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Sector Spotlight: Bridal Shops

If you intend to compete in this industry there’s no time to get cold feet. You need to be on trend, passionate and confident that your clients will ‘Say Yes to the Dress’.

With TV shows such as ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ and ‘Four Weddings’ dominating our screens, and the royal matrimony being the celebration of the year, it’s no wonder the nation has become obsessed with weddings and bridalwear.

So, if you intend to compete in this industry there’s no time to get cold feet. You need to be on trend, passionate and confident that your clients will ‘Say Yes to the Dress’.

Facts & Figures

  • A typical wedding costs more than £12,000
  • There are around 4,040 bridal stores operating across the UK
  • In the last five years the industry has grown 3% annually
  • The bridal shop industry has a combined revenue of £283 million
  • There has been a long-term decline in the UK’s marriage rate due to society’s changing opinion on marriage
  • The UK wedding industry is worth £10 billion

Sector overview

The number of couples tying the knot has hit an all-time low; there were 239,020 marriages between opposite-sex couples in 2015, which was around 8,300less marriages than the previous year.

Due to the change in law in 2014, now there is a market for same-sex marriages in the UK, with same-sex marriages accounting for 2.6% of all marriages in 2015.

As opposed to spending money on a wedding, couples are prioritising education, buying a house and travelling, which is why there has been a recent decline in number of marriages.

In today’s society, there are less expectations that a couple will marry in comparison to previous generations, which has also attributed to the decline in weddings.

Challenges in the industry

As glamourous as owning a bridal store seems, there are some hard truths about the industry that every entrepreneur should know before setting up shop.

Home traders operating within the industry are undeniably presenting big competition to the high street bridal stores, which is causing a huge blow to retailer’s bottom line.

Industry players have called for designers to stop dealing with bridalwear operators trading from home. However, home-based entrepreneurs argue they are still providing a professional service, despite operating domestically.

Rising rents and high rates are also hindering the growth of the high street bridal shop businesses.

Cheap imports from China and counterfeit products are also saturating the wedding dress market and many retailers are unable to compete with these competitive prices, as more cash-strapped brides opt to comprise quality over cost for an outfit they are only going to wear once.

There is also a lot of competition from online bridal stores and high street brands, with stores like Topshop and ASOS now offering an affordable bridal collection.

If you have the confidence to offer your brides something different and unique, with exceptional customer service, then you can still operate a successful and lucrative store.

Essential skills

  • Keeping abreast with current trends
  • Recruitment skills to employ a highly competent sales team and in-house seamstress
  • Great social skills and customer interaction
  • Ability to build up good relationships with designers and distributors
  • Attention to detail
  • Good eye for style and design
  • Patience in dealing with customers
  • Ability to manage unrealistic demands or stressful situations

Low-risk entry into the sector

Despite home traders receiving a backlash from rent-paying retailers, it is still a great low-risk and low-cost way to break into the industry.

You should strike a fine balance in offering a variety of dresses without over-ordering too much stock which could be left unsold.

Wedding dresses are seasonal, and more brides are opting for trend-focused dresses. And be brave enough to stock unique styles that may not be to everyone’s taste.

If you’re running a home-based business, you need to be able to market your business so customers know where you are. Unlike high street retailers, you can’t rely on passers-by and to get customers through your door.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are gold in the wedding industry and being able to provide an exceptional and bespoke service to your clientele will go far.

Buying an established bridal shop

If you prefer to buy an established bridal shop, then you need to do your homework before making an offer.

Find out what kind of reputation the store has with designers, distributors and previous customers. If the store has a bad reputation and needs an image overhaul, factor in the cost of reinventing and rebranding the store.

If the business benefits from a good referral rate and high turnover, then you should expect to pay more for the business.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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