First things first! For determined retailers in today’s bridal market, it is clearly time for a shift in perspective. According to Merriam Webster, perspective is defined as “a measured or objective assessment of a situation, giving all elements their comparative importance.” For retailers looking to bank on the bridal boom, the first shift in perspective must be from the negative to the positive. It’s time to quit complaining—even among yourselves—about reduced traffic, smaller tickets, and a slower economy in general.
Attitudes in the store must shift from complaining to creating, moving the day-to-day emphasis among sales associates into the positive, excited, and enthusiastic. After all, your bridal clients are looking for help on how to symbolize and celebrate one of life’s most significant events. They expect—and deserve—an environment exuding optimism and passion, as well as an experience that is both professional and memorable.
Among larger retailers, the task at hand is to shift from small to big thinking. Many have spent the past several years wandering, with caution and fear as guideposts. For some, growth in the areas of professional development (i.e. staffing), inventory management, and the physical store environment has been stalled or even reversed. It’s time now to move forward with optimism and an attitude of achievement, making a conscious decision to grow with the bridal customer’s emerging needs.
Success in today’s bridal market relies on a retailer’s ability to execute in four key areas. You must:
- Know today’s customer;
- Build on history and ride the trends;
- Tap your resources; and
- Build innovative approaches that set you apart.
Let’s look at each separately.
Know your customer
Who are today’s bridal customers and how are they different? To begin with, the happy couple before you is the flag bearer for the new ‘expectation economy.’ Our ‘post-recession’ luxury market is inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers who have a long and detailed list of expectations they apply to every product, service, and service provider they encounter. These are based on years of self-training and hyper-consumption, and on information collected from an overwhelming number of readily available sources. This consumer base expects not just basic standards of quality, but the ‘best of the best.’
The average age of the first-time bride and groom today (27.5 and 29.5, respectively) itself creates the need for a significant difference in approach.* Most of us were taught the engagement ring represented a person’s first major purchase of fine jewellery, and that the bridal-buying experience formed the foundation upon which they established their loyalty to a fine jewellery store. Clearly, this is no longer the case.
Young people today are entering the luxury consumer market earlier in their lives, but getting married much later. Older, better-established, more affluent first-time bridal customers have, for the most part, developed a loyalty—or at least an affinity—to a fine jewellery store based on market-entering fashion purchases (whether self or gift) long before they’re ready for their engagement ring. If you haven’t attracted them early on, and earned that loyalty for your store by offering innovative fashion jewellery coupled with extraordinary service, you may not even get a shot at the engagement ring sale, despite your best (and most expensive) marketing efforts.
At the counter, today’s bridal customer has redefined the concept of value. Value is no longer about what the product is. Rather, it’s about what the product does, and how unique features are presented as specifically relevant to the individual. In essence, for today’s bridal customer, value is not defined by what they spend, but instead by what they get for what they spend. Price is secondary to the desire for a custom solution that speaks to the satisfaction of personal need.