So most brides that are in wedding gown shopping mode have watched at least one episode of Say Yes to the Dress. This means that they have watched a bride fall in love with a gown that her mother has indicated is too expensive. What usually happens next is that the consultant will grab a manager who will crunch some numbers and come back with a different price. Mom will say "Yes!" the bride will cry and the deal is made!
What this leads to is quite a bit of attempted bartering in my dressing room. Let me educate you about how my dressing room (and if you have read my previous posts, my dressing room is in a bridal salon that carriers dresses in the $500 to $1500 price range, the price range about 85% of the population espouses) differs from the Kleinfeld experience.
Kleinfeld's sells high-end designer wedding gowns. These gowns can go all the way to $30,000 and higher. There is not a lot in the way of fabrics or beading that cost that much, and so it is no surprise that what you are paying for is the label. There is also quite a bit of overhead and profit built in to the price as well. Let's say for the sake of argument that Kleinfeld's, or another high end store like Priscilla's, follows the 2 1/2 times rule (I don't know that they do, it is just a common rule of the market) , and that a dress that costs them $3,000 to purchase will be sold to the bride at 2 1/2 times that, or $7,500. That means that Kleinfeld's gets about $4,500 for themselves for that dress to cover their expenses and the consultant's commission. Any accessories sold with the gown are marked up significantly more. Alterations are additional. So when a bride walks in and says, "I can't afford this dress... if it was in my budget, I would buy it!" and then Joan goes to the office with her calculator and comes out to say, "I can offer it to you for $6,200 but no lower," keep in mind that this whopping $1,300 discount is still allowing them a profit of $3,200, plus whatever they make on the accessories and alterations.
Contrast that with my dressing room in a somewhat different price point. There is something called MSRP, which means that when a store agrees to carry a certain line, they agree to not sell it below an agreed upon price, although they are free to mark it up and build in as much profit as they would like. The manufacturers discourage price wars because they want their gowns to have a certain status, and would not like them to be the "discount" dresses you can get at a bridal warehouse. But the ratio is a little different, often a 2x mark-up instead of a 2 1/2 x mark-up. So a gown that costs about $500 would often sell for $1000, leaving the store with a mere $500 to pay their expenses, consultant commission and profit. So not only is the bridal salon working on a much tighter margin, but they are also held to an agreement regarding the price they can charge for the garment.
That being said, there is a notable exception to this rule: if you are buying a sample off the floor, the salon has the right to sell it for whatever price they want since it is their property and considered to be "used". So if you love a deal, and you have found the dress of your dreams, and the sample fits you, is the color you want and is in good shape, consider asking for a discount to buy the sample off the floor. You may just get lucky and find that the salon is happy to do so!
I'd like to reiterate that I'm not associated with Kleinfeld's in any way and have no knowledge of their business practices other than considering them to be very service oriented. I am also a big fan of Say Yes to the Dress.