures to be Covid secure
  • Open with more energy and enthusiasm then you have ever had before
  • Excite your brides and keep them engaged
  • Have a positive mind set, and thrive in the changing environment

TDR Bridal

Location:
Birmingham - West Midlands

Owner name:

Rebecca Baddeley

Brands stocked:

Enzoani, Morilee, House of Mooshki, Justin Alexander, Ronald Joyce, Sottero & Midgley, Eddy K, Mikaella, Wendy Makin, Randy Fenoli, Badgley Mishcka, Modeca, Rebecca Ingram, Riki Dalal, Lillian West, Aire Barcelona, Nicole, Eternity Bride

Number of staff:

16 staff

Appointments held at one time:

We are fortunate enough to hold 6 appointments at one time both pre and post lockdown because of the size of our store. All our suites are separate, individual rooms and so we can easily maintain social distancing as, apart from dressing and undressing brides, which our guests have been happy to do where necessary. If they don’t have a guest or their guest isn’t confident to do this, we have worn PPE to facilitate this intimate time in the changing room, ensuring it is kept to a minimum. We have however, increased our appointment time to two hours, with half an hour in between each appointment where we can, to ensure a good clean between each appointment.

How have the first few weeks been for your boutique?
The first week was a little tricky while everyone worked out how they needed to navigate brides around the store. However, by the end of the first week we were all confident and had the processes perfectly timed and co-ordinated.

How have new ’rules’ impacted the store?
We have had a really positive response to our new “rules” both for us, in terms of sales, and for the brides, in terms of their experience at TDR. Brides have been really kind and understanding and really sympathetic towards our “rules”, though we prefer to call them procedures rather than “rules”!
Its been lovely to see the bride feel able to make her decision with less opinions and have the freedom to do this without guilt at not inviting everyone she would have normally, to her appointment.

Have you seen an increase in appointments and sales conversions?

From a sales point of view, its been liberating to have a brides full, undivided attention so that we can guide her through her appointment and keep her focused on finding her dress rather than entertaining and pleasing her guests.We have had a huge increase in appointments and sales, which, whilst this is great, we are not counting our chicken so to speak because we have been closed for 3 months, so have a lot of catching up to do!

What would your top tips be for other bridal store owners?

If I could give one tip to shops planning on opening soon, it would be prepare to be flexible. Assess and reassess your procedures as you and your staff start to navigate the appointments. What you thought would work really well on paper, may not work in practice and so you need to be prepared to change where necessary and adapt very quickly. Overall its been more stressful in the build up to opening rather than in practice but such a relief to finally open the doors and begin trading again. Long may these great brides, quick decisions and uncomplicated appointments continue!

Frances Day Bridal

Location:
Southwell, Nottinghamshire
Owner name:

Julia Kellam

Brands stocked:

Suzanne Neville, Jenny Packham, Stephanie Allin, Jesus Peiro
Number of staff:

3 (+myself)
Appointments held at one time:

We have only ever held one appointment at a time to ensure our clients are given both space and privacy. Since our appointment re-commencement, we continue to host only one appointment at a time with the introduction of a cleaning buffer either side of each consultation.

How have the first few weeks been for your boutique?

First 2 weeks back in store: on the 17th June, we welcomed back our existing clients as a matter of priority. So many of their gowns had arrived during lockdown. Gowns that for many of them, they sadly would now not be wearing for a very long time. The overall feeling in our ’bride camp’ was that they were devastated to have to have such an unprecedented evil impact on their plans - but above anything else, they were grateful for their health and of course that of their families. It somehow doesn’t make it any less of a bitter pill to swallow.

Spending these initial weeks with our clients has been such a joy for both us and them. We have actually quite enjoyed the challenge of how we can maintain the ’luxury’ experience we are known for albeit under a whole new set of parameters.

Yes we have a ’new normal’ to contend with, but somehow it has felt far more normal than we had ever anticipated. I believe this is largely down to the strong relationships we forge with our brides as a given.

It is important that we remember that this doesn’t only affect our industry. It is affecting every aspect of everyday life and therefor we are all far more adjusted to it than we all think.

How have new ’rules’ impacted the store?

Our clients on the whole have been very supportive of the guidelines we have in place for both their safety and ours. Surprisingly, we have had very little (if any) push back on our new measures; Bride + 1 guest, facemasks in changing rooms, gloves on entry, appointment fee etc.

Have you seen an increase in appointments and sales conversions?

There has been an undeniable shift to weekday appointments as a result of greater working flexibility (one thing we have COVID to thank I suppose?), with weekend appointments being fully booked for the next couple of months.

Our sales appointments will re-commence this week following months of getting to know all of these new clients virtually in many different guises. Having a couple of weeks under our facemasks with clients that we already know well has really given the team confidence in progressing to the next stage of our re-commencement with new clients.

What would your top tips be for other bridal store owners?

For anyone opening imminently, my greatest piece of advice is to take each day as it comes. Yes be prepared, but don’t spend days upon days planning months down the line for a situation that is still and will continue to be fluid and unpredictable.

The White Collection

Location:
Bristol and Somerset
Owner name:
Laura Allen
Brands stocked:

Rosa Clara, Badgley Mischka, Enzoani, Blue by Enzoani, Muse by Berta, Made With Love, Emmy Mae Bridal, Rosa Clara Bohéme, Beautiful by Enzoani, Airé Barcelona, Willowby by Watters
Number of staff:
10
How many appointments can you hold at one time:

One appointment pre and post lockdown

How has the first few weeks back been for your store?

A mix of emotions! It’s been exciting, emotional, strange at times and busy! Its just so great to be able to open again.
How have your new ‘rules’ impacted your store?

The new rules will benefit the bride so much more than she knows. Having guest restrictions will really make her think about who she wants at her appointment and whose opinions she truly values. Being made to run our appointments differently has made us step back look and at them with different perspective, which can only be a positive! The thing to remember is that you can never be ’too safe’ and all of us are in the same boat- we all have restrictions in place.
Are you seeing an increase in appointments/sales?

Yes, our conversion rate is higher than pre-lockdown. Before re-opening, we put out an important message to our brides that our appointments are a lot more precious and ’now is not the time for browsing’. We have seen that other boutiques have come together to join us in getting that same message out. We have definitely seen a difference in brides intentions when visiting us- they’re not messing around.
Have you got any tips for store opening in July?

Really space your appointments out for the first week at least to get used to the new way of running your appointments.

 

Cover photo: Pear & Bear photography

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