My Bridal Shop

Question: How do I get brides to buy my gowns?

“So I’ve been a wedding DJ for 6 years. I charge well over the average DJ price + consider myself to be fairly savvy about marketing to brides.

I recently opened a bridal shop (in addition to DJing)….And I’m finding that NONE of my DJ marketing tips + tricks are working to help me sell brides dresses. With DJing, you have to convince brides of your value. In fact, last month I talked to a potential DJ client who actually forgot to budget for a DJ…that’s how valued we are as DJs.

With wedding dresses, you just sit back + watch them over-spend.

This is what I don’t know how to deal with:

1. I have a sale rack by the front door…brides almost never look at it + zoom right past it to the full price dresses

2. On their sign-in cards where I ask about their dress budgets, brides will often tell me $3,000….when my most expensive dress is only $1,000!!! (I used to tell brides I only sold dresses under $1,000….that did not generate ANY interest….now I keep that on the DL + hype up the fact that they are DESIGNER dresses….much more effective.)

3. Brides look at the price tags on the dresses AFTER they’ve tried them on…while they are wearing them (not before they take it back to the dressing room).

4. Brides will try on dresses that do not fit them….knowing it won’t be their size before they even get it off the hanger. I’ll remind them alterations can be between $200-$500 extra–they don’t care. (Tell the same bride 3 months later when she’s DJ shopping that uplighting is $200 extra + she blows a gasket.)

5. I even once got a call from a bride who already had a wedding dress, but said that because my store looked so great, she’d like to make an appt to come in + try on dresses–maybe she’d see something she liked better than her current dress (to which she was not unhappy with)!!!!!

My bridal shop sells new + used off-the-rack designer dresses. I have only sold one dress since I opened in March.

Consistently, brides come in, fall in love with the store, the dresses, me as their style consultant…the whole experience they are having in my boutique…but they are not buying. I have more 5-star Yelp reviews for the biz from happy brides than I have dress sales!!!

I offer a “First Visit Advantage Program” (giving the brides numerous freebies if they buy a dress on their first visit…to discourage leaving the store to “sleep on it”). I have an automated email follow-up system in place. I advertise on Wedding Wire, The Knot, + my website is on page one of Google when you search bridal in my city.

I have scoured the Better Bridal Group forum for closing the sale tips and am doing what I’ve learned to the best of my ability…I ask for the sale, I listen, etc. Some members on the Better Bridal Group say they have 80-90% close rates!!!! I’d be happy with 30-40%.”

Answer: Analyze and test each piece of your sales experience to find the right approach.

First of all, bridal shop marketing is not an area where I have direct experience.  Different markets in the wedding industry behave differently (as you’re experiencing) and you’re doing so much right to test out ways to work with this new audience of brides buying dresses.  Kudos on that!

I’m certain that you can figure out the right sales recipe if you continue testing strategies as you have been.

So here’s what I consider if I were in your (gorgeous bridal) shoes:

#1 – Profile the market of brides you’re currently attracting.

You’ve already gathered some extremely valuable information (go you!) including the fact that they typically budget up to $3,000 for a dress.

Since your most expensive gown is $1,000, this is probably working against you.  

If these brides have in mind that their dream dress is going to cost $3,000, anything less expensive will be considered “cheap.”  You’re delivering a high end experience at a bargain price, leaving them wondering, “What’s the catch?”

This is a mismatch between your market and your products.  You can either:

a)    Start selling $3,000 designer gowns asap.

b)    Attract a market of brides with a smaller budget for a dress.

Personally, I’d love to see you go with choice A.  You’re smart enough to pull this off and it’s likely to be much more profitable catering to the brides who have money to spend.

The challenge would be shifting your mindset.  You’ve been trained to justify your value as a DJ.  It also sounds like you’d be the type of bride who’d buy a dress for under $1,000 and take advantage of a deal on a designer dress yourself.  (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

You need to believe in the value of the $3,000 gown in order to sell it.  

And if you absolutely DON’T want to work with this higher end bridal gown market, go the exact opposite direction for choice B and position yourself as the affordable, discount resource for designer gowns to attract that market.  Do a little research to find out where to find them in your local market.

I couldn’t recommend this simply because, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, working with budget clients tend to be more demanding, less satisfying and often less profitable to work with.  And who wants that?

#2 – Consider the staging and layout of your store.

There’s a whole psychology involved in the flow of a retail store and designing it for optimal sales.  I’d find a consultant or someone who can educate you on the topic.

It’s pretty certain that the discount rack isn’t working for you.  Either ditch it entirely or find a different way (or time) to present it.

#3 – Tweak your incentives.

Since these brides don’t seem to be motivated as much by the price tag…and in fact may be unconsciously doubting the value of what you offer because it’s so much less than what they’ve budgeted…you’ll need to use another type of scarcity to motivate their buying.

Emphasize the exclusivity and limited availability of your gowns.

Can brides get the dresses you carry elsewhere?  If not, let them know it.

Inform them that you aren’t able to hold dresses without a deposit, which means that it might not be there when they come back.

#4 – Test out a refundable deposit offer.

When the bride is excited and totally “in love” with the dress, that’s the time she’ll experience the most pain upon walking away.  But if she leaves, she might not be back.

Try offering a 100% refundable deposit for 30 days.  She can plunk down the deposit without risk for 30 days.  It gives her time to test out other gowns, just in case.

Collecting a deposit is represents a psychological commitment on their part to the dress.  It’s much more likely to become a permanent purchase than if they walk out without buying.

#5 – Tweak your follow up.

When you meet with the bride, make some notes about her preferences and wedding style.  If she does leave without purchasing, ask for her cell number so that you can text her if any new designs come in.

Within the next seven days, find a design that’s in her style and text her a photo.

Get her to come in and try on another one.  Keep developing that relationship with her and become her personal design curator.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again until you find “the one” together.

Your text message is much more likely to be read than an email.  (98% of text messages are read vs. 11-26% of email.)

#6 – Find out where these brides ARE buying the dress.

If you created a good relationship with these brides, you should be able to contact them and ask for help.  Tell them you’re doing research and find out the cost of the dress they bought and where they got it from.  This will tell you a lot you can use in your marketing.

Many bridal shops are struggling right now because it’s so easy for brides to try on a dress in their store and then buy it (or a cheap knock-off) online.  I wonder if this is what’s happening for you.

In any case, you need to determine where they’re going so you can figure out why they aren’t buying from you.

What do you think about what makes a bride ready to buy her dress?