What do you look for in a Wedding Dress store?

So today I had my first day in my all time dream job, selling Wedding dresses! I am from a retail management back ground, including running Jewellers, but I am new to the world of Bridal (unless wedding rings count!?!) 

It is an independent shop I am working for, owned by a lovely woman who is a very talented dress maker. She is very busy with the bespoke wedding dress design and alterations side of the business, so my job is to boost the retail side of the business and sell the selection of gorgeous dresses she houses. One of the first things I want to do is understand what people look for in a Wedding Dress shop? Are there certain things that put you off? Things that make you think 'wow this is the shop for me'? The set up is quite unusual in that is on a main country road between two cities, 10 miles in between the two and is set in the grounds of her house. It is a self contained shop. It is rural on one side, very close to the New Forest, but a main road so not out of the way as such. How far would you consider traveling for a wedding dress shop? Do you ask for recommendations, Google local shops, Google specific designer stockists? 

I'd really appreciate your input and feedback so I can work out how to maximise this brilliant opportunity. Thanks xx

Posts

  • bella2015bella2015 Posts: 1,903 New bride

    Hi MrsM

    When I was looking for my wedding dress, a good website and Facebook page were essential. Any shop that didn't have one I just didn't bother with- for me, I liked to have an idea of what sort of dresses they stocked beforehand and price ranges. The shop where I eventually bought my dress regularly put photos on of their dresses including those that were in the sale, and details of any special offers or discount/designer days. All of the shops I went to had good Facebook pages but the reason I bought my dress is that the dress shop had posted a photo of it online (it was a sample in the sale) and I went in the same day and bought it as I knew as soon as I saw the photo that it was the 'one'. 

    The location of the shop you mentioned wouldn't put me off, as long as it had easy parking available and a toilet for customers. 

  • HailsHails Posts: 2,455

    Hi Mrs M! How exciting, I have secret dreams of having my own wedding dress shop!

    1. Being offered a drink, I actually only got bubbles in one shop - actually the shop I ended up buying from

    2. Having the shop to myself or at least a private area

    3. When the consultant is actually honest - there is a shop local to me and I felt they would have said anything just to get a sale. I actually loved it when the ladies made suggestions because nearly 100% of the time they were spot on - they deal with so many brides and body shapes they really are in a great position to make suggestions. 

    4. Facebook page containing pictures of real brides in dresses. 

  • CE26CE26 Posts: 349 New bride

    The location wouldn't put me off if the shop sold dresses I was interested in. 

    A good online presence is a must - I prefer smart looking websites that have pictures of the dresses in stock and it's good to have an active Facebook account. My local shops post almost daily either showcasing new stock, promoting a sale, showing pictures of brides who have just purchased / picked up their dress or ones who have sent in just married pictures. They also post pictures when they go to bridal events and wedding fairs. 

    My dress shop also runs competitions now and then...usually for new brides, but recently they did one for us married ladies. They wanted us to post a good dress picture and they did a lucky dip for the winner - they had ladies who had bought their dress up to a couple of years back and it obviously helped show off lots of happy customers. 

    Seeing price ranges online was also helpful as it meant I knew if a shop would have enough within budget.

     

  • SadieeeSadieee Posts: 1,781 New bride

    I havent started my dress buying journey yet (beyond houndng my sister with all the dresses I want - and cant afford haha) but when my sister married 2 years ago I know what we liked, and didnt like, about the stores we went to.

    Being met with a choice of water or bubbly. The bubbly gave it a sense of occassion, with fresh water for driver haha

    Clips to hold dresses - 2 of the 3 stores we visited used these big clips to hold the dresses properly against my sisters body. The third didnt do this as they said it damaged the dresses, except my sister couldnt visualise the dresses with the woman stood behind her tugging, and with only 2 hands she couldnt pull the dresses in everywhere they needed it. Clips were great!

    Attention! The same place the didnt use clips also spent a lot of her time in her office, coming out every so often to help. Considering we had booked an appointment we thought we would get a more personal approach, the other 2 gave us 100% attention, helping to pick dresses, talking about ideas and including me and my mum in the discussions.

    If a bride says £1000 budget, do not show dresses that are more than this just to gain profit! It's heartbreaking to be shown a dress you cant afford.

    Let us take pictures! One wouldnt and it made it harder when later that day we were discussing the dresses, a picture to look back on really helps! (and a picture is usually more truthful than a mirror)

     

    Thats all I can think of now :) hope it helps!

  • TheLegacyofMrsMTheLegacyofMrsM Posts: 2,188 New bride

    Thank you ladies, that's been really helpful so far! If you can remember before you first went wedding dress shopping, did any shops email you before your appointment. One of the things I'm thinking of introducing is a "what to expect" email to send to brides who have never tried on dresses before: it would offer the same information we always put on the what to expect threads, wear nice underwear as we will see you in it etc etc. Would this have helped you? Or seemed a bit bossy? I'd definitely include something about having a clear budget, say what the most expensive dress in the shop costs and say set a figure and we won't go over it! 

  • Lexi90Lexi90 Posts: 971

    I live so close to the new forest, I would love to know where this shop is?! 

    I have a few ideas of what I like after visiting 6 shops! 

    For me the shop assistant needs to be friendly and show some interest. Personally I like a bit of personality to show through from the assistant. The one shop I visited and didn't like the shop, it had an assistant that was just boring, she didn't seem that interested. It was like she couldn't care less which dress I chose. I like an opinion, I know some shops don't say because they want you to choose, but I like a bit of a comment but not overly pushy. I also loved it when they offered to try on veils etc. to give the overall image of a bride.

    A large, clean fitting room is nice! The one I disliked above also had a tiny dressing room, which I could barely get in with the dress. It didn't make me feel special. Not over booking on appointments is also good - nobody wants to feel rushed! 

    I would travel for the right wedding shop. It may be more difficult to market it than a shop in the town. I like up to date websites and social media. Photos of real brides on social media that have got married in one of your dresses is always good too! I also like having a price range for dresses online, so you know whether you can afford anything!! 

  • SadieeeSadieee Posts: 1,781 New bride

    I like the idea of the what to expect email! We did talk to the various stores beforehand but never had any info like that :)

  • HailsHails Posts: 2,455

    Most shops didn't take my email cause I just booked over the phone but info like that would have been really helpful.

  • CE26CE26 Posts: 349 New bride

    None of the shops emailed me but they did have easy to find information on their websites about what to expect. 

    I wouldn't have minded a nice confirmation email but I'd want the what to expect information to be short and sweet. More like a top tips thing than an essay. 

     

  • Lexi90Lexi90 Posts: 971

    And if you can, allow them to take photos! I disregarded dresses from a shop because I couldn't look back at what I looked like in them. I had other choices and I focused on them! 

    I agree with pulling the dress in too - making the bride look as similar to the one she would order as possible. 

    Also (sorry always think of more!) suggesting other styles, once you get an idea of what the bride likes. 

    I think the email could be appreciated, providing it's brief. One shop I went to made me do a pre-appointment quiz about what I was interested in etc. and never used it, asking same questions when I arrived!  

  • MrsE2016MrsE2016 Posts: 1,207 New bride

    The things I was impressed with at shops I visited included:

    1. Privacy - being able to browse without lots of other brides there. It  I was also important I was left to my own devices and not 'sold' to when making initial choices to try on.

    2. Exclusivity - two of the shops I visited had a private 'bridal lounge' where you could try on without being on the shop floor and the people I bought with me were comfortably seated with a drink.

    3. Honesty - the shop I bought my dress from got me to fill in a questionnaire which included a question about budget. This meant they could guide me to dresses within budget or warn me if I picked a dress that was over my budget. A lot of shops have no prices on dresses which I think is unethical as it may mean some ladies fall in love with dresses they can't afford and have to find the money. 

    4. Sizing - sounds simple but its good to think about sizing of samples. I'm fairly small (8/10) so didn't have any issues with samples (if anything they were slightly big) but when the UK average is a 16 it's not good to have sample dresses in 8/10. It's a lot easier to clip a smaller girl into a larger sample than ask a larger girl to imagine a dress that won't even do up. 

    5. Flexibility - offering evening appointments may be a USP if other local shops don't. 

    The worst experience I had in a bridal shop was when I visited with a friend when she was searching for a dress. We went to a shop in Chester on a Saturday. She had an appointment and when we turned up 5 mins before they made us wait 15 mins. The shop smelt of food as the assistant was eating her lunch on the shop floor. There were 3 other brides crammed into one floor all scrabbling around for the same dresses. There was no limit on guests so some brides had 4/5 people with them which meant I had to stand up as theyd taken the seats from our area. My friend is a size 14 but all the samples were a bridal 10/12 so far too small so none of them would do up. The assistant told her to imagine the dresses done up even though the back wasn't done up - she didn't even attempt to clip them. The assistant then asked my friend if she wanted her to point us in the direction of dresses that would fit, and infomed us there was a plus size (!!) section upstairs (because every size 14 woman wants to be told to put a size 20 dress on - great for body confidence!)

    At this point my friend said she didn't want to try a dress on just because it was in her size. There was a Pronovias dress she'd gone to try on and loved but she refused to buy from a shop who treated her like they had treated her! It was so awful we walked out, went for a cocktail and laughed about it! 

    Treat every bride like they're your only customer - whatever their budget & you'll do well, you've got the experience and personality to be very successful xxx 

  • MrsRendall2BMrsRendall2B Posts: 749 New bride

    Ooooh, what a dream! I have dreams of quitting my current job on a daily basis to either go work in a bridal boutique or run my own wedding planning company so I'm definitely jealous. Here's a list of things I liked and some I didn't like so much about my dress shopping experiences:

    1. Nice, private dressing area - I don't expect to be the only bride in a shop (unless it's a really small boutique!) but I do expect a private dressing area. One shop I went to had a tiny private dressing room and then a bigger 'communal' dressing room. Thankfully I was the only bride in so didn't mind using the communal room as it meant there was more space to move around in but I can imagine if there had been other people there it would've been a pretty awful experience as I felt uncomfortable enough being half naked in front of the sales assistant never mind an entourage of other brides!

    2. Friendly, interested shop assistants - like others, I liked it when the assistants made comments/gave their opinion without being overly pushy. Sometimes you need someone to say 'It's a beautiful dress but I think you can do better' and sometimes family/friends can be blinded by the excitement of the experience in the same way a bride can. 

    3. Willingness to go the extra mile - one shop I went to, I turned up on a Saturday, without an appointment (even though they're pretty exclusively appointed-based on Saturdays) to browse with my friends while we were together for the first time in ages. I saw a couple I really liked and the sales assistant managed to squeeze me to try them on even though she was expecting someone else shortly. She went to deal with the other bride momentarily while I was milling about in the dress but at no point did I feel rushed or pushed out of the way. It really meant a lot that she gave us that opportunity when she could've very easily turned us away and told us to make an appointment. 

    4. Something to drink! - One of my favourite shops offered me a drink when I arrived (bubbles/tea/coffee/water) and had bottles of flavoured water and sweets in the viewing area for people accompanying to help themselves to. Such a little thing but was really appreciated especially on such a warm day!

    5. Good online presence - all the shops I went to had well made websites, very active Facebook pages and an Instagram feed. It helped me gain a good general picture of what to expect from each store before I actually went. They were clear about their price ranges on their websites which meant I knew I wasn't going to be tempted with things way over budget. They also posted regular photos of real brides / sample sale / designer weekend events / new collections which helped a lot. It was also great to read very honest reviews on Facebook pages! Make it clear what designers you sell and try to have a gallery what shows what dresses you actually have in. The most disappointing experience was one where I saw a dress on the website that I loved but they didn't actually have it in - why?! Just why?! Update your website.

    6. Location didn't really bother me and I actually drove an hour and a half to one shop because they were a major stockist of Mori Lee and I'd loved so many of the ML dresses that I knew I'd be in with a good chance of finding 'the one'. 

    7. I liked being offered the chance to try on veils / belts / sleeves / straps etc. as it really gave me a good idea of what I'd look like on the day.

    Phew! Sorry for the massive post and the fact a lot of my comments have already been mentioned!!

  • MrsLMTMrsLMT Posts: 3,830

    Wow MrsM! Dream job envy! 

    I am a plus size bride, I ama size 18. I can honestly say going shopping and getting stuck in a dress was one of the worst experiences of my life. I wish I had listened to my instinct and not tried the dress on. Needless to say I didn't get my dress from that store! I can not stress enough to have a range of sizes. 

    But considering it was one of the most expensive stores I visited it was the messiest. A clean area is important, I found it really hard to focus with the shoe boxes scattered around. 

    Lighting. I never appreciated how important lighting was until this store. We were in the basement and while there were spotlights they weren't very flattering and gave me a headache. 

    Refreshments, even if it's just water. I think we all agree how hot it gets trying the dresses. Out of all the stores I visited one two offered myself and whoever accompanied me a drink. The store I did buy my dress from served tea and coffee with biscuits, it was heaven!

    I love your idea of a what to expect email. I really had no idea what dress shopping would be like. Basic information would have been fab. 

  • MrsRendall2BMrsRendall2B Posts: 749 New bride

    Oh and being able to take photos! I wasn't allowed to in the dress I eventually chose and it's killing me!! 

  • FutureMRS TFutureMRS T Posts: 108

    Location did not put me off when hunting for my dress. In fact what drew me to the shop where I found my dress were it's high Google and Facebook ratings as well as their Instagram page which featured real brides. The shop also had a regular blog on their website. The use of frequent social media was what firstly drew me to the shop. I traveled 2 hours to this shop based on all the good feedback I found as well as their frequent updates on social media.

    I agree with above, as long as there is parking and a friendly atmosphere your onto a winner. The lady at the boutique I went to was very accommodating she gave my sister and I bubbly and even asked me about my engagement. She felt like a friend. Nothing full on. I went to two other bridal shops before this and the customer service did not top the one where I got my dress from.

    In regards to the appointment the lady left my sister and I to choose 6 dresses we liked and she also suggested one for me to try. It was like a nice feeling not having someone fuss over you or force you to buy. We had a lovely time and I actually went for a dress my sister chose. 

    To sum it all off I say customer service, knowing your designers inside and out and having a passion for what you sell is a winner for me. 

     

  • Katherine66Katherine66 Posts: 1,234

    Hi

    i found my dress in a magazine it is an ian stuart design.   I then located my nearest ian stuart stockkst and thats how i found a tiny little shop about an hour from home.   It was full of beautiful accessories at the front, they have a sister company and also work closely with a bespoke jewellery maker.  They also stock rainbow shoes and other designer shoes and kate spade accessories.  

     

    They moved premises to a large stunning old barn conversion with solid wood flooring everywhere.   The dress area is richly furnished with velvet settee and silk curtains.  

     

    The owner and her daughter run the shop and are very on hand.   The dress was the wrong shape for me in its original design so ian has customised it to a fit and flare .  I have added straps and other adorments, raised the hem and had it taken in by 4 inches. 

     

    the service of both the owner her daughter the seamstress and the staff at ian stuart have been impeccable!   i am currently waiting for a necklace to be finished and the owner keeps me up to date with this to.  

    They feel like old friends now and i miss them all when everything is over.  

    i am featuring in a blog after the wedding and all our photos will be at their disposal to.  

     

    keep every bride special, be perfect in your service, keep her up to date, keep stock neat and tidy and not squashed up on rails.  Allow her chance to look herself.  Allow her to try on more than 6 and dont use horrid plastic disks to identify dresses.  

     

    A cramped shop was my worst experience i tried one dress and left it felt tatty and cheap for me.  

     

    rude staff to talking to friends and family, great but not when you have one standing waiting for her appointment! 

     

    Treating a bride as though she can not afford your stock, i wouldnt mention a dress price unless she is looking at it ,  i was told the price before i tried it on and even though it was over budget for me i still bought it because there was nothing else could top it!  The increased on being customised and so i waited for a ian event weekend where 10% off was offered.  Everyone likes a bargain even a little one.  

     

    Oh yes and always answer the phone within 4 rings if you can!!  

     

     

  • Tallie237Tallie237 Posts: 357 New bride

    One shop I visited I loved so much I was gutted to not find my dress there. They sat down and chatted with me before the appointment and asked things like how I wanted to feel on my wedding day, details about my fiance and engagement, it was just so personal! They then told me a brief history on their store and the designers they stocked. They also had love songs playing low in the background whilst I was there which just added to the atmosphere.

    I also agree with the above, an online presence was a must for me, as was being offered a drink of anything, tea water etc. One shop I went to didn't offer me or my mum a drink at all, I luckily had a bottle of water in my bag! They also were my worst experience, hoovering the shop floor whilst I was browsing (my appt was a Friday afternoon) and then pulling a face when I said a £2,500 dress was over my budget and They still tried to get me to try it on! 

    Good luck, like many brides I would also love to work in a bridal store, and despite 1 bad experience I loved the dress shopping part of planning the most!

  • MissSMissS Posts: 267 New bride

    Ive followed a facebook page for a bridal shop for years and it was the first shop I went into- and brought from! I liked having the place to ourselves and not feeling like we were rushed. I went into one place and it was like they just wanted a sell- she didn't listen to anything I said I wanted in a dress and told me I looked great when I obviously didn't. The first shop the lady was so down to earth and said if she didn't think it suited- and I actually went for sometning I never thought I would. I really appreciated her honesty. I didn't get any bubbles but I always do think it's a nice touch!! Also phone mannerisims are a big thing for me- I've called to book appointments by phone and ended up cancelling because they were so rude on the phone. 

  • Wibs77Wibs77 Posts: 414

    For me I only went to one place.a wedding dress shop in a village with a sample sale on.

    1active Facebook page and up to date website. Include real brides and get plenty of good reviews.

    2 answer emails and the phone really quickly and in a personable manner

    3 send a booking email, a reminder email and a info sheet including asking people not to wear makeup or creams, maximum guests, How long the appointment will last for and not to comment on other brides dresses as it may be a dress they have bought and your negative comment could be devastating. 

    4 send a questionnaire asking the budget, the designers/ styles she likes and what parts of her body she loves or wants to distract from.

    5 allow a maximum of 2 brides and have enough space for both to try on. 

    6 have 1 person dedicated per bride

    7 offer refreshments (not necessarily alcohol if people always have to drive to your shop) 

    8 have budget sections. I was shown a section where all the dresses in my price range were hung. 

    9 don't make people feel any less fir having a small budget.

    10 suggest the bride go away and think about it if she can't decide with no pressure.

    11 let her try a dress on more than once if she feels she needs to. 

    12 keep quite impartial although if she asks your opinion be kind and suggest other styles if she needs help.

    13 stock a good range of accessories and recommend local suppliers if asked

    14 send a follow up email thanking her for purchasing and setting out timelines and care guides.

  • TheLegacyofMrsMTheLegacyofMrsM Posts: 2,188 New bride

    Thank you so much for all your feedback ladies! It is really interesting to read and has focused my mind on what we can work on and where the opportunities are! I'm excited to start now xx

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