5 Mistakes Bridal Shop Owners Make and How to Fix Them

The range of wedding dresses on hangers and on a mannequin in the showroom

As sunlight streams through the stained glass windows, the wedding march sounds from the organ loft on this perfect day. It’s THE day. Family and friends fill the church pews; they stand in unison and turn to set their eyes on the star of the show, the beautiful bride.  Stealing the first glimpse of the second star of the hour, you see the amazing dress the bride has chosen for her wedding day.

A dress that she bought from someone else’s bridal shop.

Perhaps you didn’t have the sought-after styles all the brides-to-be were looking for this season. Or your customer service suffered on the day she stopped by. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is you missed out on a sale. If that keeps happening, your profits can take a real hit.


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If you are an owner of a bridal shop, you want to grow revenue and boost your profits. However, those are two of the biggest challenges for small business, according to the 2016 State of Small Business Report.  Here are some mistakes to avoid to direct an even stronger wedding season next year.

1. You Don’t Target Your Inventory

You might think, “I should carry a large variety for a wider appeal and more business, right?”

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Wrong.

You might feel that a bridal shop is very niche to begin with, and that could entice you to carry too many types of products, from bridal gowns to quincenaras and proms. This is not a best practice, diluting your product offering. It prevents you and your staff from development depth in knowledge, not to mention it could foster bad customer service.

2. How Do You Fix It?

It’s best to specialize early on in your business, according to the New Bridal Shop Guide. Before your heart starts palpitating out of your chest, don’t worry. Start planning now to better serve your core bridal customers for next season and not spread yourself too thin. If you have already invested in an array of dress types, simply monitor and measure sales closely and adapt your inventory when necessary. An inventory management system makes this easy for small businesses. Easy data collection with barcodes and real-time reports will help your staff scale back the items that don’t fit with your goals and open up space for high-margin/high-volume items.

3. You Overbuy Stock

 It’s easy to be swept away by the many exquisite dresses and accessories. Before you invest in the new trends of the season, clear out old inventory. If you have too much money tied up in products that are sitting around on shelves and hanging on racks, then there won’t be capital available to weather the ebbs and flows of the business cycle.

If your designers have a minimum of lines to carry, this often results in buying too many new styles.

4. How Do You Fix It?

Buy ‘deep’ rather than ‘broad’ If you are missing some of the latest styles in your inventory, approach your current suppliers to see what they can offer. If they don’t have the appropriate looks, then it might be time to re-evaluate that designer.

When you meet with your sales rep, be completely open to whether or not you think their styles will meet your needs or won’t sell well in your area. Don’t let the designers bully you into buying too much.

5. You Don’t Listen To Customers

An intimate understanding of the brides in your market is a must. Yes, it takes time to really get to know what brides are looking for. Simply pay attention as you meet with your customers. Yes, it’s probably hard to hear that brides aren’t “getting” your style. However, if you’re receiving a lot negative comments on certain items or styles in your selection, keep track. Then, when you talk to designers, you will have a clearer idea of what your customers want.

Bridal shop display

6. How Do You Fix It?

Just because a style is big around the nation, doesn’t mean your brides will be into it.  It could be that the price point is too high or it’s just not a preference in your neck of the woods. With the information you’ve noted from your customer comments along with real-time reports from your inventory management system, you’ll know what your brides want and what items are taking up space on shelves and racks.

After collecting data over time, be sure to define your target market; create the profile of your perfect prospective bride. Know things like where else they shop, what their economic status is, what cars they drive, and what the average wedding budget is.

7. You Think Business Is Slow Because of Your Location

If you carry it, they will come. Brides will go travel far and wide to find their perfect dress, so location isn’t a big deal. It’s wrong to think that business will improve if you’re situated in a busier location.

8. Here’s How To Fix It:

Consider the following aspects to improve your current bridal shop locale.

  • Make sure there is convenient parking with plenty of space.
  • Keep your design to one floor. If you have a second floor, the rent will be higher and you will need more inventory, not to mention an expanded staff. Especially if you’re a start- up business, make sure you start small and work your way up.

9. Store Design Isn’t “Working”

Is your layout confusing? Or crowded? Or just not real appealing?

10. Here’s How To Fix It:

Bridal business consultant Jane Watson says that helping brides to plan the biggest day of their lives should be exciting, with a little pampering to boot.

“Keep it simple,” Watson wrote in Bridal Buyer. “Have lots of mirrors strategically placed, small tables and chairs for an intimate chat with your clients, and good-sized fitting rooms.”

She adds that soft music makes a showroom feel more inviting and relaxing when a customer first walks in.  In addition, air fresheners or fresh flowers add a pleasant aroma for an overall pleasant sensory experience. It also helps to display inventory in such a way that each dress can be viewed easily. Watson suggests hanging five or seven dresses per three to four foot rail.

Your job as a bridal shop owner is to not just win the next sale, but to do so by making the brides-to-be feel like queens-for-a-day. Solving these problems will ensure that you’ll build, or re-build a success bridal shop business.

How could you implement these suggestions to work for your business?

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Brian Sutter

Brian Sutter

Director of Marketing at Wasp Barcode
Brian Sutter is the Director of Marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. He also writes and speaks on topics related to helping small business owners grow their business and improve operational efficiency.
Brian Sutter
Brian Sutter