If it isn’t obvious how fast things are changing, ponder this… I usually write 3-4 blogs a year and this is my third post in 3 weeks! It has gone from “No Chicago - See you in NY” to “No Markets - See you in the Store” to “My In-Store Visits are Cancelled for the Immediate Future” in a matter of days. Here is the latest chapter:
On Sunday at Noon my car was packed, I had 8 appointments in New England for the upcoming week, and I had all intentions of leaving Monday morning for my first sales trip of the season. At 8PM I had a frank phone conversation with my son Andrew, who respectfully questioned my plan to leave home. I have always encouraged my sons to speak their minds with me, and he “made the case” for delaying the trip. After a sleepless night I awoke the next morning with some clarity:
Delaying my road trip was in the best interest of my safety of my customers, my personal safety, my family’s safety, and for the good of the country.
I immediately called both of my companies and explained my decision. I think I know my bosses very well, but one never really knows how an owner will react to something like this - considering that I have started my Fall road trip by the first week of March for 30 straight years. They totally understood my decision and were completely supportive, which meant a lot to me. As it turns out, my thoughts mirrored most bridal reps in the country; it seems that no one is on the road right now. In case I needed confirmation, I received cancellation emails from 5 of my 8 appointments by 10AM Monday morning…. before
I even had a chance to cancel with them.
With the 2 phone calls out the way - I pondered: "now what?" My first inclination was to begin setting up phone meetings with some of my clients. I often work with a store over the phone using images and dropbox links so this is something I am quite used to. And then I took a step back. What was going on in the minds of my customers? These people have been my friends for many years and the news reports were alarming. I do have thoughts about what constitutes ethical journalism in a time of crisis, but that is a subject for another day. My accounts are smart people and it was obvious that the bridal business was changing by the hour. I decided that rather than try to make appointments, the “right” thing to do was to first contact as many stores as I could and try to get the pulse
of where their heads were. I spent the past 2 days connecting with about 60 of the top stores in the Northeast - some by phone and others by text. It was quite an enlightening experience.
To summarize, most bridal stores in The Northeast are closed, or quasi open at best. To say they are alarmed is putting it mildly and many are down right scared - and I can’t say I blame them. So instead of calling for appointments I decided to first write this blog.
One of the first things I did when I started my career in bridal about 30 years ago was to design my business card, and I needed a “tagline” to define myself. I came up with:
I love my logo and have used it ever since. It is on my website, my letterhead, my newsletters, and in the signature of my emails - and I send a LOT of emails. If ever there was a time to live up to the “SUPPORT
” part, it was now.
I pride myself in being an optimist and I am sure we are all going to get through this. What I can’t be sure of is when, but I do know that we all have to stick together and be strong until things get back to “normal” - AND THEY WILL
! Until then I want you to know that I am here for you if you need me. Whether it’s a specific question about an order or a clarification of a company policy… or if you’d just like to chat about business in general (or even life), I am just a phone call or an email away.
Despite all the news right now I am choosing to look at things as follows:
Brides are not going to other stores right now to buy their gowns because any sane bride is sheltering in place, and there aren’t many open bridal stores for the “insane” brides to shop at anyway. This is not like a restaurant or a yoga studio, where a sale missed today is gone forever... and we should all be thankful for that. When some sense of normalcy and safety returns, the brides will be out en masse - and probably will want to shop local. They will be looking to you for the latest fashion, and you need to be able to show them dresses you are confident will arrive on time. They will probably be nervous, and close wear dates may be the norm for a while. Please know that Paloma Blanca and Mikaella can handle these tight wear dates, and Calla has a ton of hanging stock right now and an on-line portal where you can check real time inventory.
For another perspective on some specifics a store may want to consider for the short term, as well as his outlook for the future of the independent bridal store and the bridal industry at large, I am including a link below to a the March 19th post called "This Too Shall Pass" by Peter Grimes, the editor of Vows Magazine (See Below).
At some point soon it’s going to be time to start thinking about ordering new samples, but it isn’t today. Please know that when you are ready I am prepared. And my companies are prepared. I have dropbox links, e-catalogs, and pdfs of all of my new collections. I will have a video by early next week of Paloma Blanca and Mikaella’s new collections on live models, with motion and closeups. I am becoming an expert with Zoom, and feel confident that we can work together this season through a video conference, should face-to-face meetings be avoided for a little while longer.
I have had a few stores already reach out to me this week. They are “stuck” at home waiting things out with time on their hands… and would like to use the time to begin working on their orders. I have sent them the images and early reaction is that the new collections are very strong. If/when you find yourself in a similar mindset, please contact me and I will get some things sent over to you. In the meantime I will do my best to keep you updated with general information and things specific to my companies. Should you wish to speak to me before I next contact you - I am but a phone call, text, or email away.
I will close by saying that The Bridal Industry is strong and as Peter says: “Bridal retail is uniquely positioned to survive, based primarily on its fundamental ability to adapt…”. In the meantime please take care of you and your loved ones and stay safe and healthy,