Picture the scene; a two hour in depth bridal consultation where I successfully find the most perfect dress for a bride to be. I ask a lot of questions. I get her to feel relaxed. She tries on lots of dress options and I give my expert advice. Then, we find it – the dress she loves and wants to wear it for her wedding day!
But, she doesn’t order the dress that day.
Instead I get a phone call a week later from the bride to tell me that she has phoned every other stockist of the dress in the country and one of them is willing to sell the dress for £100 less than us! Now you may be thinking ‘good for her for finding a better deal’ or ‘how can the other shop manage to sell it for less’, but let me tell you what I’m thinking from my perspective:
‘BRIDAL GOWN SHOPS ARE NOT ALL CREATED EQUAL!’
I occasionally hear from girls that a particular shop sells a brand of wedding dresses slightly cheaper than us, but it’s important to understand that it is not just a wedding dress that you are buying when you are purchasing from a “proper” bridal boutique. There are certain things that accompany a wedding dress that will be included in the price of the gown in some shops but not others – some will charge extra, and sometimes disproportionately so.
Let me give you some examples. In my boutique we include all kinds of things in the dress price, basic things like a hanger and a gown cover, the use of the changing room for as many try ons and alteration appointments as you need, storage of your dress, steaming it, organising and liaising with the seamstress on your behalf, subsidised on the day dressing… the list could go on!
I know of particular boutiques that charge £20 per week to store your gown so that you don’t have to bring it home. If your arrives ten weeks before your wedding that can be a BIG expense! When it comes to steaming, I know of bridal boutiques who don’t even own a steamer and others that charge £70 to press your dress. Alterations can be another big cost – we make sure that the seamstress we work with charges a fair amount for the work involved and doesn’t rip you off. Alterations are, for us, an important part of the after care that we offer. We make sure it happens on site so that you don’t feel like your own with a massive list of seamstresses to contact, some of whom might not even be familiar with handling bridal gowns.
Another thing to think about is the environment in which you are buying your dress. Operating a gorgeous boutique in a town centre location obviously costs a fair bit more than a shop operating from someone’s garage or shed. If you are happy to negotiate country lanes and the smells of someone’s kitchen when you go to buy your dress then by all means try to save that £100, but most brides I’ve met expect a little more glamour and grandeur when they’re standing in a £2000 gown.
We also have to make sure we are selling dresses at a price that will ensure we can continue to be a sustainable business. I’m not talking about eeking out lots of profit from every bride (you’d be surprised how little we get to keep after paying the designer and vat man!) but making sure that we’re still here when it comes to the time for your dress to be delivered. Lots of you will remember the case of the two bridal shops who went bust a few years ago leaving lots of brides without their dresses and having to deal with police and TV news crews in order to get something back! And that’s exactly the risk you take when you go to a shop that has to undercut the recommended retail price in order to get any customers.
The vast majority of girls who find their dress with us but then ‘price-shop’ end up coming back to us in the end in order to buy it. They always tell me that it’s because they’d far rather deal with us because we are nice! That is something else to consider – buying your wedding dress isn’t a mechanical transaction, it’s an emotional one. So it’s really important that you like and trust your boutique and their ability to contribute to your big day.
I don’t want this to come across as a rant or a huff, but I do hope that it makes you ask your bridal boutique what is included in the price. If you feel the need to call around a hundred other stockists to make sure you’re getting a fair deal then absolutely do it – that is your right – but just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, not to brussel sprouts!
Article by Catherine Massey
Catherine has been writing Bi-Weekly Article for us since the 8th May 2012 and is our very talented Bridal Specialist. Catherine is a Bridal Stylist for their family Bridal Boutique, Cathedral Gowns. Find them online at http://www.cathedralgowns.com or on Facebook.
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