We’ve said it all before, but no one could have predicted that this would be the way that 2020 would have ended. Although there is a sense of hope in the air from the development of vaccines and treatments of COVID-19, there are still a lot of apprehensions.
Many businesses have been vocal about their experiences during this time. Now, more than ever, it is time to listen. For many small businesses, their adaptability and ability to share their stories are the difference between survival and closing their doors for good. The wedding industry is no different. Any wedding vendors will tell you about all the postponements they have experienced. And if one thing is certain, 2021 is going to be an INSANE year for most of us. But in our sector, the wedding date is just half of it. Bridal shops operate from a year in advance all the way to the day before wedding.
We want to take this time to reflect on this year and the COVID-19 pandemic as a whole. The following is everything we have learned and been through the past year!
“During the shutdown, our marketing goals changed dramatically. No longer did we want to entice brides to come to our shop. Instead, we wanted to keep ourselves on the mind of brides and keep them entertained so that when we did open, they wanted to come to us. When we finally opened up shop in June, we again had to change course. Now we had to make sure everyone was aware of all the precautions we were taking as a business. It was a time to make sure everyone felt comfortable coming out of their homes to our shop. And with that, we wanted to make sure that their trip was worthwhile! We had to ensure that we had enough dresses, trunk shows, and promotions that Brides were excited about. Overall, the name of the game of marketing during the COVID pandemic was adapting to new and scary circumstances!”
– Alexa, Marketing Coordinator
“Since opening back up, there has been a major shift in how we approach the dress’s fit. Before, Brides used to want to sacrifice comfort and practicality for the look. But now that we see more intimate weddings, brides are looking for something more comfortable and practical for their big day. We have brides eloping at the top of a mountain, getting married in their living room, and getting creative to celebrate with close family. These brides don’t want to worry about navigating their house in many layers of tulle or not being able to sit. They want to feel like a bride while still maintaining the mobility to do what they need to do in more intimate settings. Similarly, I have never seen so many brides asking to cut off their trains!
Our alterations department sees our brides right before they walk down the aisle. When talking to them as their wedding approaches, we have seen an amazing shift in how they see their big day. It used to be so much more about the glitz and glamour of getting married. Now, brides care less about having the most impressive wedding day, but rather, they are just excited to be marrying their partner. It has been wonderful to see our brides rediscover what getting married is truly about.
One of the best things that have come during this alteration season is the relationships that we have built with our brides. We went from asking questions like “What color are your bridesmaids’ dresses?” to really getting to know our brides as they navigate through such a tricky time. We hear of all the stories of challenges and curveballs being constantly thrown at our brides, and we feel for/with every single one of them. They’ve all been through a lot, and we are just so happy to be a part of their journey. It makes dress pickup day all the more special!”
– Katie, Bridal Stylist & Alterations Coordinator
“Our screening process has always been important to get an idea of what our brides are looking for during their appointment with us. Now, it has become the most crucial aspect of getting the bride prepared for their appointment. When we reach out to the bride to touch base on what they are looking for, we inform them of our COVID-19 guidelines, including a two-guest limit per bride, completing our COVID Screening Form before their appointment, for both themself and their guests. The two-guest limit has been both challenging and productive for us. Although we completely understand and sympathize with how difficult it is to narrow down to just two people, it has allowed our brides to really learn what they love and want in their dream dress and hear the thoughts from two very important people.
This year has been challenging (to say the least) for every single person. We have all had to make changes in our lives, oftentimes changes that we do not want to make, but they are made to have everyone’s safety as the top priority. I think it has been so important to remember that we are all going through this unknown territory together and understanding that each person is processing this difficult time in their own way. Being understanding, kind, and compassionate are such important skills to get through these times together.
I think that having the incredible blessing to come out of lockdown and get back to what we love has been the most uplifting part of this experience. Working with brides again and finding their dream wedding dress has taken on a whole new meaning of loving what we do!”
– Nicole, Manager and Lead Bridal Stylist
“Our customer goals very much changed once we opened up. Many new brides started with an unclear vision because of the uncertainty that shutdown and COVID had left us with. When first working with a bride, we always ask about where and when the wedding is and details of a theme, and so on. This provides us with a background of what they might be looking for, and instead, Brides responded with a lot of “I don’t know,” “I am not sure yet,” “well hopefully.” It became hard for brides to pinpoint what they were looking for. The ambiguity of their search has become the biggest struggle for them.
Also, the priorities of our Brides have changed because their event has had to change. Brides who originally had a summer wedding have had to change gears to plan a winter wedding. Brides who imagined a 200-guest event are now curating an intimate 40 event. The unwavering element is that no matter what the changes brides have had to make, they still want to look and feel either best, and we are here to support them to get to that spot.”
– Meghan, Bridal Stylist
“One of the most challenging sides to any business is the financials. For small businesses, this is always the case, but this year has been especially taxing. As a business owner, I have had to be more creative than ever. I have had to remain transparent for my customers to reassure them in uncertain times. Brides just wanted a piece of mind that their dress will be completed, shipped, and remain safe at our shop, hoping to one day be able to pick up their gown. In this time, honesty and communication were key. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at times. How could I continue to pay my suppliers with no revenues? Working with our understanding brides, we cultivated a new policy to ensure the designer is paid and the dress arrives promptly.
Another concern was the shift in our alterations schedule. The majority of our brides decided to postpone their weddings until 2021. As a result, our 2021 alterations book was nearly full. Knowing that brides wanted a piece of mind when it comes to finding a trusted seamstress to work on their gowns, we wanted to develop a plan before we started turning new brides away. We needed to come up with an agreement between our brides and us. As a result, we now require a deposit to secure our alteration services. This has helped us tremendously when it comes to a forecasted cash flow and scheduling for 2021.”
Many of my main concerns during this whole COVID-19 pandemic was my staff. At Angela’s, we are a tight-knit group, to say the least. We rely on, inspire, and motivate each other in every possible way. I have to give thanks to PPP. Although it was not much, it was necessary and helped buy me time before starting to take appointments again. I simply can not run this large volume business without my incredible team. Without them, I would be pulling my hair out.
I have learned so much through 2020. It has been a whirlwind of a year, and I feel blessed to be on the other side of it with my team and our brides. Although 2021 shows promise to be another crazy year, I am optimistic, and quite frankly, we are up for the challenge.”
– Janet Cooper, Owner