Monday, 25 February 2013

Wedding dresses and the 2013 Oscars red carpet look

It's that time again when I get up on the morning after the Oscars and check out what the latest trends on the red carpet are.  The Oscars are the designers' biggest opportunity to show the world what they can do by showing off their dresses draped on the rich and famous in Hollywood, and I have to admit that I always love checking out the latest trends and guessing how certain looks might be taken by the bridal designers that supply our dresses to inspire the latest 'Aisle Style'.

I was pleasantly surprised this year to see how some of the red carpet style has already been reflected on our shops rails and I thought I'd share a few of them.

I loved Jennifer Hudson's midnight blue dress with it's long sleeves and how it draped so elegantly on her - she really pulled it off so well!! It reminded me immediately of our Dalton dress by Maggie Sottero....


Charlize Theron looked stunning in her peplum dress with a fishtail skirt and when I saw Jennifer Garner's gorgeous purple dress with the ruffles at the back, they both reminded me of our new Essense of Australia dresses - check them out!!

The texture and silhouette of Kristin Stewart's dress immediately brought our Maggie Sottero 'Hope' dress to mind, with it's vertical lines of beading and wispy organza giving it a whimsical flair... although I do confess to preferring the wedding dress much more to the red carpet dress.

One of my favourite dresses was Sandra Bullock's, and whilst the detailing is completely different to anything we have, again, the silhouette can be seen on a few of the dresses which are literally just in the door.  Tia is one of my favourite new dresses by Maggie Sottero and you can see the neckline is almost identical to Sandra's dress - the Afton dress also has this neckline - I think it's going to a popular look for next year. 

It was great to see big skirts back again, and whilst they didn't resemble my dresses, I loved Amy Adams in her textured ballgown (which reminded me of Hayley's dress - our shop manager who got married 18 months ago), and the star of the show, the gorgeous winner of the coveted best actress award, Jennifer Lawrence.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sneak Peek of our photoshoot

The winter February sun was shining yesterday for our Beautiful Day photo shoot for the Local Women magazine, shot in and around our shop at the Vale Centre in Greysteel.  I'm really looking forward to seeing Helen Mc Carter's shots in next month's Local Women magazine!!  Whilst Helen was busy doing her job, I took a few snap shots with my little camera too to give you a sneak peek of what we were up to.  The gorgeous Azin was the perfect model for our dresses - I'm sure you'll all agree that she looked stunning in a variety of different wedding dress styles, from the cute short fifties number to the elegant vintage backless lace gown.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Designer wedding dress sale

We've set the date for our next big 1 day sample sale.

It will be Thursday 28th March, from 10am until 8pm.

No appointment will be needed.  Dresses will be sold on a first come, first served basis.  Wedding dresses from £295, with discounts of at least 50% on all sale dresses.  Designer brands including Maggie Sottero, Essense of Australia, Estes, White One, Private label by Sincerity and Raylia.  We'll also have some bridesmaid dresses (most will be single dresses - no sets), mother of the brides outfits, and accessories.

Top tips for attending a sample sale..

1. Get out beforehand and try dresses on.
Don’t make a sample sale your first bridal shopping trip.  The girls who come prepared with ideas from trying on beforehand are the girls who have the most success at getting a bargain.  If the sale day is busy, you will be restricted to the number of dresses you can try on to make it fair for people waiting to use the changing rooms, so you won't have the chance of spending over an hour having a private consultation (as you normally would in a bridal appointment) to try and figure out what shapes and styles you prefer and which ones flatter your figure.  When you come to a bridal sample sale, you should already have a good idea of what style you are looking for and what suits your shape.

2. Bring a friend

Don’t bring a whole entourage, but bring someone who will be brutally honest. Weddings are expensive and any discount you can get, especially if it’s on your dress, is well worth it, but only if you will be happy with it. Brief your friend to be brutally honest and listen to him or her.  And remember that on a 1 day sale,  you can't go for a look and come back again another day.  So if you need your friend/sister/mum with you to help you make the final decision, then make sure she comes with you that day. 
3. Wear the right underwear
This is a wedding dress appointment necessity regardless, but make sure you wear the right undies! You need to do everything you can to see how the dress will fit you. Don’t “overlook” things just because its on sale. Also,if it is busy, the dressing rooms will not necessarily be 100% private.  So don't wear skimpy underwear unless you are happy to be seen in them!!
4. Bring your purse!!!!!!!!!!!
You'd be surprised at how many people don't think about this one - remember, it's a one day sale, and we don't hold items over.  So bring your purse (we accept all major credit/debit cards) so that if you do find 'the one' then you can actually buy it!!!
5.  Ask the sales assistants about sizing.
Bridal sizes are generally a bit smaller than high street sizes, so when you are looking, bear that in mind.  But also, don't be afraid of looking at dresses which are a little bit bigger as they can always be taken in.  If in doubt, ask one of our sales assistants for guidance on the sizes.  All dresses will be grouped in sizes to make it easier.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

When it's too good to be true...

Don't leave it up to chance by gambling on an online copy of a designer dress when you can get the real thing and be able to see it in the flesh and try in on... even if you are on a budget.

Too good to be true - the Counterfeit wedding dress industry

I know I'm always harping on about the dangers of the Chinese Cottage industry and the fake designer dresses they make and sell online, but I've had yet another call today where a bride was left distraught when she saw what arrived in the post.  She had thought it was safe as she dealt with a company with a UK web address, but she was in fact dealing with a Chinese company that copied designer dresses. With not enough time to order a new dress, she'll be left to buy off the peg and with the size and colour she needs, she's going to find herself very restricted in choice with a wedding date that is very close.   Both ourselves and the designers of the dresses are always trying to educate brides to warn them of the dangers of buying online - we've seen too many of the bad fakes out there! These sites illegally use the designer's images to advertise their dresses, conning people into believing that they are getting the actual dress pictured.  Thankfully, a lot of ladies out there know that these dresses, often advertised on online auction sites such as ebay, are too good to be true, but too many are still tempted, lured by the low price tag and the promise of the dress in the picture!!

It's been a frustrating week this week as it was pointed out to me that a very popular website that gives tips on how to save money was endorsing such sites.  The researchers clearly did not do their research and they were giving the thumbs up to support the Chinese Cottage industry (ie. the unregulated factories) and even referred to bridal shop owners as being snooty (most of us are far from snooty, I can assure you!!!)  I was horrified at this behaviour at first, but then it occurred to me that they were totally ignorant of what they were actually encouraging people to do.  They saw the pound signs and jumped to steer brides towards the cheap option.   It clearly had not occurred to them that these sites break a multitude of laws from copyrighted image theft, to child labour laws.  They were telling people that they can get fab made to measure dresses from as little as £1 - £15 plus postage.  Surely common sense tells anyone that the cost of paying skilled workers for hours upon hours of work, and using any half decent quality fabric is going to work out a lot more expensive that what these sites are charging?   Any dresses made in a regulated factory, using quality materials and abiding by health & safety and labour laws are bound to cost more than a few pounds. Common sense should tell you.

I feel exasperated that supposed 'experts' endorse such practices in this day and age.  It's not even the fact that the end product is bad (if indeed it even turns up!), but the fact that the people who make these dresses are breaking the law in so many areas.   I've only touched the tip of the ice-berg on this topic, but it makes one person stop and think before they waste their hard earned money, then it will have been worth it.

I totally understand that not everyone can afford to spend the going rate for a wedding dress in a bridal shop.  But the thing is, that you can still save money if you know where to look.  And one of the best ways to save money - and try before you buy - is at a wedding dress sample sale.

I'll be setting the date soon for our next one, so make sure you follow us on facebook or twitter (or keep your eye on here) and I'll be announcing the date soon.  All dresses will be reduced to half price or less, with bargains for as little as £295.  These are all genuine designer dresses which I will no longer be using as samples in my shop and they are great for brides on a budget who are looking for a fab dress at a fraction of the price.  Plus you know exactly what you are getting.  A quality dress which is well made - and ethically made.  Not made in a sweat shop and bought online for a few quid!

Watch this space!!!!!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Is the 'best price' always best? The bridal retailer's viewpoint...

I got a phone call today from a bride looking to see what price one of my dresses was.  I assumed that she viewed it on our website or facebook page and whilst I was looking up the price, I invited her to come down and try it on.  It was then that she admitted that she had actually tried it on elsewhere and was ringing around all the stockists of the designer of this dress to see which shop would do it for the lowest price.  She very quickly hung up when I told her the price and told her that we sell at the RRP.

I get phonecalls like this all the time!!!  I have come to the conclusion that in a recession, people will always be looking for the 'best price', but is this the best way to go when you are choosing your wedding dress... the most important dress that you will ever pick?  Is it all about the price?

I'm sure we've all seen the news headlines in recent times about bridal shops who close down and leave brides without their dresses, and I have not found it to be surprising that most of the shops who do close down are well known for being 'discounters'.  They sell below the RRP and end up struggling with their businesses as they aren't making a margin that will keep their business afloat.  Designers set RRPs for us to follow so that we don't devalue their brand and they are set for a reason so that the retailers who stock their dresses will be able to sustain their business and pay all their overheads.  If we devalue a brand by undercutting the prices, we run the risk of our designers cutting ties with us.  This is something that happened very recently in a shop close to home - the designer refused to sell any more dresses to this shop because they were undercutting prices and they ended up having to close abruptly leaving many brides hugely disappointed and out of pocket (and without their dresses!).

This is not a risk I am willing to take and when a mum of a bride who had found her dress with us asked me recently why I wouldn't drop my price to beat another shop, I explained that I wanted to be still in business by the time her daughter got married and that the shop with the best price isn't always the best way to go (depending on how high you rank other factors alongside the ticket price)

Interestingly, this particular bride came back to me afterwards and purchased the dress with me even though we weren't as cheap as the other shop she rang.  A few google searches, forum searches and asking around had opened her eyes and  made her realise that the money she was saving wasn't worth the risk and she told me that she had come to the conclusion that  if another shop had to resort to undercutting tactics to get customers, as opposed to winning them over with their dresses, their service and their reputation, then it says a lot about this business and the character of an owner who would do this.  She decided not to go down that route for the most important clothing purchase of her life.

So sorry ladies... I won't be joining in on undercutting prices  :(   I want to stay in business rather than risk it all by getting involved in undercutting tactics.  My business reputation means too much to me and I feel it is morally wrong to steal a customer off another shop after they have done all the ground work and helped a customer find her dream dress.  I asked a girl last year who phoned me (who again asked me if I would undercut a very reputable shop) if she was happy with the service she got in that shop and with the shop as a whole.  She said she was very happy and the staff had been so helpful, so I suggested that she give them her business and to think carefully about shops who use undercutting tactics to get sales without doing any of the ground work.  I met her recently and I was delighted to hear that she went back to the shop that helped her find her dream dress after I had got her thinking.   She was very close to ordering from a different shop who had told her that they would do the cheapest price if she ordered with them.  I didn't get a wedding dress sale from that bride, but I was glad to hear that the shop who had impressed her with their dresses and service was the one that she chose to give her business to.   She had never thought about questioning the other shop's price or thought about doing her research and finding out more about them before making the biggest clothing purchase of her life and she told me she felt much a happier spending her money in a shop that she knew and trusted.

If a bride gets her wedding dress with me, I will happily agree to a bit of discount if she goes on to buy her bridesmaids with me.  She might even get a bit of discount on her wedding dress if she buys during a special event that I have had pre-approved by the designer. I won't overcharge on accessories such as veils or petticoats (as many undercutting shops do to make up for the lower prices they quote on the dresses).  I will also guarantee that she won't be overcharged for her alterations by our seamstress.  My reputation means a lot to me, and the business we get from word of mouth and recommendations speaks volumes.  I can put my hand on my heart and say that my customers buy from me because they know this and they know that I earn the business I get from them with the gorgeous dresses I buy in and let my customers try on, and the service my shop provides.... not by luring customers away from other shops with promises of the best price.  I may not always have the best price, but I will promise the best service!!!!!