Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

Competing and Thriving in the Wedding Industry

Jo and Claire are sisters and founders of Belle Bridal — an independent bridal boutique in North London. Competition is fierce in the wedding industry. Yet, as a small business, they know how to keep customers happy and give brides-to-be the very best experience when wedding dress shopping.

The UK wedding industry is worth £10 billion. It’s safe to say there is a lot of money to be made nowadays from couples wanting to splash out on a perfect day and find quality products and services. With so many options about where to get married, what time of year is best and selecting a theme, it’s easy to see how the costs add up. The average cost of a wedding ceremony in the UK is over the £25,000 mark.

Although figures vary, in 2017, Bridebook reported that brides spend an average of £1329 on a wedding dress. 83% of brides buy them from a specialist designer wedding dress shop, as opposed to the high street or secondhand. The wedding dress market is competitive, as new dresses are released each season.

To succeed in a competitive market, creating a brand that has a true focus is vital. What does the brand stand for? What makes Belle Bridal stand out from other wedding dress shops in London? Rather than creating another high street wedding dress shop, Jo and Claire focused on two factors of wedding dress shopping: personalisation and price.

Offer a Personal Service

Every small business has one significant advantage over big businesses in the form of personalisation. Every time you call Amazon’s customer service number, for example, you’ll likely be talking to a different person. If you’re dealing with an entrepreneur or small business, you’ll likely speak to the same person. You can build a relationship and an understanding of the customer’s needs and expectations.

Belle Bridal operates from Jo’s house. Not only is this a great way to start a small business without having to fund an office or shop; it adds an extra layer of personalisation that many businesses could only dream of. Customers aren’t entering a shop with 10 assistants and other customers shopping next to you. It’s a more personal and relaxed atmosphere. People appreciate a personal touch when shopping, especially for something important. 51% of consumers polled said there is a difference in customer service between small businesses and bigger stores. Jo and Claire wanted this level of personalisation.

Target a Specific Price Point

While the average price of a wedding is increasing, some brides are looking to spend a little less on the dress. Jo and Claire were passionate about offering brides discounted wedding dresses, while still buying a quality product. Sample sales are a perfect option to achieve this goal, so they designed their market around offering sample sale dresses.

Focusing on a specific price point is important for any business. There is a market for any budget, so finding that point and promoting it should be a key focus in a competitive industry.

Fill a Gap in the Market

After setting up their bridal boutique in 2009, they noticed a demand for a type of dress which they did not yet stock. Jo and Claire saw the need for modest wedding dresses for brides at a fair price. So, they created a modest wedding dress collection for brides looking for these types of dresses. Listening to consumer needs and acting upon it can help any small business to thrive. It’s a priceless tool that no organisation should ever ignore.

If you find a gap in the market, fill it. Even after establishing a small business, you can learn from your customers about what they’re looking for. While research prior to starting a business will help, it’s often not until you have one-on-one conversations with customers that you can learn their true needs.

Create a Brand you Believe in

Women can face challenges when starting businesses, especially those who are also mums, but this business managed to turn that situation into a positive. Belle Bridal took shape while Jo and Claire were actually on maternity leave. This gave them time to flesh out the business ideas and establish themselves.

Although running a small business will always entail challenges, especially in markets which already seem overcrowded, if you create a brand which is in line with your values, offers customers what they want, and is led by smart decisions, you will find success.