If you missed our part one post you can read it here .... It will help part two make a lot more sense. I feel there are two main stereotypes that are placed on the mom and pop bridal stores that are unfair and often times untrue. I can only really tell you what I see from my perspective and what is true in my store. I know that not all boutiques are good just like not all chains are bad. I do want you, the consumer, to have a comparison so when you are shopping you can choose the best place for you.
My first stereotype is: Small stores do not have the same selection as the big guys.
Yes, chain stores have a huge number of dresses on the rack but that doesn't mean they have a lot of variety. I only counted about 25-30 different bridal styles while I was in the store that was mentioned in part one, the rest were just the multiple sizes in the same style and color. When I went to my racks and counted, I discovered that we have more than 60 different bridal gowns hanging on the racks right now, not counting the informal and clearance dresses. I think you will find that's true for most small bridal shops. Is it likely that your gown will need to be ordered from the manufacture to get the size and color you want? Yes! But, if you allow enough time in your planning this will not be an issue, and you will have a dress that was made for you, not one that dozens of other people have already tried on. Another point I feel I should make is the chain stores stock mostly "bread and butter" dresses. What I mean by this is they stock dresses that are proven winners and have been sold thousands of times over. If you are wanting something unique, shop small the stores who are willing to take a risk and have something different on their racks. Once I sell a popular dress more than a few times I sell the sample, and then do not reorder the gown even though I could probably sell it several more times. It may not make much sense business wise but I feel our customers deserve better.
I had the opportunity to visit one of the "big box" bridal & prom stores a few weeks ago. It was certainly not my main mission to go to this store, but I was in the area, so of course I had to stop in to see what it was all about.
I was there for at least 15 to 20 minutes, walked by 3 sales associates, and not one greeted me or asked if I needed any help. I also observed a young girl shopping for a formal dress. Based on how young she looked, I am assuming it was the first time she had every purchased, or tried on anything formal. She was walking aimlessly around the store, in a dress that was completely wrong for her, followed by her mom and a friend. I felt so sorry for her because I could see the frustration mounting on her face. At no point did I see a sales associate offer any help or advice to this young girl, who was so completely and obviously out of her element.
Shopping for formal-wear is much different that shopping for ready-wear clothing, and when you don't have someone who knows about formal-wear to guide you it can be a very frustrating experience.
I know that big box stores have there place and that we all shop at them for one reason or another, myself included. I also think that small stores have a lot of stereotypes that get placed on them that are not fair or true. We really have a lot more to offer than people might think.
Stayed tuned for part two of this series where I will begin to discuss common myth's about bridal boutiques, how they can compete with the big chains, and give the consumer a better experience to boot.
Store owner, Kelly has been in the bridal industry since 2000, when at the ripe old age of 20 she opened her first little store front on a wing and a prayer. She is a certified wedding planner (no, she does not plan weddings), and everything she knows about bridal and formal wear has come from, gut instinct, trial and error, and watching LOTS of What Not to Wear.