The business model is changing

Ellie Sanderson

Let’s unite to navigate these bumpy seas, says Ellie Sanderson, as retailers report low footfall across the first quarter

Last month’s Business Advice Clinics at The London Bridal Show were brilliant and gave me a clear understanding of how retailers are finding trade across the industry. All shops reported a sense of worry about sales lower than last year’s to date.

Many retailers are still feeling that sense of worry but it is now growing to panic. Letters arriving from manufacturers, suggesting that if the minimums outlined are not met then a shop could face loosing a label, have further fuelled this panic. In addition, manufacturers introducing sub labels to increase their production and fracture the exclusivity of the main brand are giving most retailers sleepless nights.

Clearly, the historical business model that once worked, no longer does. Samples are dated in months and brides have little appetite to buy ex-samples; let’s face it, they have greater options on the high street for off-the-peg dresses direct from China.

A note to suppliers
As the landscape of bridal retailing shifts dramatically we need to pull together. Demands of high minimums for product that is not exclusive is unobtainable and unrealistic.

A note to retailers
Do not label-hog; buy only labels that you have good exclusivity on, the minimums of which you can afford and which you can sell. Don’t fill your shop with dozens of labels with high commitment to re buy. Reduce your labels and ensure you give your top manufacturers good support with good orders.

On a personal level I have said goodbye to five labels across two shops in the past year. My sales are still good and I now have more money to spend with those suppliers who support me and I support with my orders in return.

If you are being told you’re the only store to be having a tough year - YOU ARE NOT.

Let’s unite now or in five years time half of the retailers will survive and there will be a massive landfill site for last year’s samples somewhere.

Readers' comments (4)

  • Well said, I agree with everything you've written Ellie, it's going to be a very tough year ahead.

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  • Absolutely Ellie - we HAVE to take control of our own businesses and make the numbers add up. If ever there was a time for a spring clean of practices and upping the levels of professionalism in our industry it is now. Walk away from those companies who don't support, nurture and excite you NOW! Also keep away from the discounting to grab a sale - yes it's tough out there, but we all need to maintain our margins or it will get a lot tougher a lot sooner!

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  • Wise words Ellie. It is indeed time to take stock. As you say; We retailers need to consider carefully our buying strategy and manufacturers/designers need to reach out to retailers at a time when the industry is challenging and volatile.

    Dear suppliers/ manufacturers / designers please understand that;

    1-Wholesale price increases are hard to absorb at a time when closing sales is tough. Brides are price matching and requesting discounts left, right and centre!
    2-Launch of sub / diffusion labels (esp' those which are too similar in terms of design) can be frustrating.
    3-High numbers of discontinuations are crippling and only serve to build more and more price cut dress outlets!
    4-Selling product direct to brides (by whatever means (online, own stores or via chains/high st stores) is NOT good news for us independent bridal retailers, it will damage relationships and ultimately destroy stockist networks.
    5-Following investment, reneging on exclusivity / area agreements & moving goal posts is a big NO!
    6-Quality issues are not our fault! Fast turnaround to replace inferior product is needed, an apology is a welcome bonus.
    7-It's bloody tough out there. Threats of social media assassination from girls with 'off the scale' bridal expectations are very real and on the increase.

    I'd also like to mention how extremely sorry I was to learn the Benjamin Roberts news yesterday. We send best regards at what can only be an extremely sad and difficult time. The news has sent a shockwave through our industry. Let's pull together as Ellie says, before more shocks hit!

    On a positive; there is an army of driven, capable and savvy bridal retail professionals who are fiercely determined to ride the storm. We're adapting to change, addressing our models, upping our game and working our nuts off to ensure we move to meet our market.

    On that note, it's Saturday, time to sell, sell, sell..

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  • Interesting comments Ellie !! Having been in the bridal business nearly 20 years , to see the change within the industry in the last 10 years is staggering. What used to be , in retrospect, a captive market for boutique bridal retailers and in turn suppliers is no longer relevant with the advent of the internet,direct buying from china by brides and wharehouse/ outlet centres.
    Suppliers and independent retailers must start to work in a cohesive format that benefits us both before it is too late to recover from the downward spiral. My existing suppliers I have to say are fabulous and they benefit from my business in the form of sample orders and repeats, but I have also in the past been effectively lied to re exclusivity, pressured in to buying samples I didn't want want to keep the label and put up with appalling customer service. Not any longer , it's tough for all of us out there but we must work together.

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