Local independently owned Wedding gown retailers and Wedding Invitation retailers actually have a few commonalities in the challenges they are facing.
- Both are challenged by online retailers and are losing sales.
- Products are being counterfeited. In the wedding gown sector, there are hundreds of sites with knockoffs of designer dresses. In the invitation sector, online retailers and wholesalers from India and Mexico are producing similar styles at much lower prices than domestic
- The wholesale market has contracted with some brands consolidating or going out of business in both sectors.
- Many retailers in both sectors are consumed by the day to day challenges of serving customers and trying to merchandise and have neglected to focus enough on their website, marketing, review cultivation and social media.
There’s a big difference in the philosophy of manufacturers in fighting the fight:
- Gown manufacturers advertise prominently to gain brand recognition for their products to drive wedding customers to their retailers and dominate the ad space in national magazines. Invitation suppliers efforts are fractional and the result is the online invitation retailers dominate the ad space in the leading national magazines.
- Gown manufacturers are contacting government agencies and Google to work on shutting down counterfeit sites. They are taking Buyer Beware ads to let brides know about the existence of counterfeiters and hundreds of sites have been shut down. Invitation suppliers have done nothing to challenge foreign companies that have stolen market share by distributing free knock-off samples of their products to retailers with much lower pricing.
Bridal Retailers are doing more and they’ve rallied for support:
Sue Maslowski, a local bridal store owner, organized a grassroots effort for a national bridal sale day/week. Over 1000 stores nationwide run individual sales during the same time period. Besides individual store efforts to run their sale locally, I redesigned a website for them that promotes the sale nationally with the support of manufacturers and over $75,000 in donated ad space from media partners like The Knot, WeddingWire, Martha Stewart and BrideClick. It also serves as a year-round site promoting the local retailer and domestic manufacturers in an educational site format.
How much would that mean to the wedding invitation retailer if an organized effort was facilitated by a partnership of trade publications, invitation suppliers, and retailers? Maybe that regain some focus on the retail environment instead of the uncontested cannibalization that is going on in the wedding invitation arena by online retailers to the point where when you go to the stationery show, you see a fractional amount of wholesale brands.
Because of the vast options for customization, retailers still have advantages over buying online. You just have to fight harder. I have always tried to help by working with both wholesalers and retailers individually to better their website and marketing. But who is going to step up to the plate to do something meaningful for the good of the whole industry? If you want to discuss with some who cares and can help, get in touch with me.