Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Tell if Your Bridal Salon is in Trouble

Let's face it: trusting a store with hundreds, even thousands of your hard-earned dollars in exchange for the promise of a dress can be difficult. You need to believe that in an appropriate amount of time this store will have your dress for you, that it will be the same style you originally selected, that it will be the right color, it will be in good condition, and an approximation of the right size. The repercussions of a store failing in some way to fulfill these obligations could leave you high and dry with just weeks to your wedding and no option but to settle for something you don't love. So how can you tell that a store is bad news?

In these economic times it is difficult for stores to compete with the warehouse stores (like David's), the pseudo-bridal market (like JCrew), and the no-inventory dealers (like websites). When you order a dress from a bridal salon, you are typically asked to pay for a portion of it up front. The store then orders your dress from the manufacturer. The bridal store pays the manufacturer for your gown on delivery. This means that the bridal store is holding your money for several months until your gown arrives (at which point the bride pays the balance). Stores that are in trouble are operating at a loss, and are therefore forced to spend the money from a bride that left a deposit today for her gown to cover the bill for a gown that is arriving tomorrow for a bride that ordered six months ago. Can you trust that this store will have had another bride order a gown from them six months from now when your dress arrives and they need to pay the COD to UPS so it doesn't get sent back to the manufacturer? After all, the money you gave them was spent months before...

Here are warning signs that a store is desperate for immediate cash flow:
  • Willingness to discount a dress, particularly a special order, below MSRP. Since discounting a special order gown can result in the line being pulled from them, why are they willing to take that risk for one customer?
  • Disregard for the rules imposed on them by the manufacturers. For example, more and more manufacturers are requiring that their stores disallow the taking of photographs of their designs unless the dress has been purchased. Since they reserve the right to pull their line from any store that doesn't follow their rules, why is the store letting one customer's desire for a picture jeopardize their future with the manufacturer?
  • A store that will tell you anything you want to hear. The most common I hear? Brides will tell me that although I have told them that this dress will take about six months to arrive, and another store said the same thing, there is another store that said they can get it sooner. Dresses take as long as they take, and unless you are doing a Rush Cut, which involves a higher cost, orders are processed in the order received. End of story. No bridal store in America has "more pull" with the factory in China than another. Why are they misleading you? Because once they have your money, you are committed, and when it arrives in six months there's nothing you can do about it. Stores will also under-quote alteration prices and tell you things will be altered that can't. Anything that will cause you to leave a deposit with them.
  • A store that lies to you. I had a bride recently who came in after having seen a dress she loved. She told me that the other store told her that the dress was made of silk. I showed her our sample of the dress and explained that it is called "silky satin", a beautiful fabric, but not silk. The word "silk" in the fabric refers to the weight of the satin, not the natural content of its fibers. She insisted that the previous shop told her it was silk, that they even suggested this dress when she said she wanted a real silk gown. I opened up the dress and showed her the label, "100% polyester" and even went into the office to get the manufacturer's trade catalog to show her that the manufacturer only offered this gown in one fabric, silky satin which is polyester. She was stunned that someone would lie right to her face. People will do anything when they are desperate for cash.

There are plenty of honest, stable stores out there. Check reviews first. Do not choose a store simply because they have the lowest price. Ask your consultant lots of questions and you'll probably get a sense of whether they are telling you the truth, or hiding something. Does an offer sound too good to be true? Probably isn't. Never pay for a special order dress in full.

Follow these tips and trust yourself to know whether the person with whom you are dealing can be trusted too.

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