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!!!!!