The VOW | Retail Experts Panel was brimming with information for attendees. The renowned panel of industry leaders included Barbara Tibbetts of T Carolyn, Shirley Fraser of Bravura, Ann Marie Griffin of Ann Marie’s and Shelley Mueller of Becker’s Bridal. The panel was moderated by Patrice Catan of Catan Fashions who later hosted her own seminar Don’t Just Survive – Thrive.
The entire panel concurred that reliable customer service and continuous employee training are key to running a successful bridal boutique. “You have 30 seconds to make a first impression with each new customer entering your store,” says Shelley Mueller. “Be sure to have a designated greeter, since the bride’s first encounter with your personnel can make or break a sale.” The panel members stressed the importance of making certain every employee was capable and prepared to handle the array of different scenarios that may present themselves. They also felt employees should express passion for the business along with technical knowledge like delivery times and color selections. Shirley Fraser noted, “You may be selling a single dress, but a positive experience by one bride may lead to dress sales for their bridal party, mother and mother-in-law and referrals to all of her friends.”
Panelists expressed that every employee must be able identify a woman’s body type and know the silhouettes that best suit her shape. “Every woman will walk into your store hating a particular fault in her body,” says Shirley. In addition, they need to know which manufacturers carry what silhouettes, whether their delivery times meet the bride’s requirements and if their price point fits within their budget.
Barbara Tibbetts, whose shop T Carolyn sells dresses exclusively for mothers of the bride and groom, points out that the average American woman wears a size 14, but will likely lie about her size. Barbara features mannequins of varying sizes in order to help her clients visualize themselves wearing the dresses on display. She also recommends not overstuffing the dress racks and arranging the dresses so they are color coordinated and gently transition from one color to the next.
Ann Marie Griffin suggests business owners think about their store as another employee. “Take pride in the merchandise you sell and keep your shop orderly. A customer will want to buy if they think you care about finding them the perfect dress to wear on the most important day of their life.” “Customers want to see and touch the merchandise,” she continues, “and are more likely to try on a dress that is on display because it is generally fully accessorized, and they can see the entire picture.”
All of the panelists agreed that putting a bride in the proper smoothing foundations, a dress that is flattering to her body type, adding shoes and jewelry, then topping it off with a veil will allow the bride to get a snapshot of what she’ll look like on her wedding day and finalize the sale. Just be certain your staff knows to have the tissues ready.