Last week the bridal industry was rocked with news that the big box retailer missed a $270 million interest payment. Is this the writing on the wall for David’s Bridal? And if it is, what does that mean for brides shopping on a limited wedding dress budget? What does it mean for the rest of the bridal industry?
It’s been a little over a year since David’s closest competitor, Alfred Angelo, abruptly shut its doors leaving thousands of its employees without a job and, more so, thousands of brides without dresses overnight. This latest news has us wondering if David’s Bridal will soon find themselves in the same position as Alfred Angelo: shutting stores down for good. In talking with other industry friends, we all agree that the end is near for David’s Bridal. And in our opinion, that’s not a bad thing.
If David's Bridal Closes, Does This Mean Bridal Retail is Dead?
If David’s Bridal closes its doors, it means that the big box store experience is dead. The fluorescent-lit, warehouse-sized spaces jammed with thousands of wedding dresses is a thing of the past.
This is great news! Why? It means independent, small retail business are flourishing.
A 2017 report by the International Council of Shopping Centers "saw more store openings than closures, that 78% of consumers prefer to shop in store, and that 94% of all retail sales are still generated in physical stores.”
“Essentially today’s consumers are looking for what a national chain has difficulty delivering: a personalized, enjoyable shopping experience with curated product lines supported by knowledgeable stylists.” - Vows Magazine
Translation: David’s Bridal can’t deliver the same experience and expertise that comes from a boutique.
The Bridal Boutique Experience vs. David's Bridal
Before you think that we speak nonsense, we have first-hand experience with David’s Bridal. Plus, we’ve both been bridal consultants at boutiques. So… ya know, you could say we’re pros ;)
So what does a “boutique experience” get you? (And when we say “boutique” we aren’t including stores structured like BHLDN.) When you schedule an appointment at a boutique it may mean that you get the entire store to yourself. If it’s a larger boutique, you might be sharing the time slot with one or two other brides. You’ll also get to work one-on-one with a bridal consultant. Even with more than one bride at the same time, there will be enough consultants for each bride to have their own. The consultants know every dress in the store (i.e. how it fits, what fabric it’s made of, possible customizations, etc), and they will work with you to find the right dress.
Meanwhile at David’s you’ll be lucky to get a store to yourself, or even a pedestal. Yes, we’ve seen brides having to take turns standing on a pedestal for their moment in the spotlight. On top of that, David’s employees are often working with multiple customers at a time, which means their attention is divided. You might find yourself having to make decisions without the help of an employee. With several hundred dresses in the store, do you think they are knowledgeable on each dress? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Still don’t believe that their service is terrible? Grab some popcorn and google “David’s Bridal Reviews.”
Bye Bye, Budget Store
In fact, if big box chain stores like David’s ceased to exist… well, good riddance!
Way harsh… we know. But let us explain.
Since its inception the brand has made a name for itself as a “budget store.” After all, David’s Bridal made headlines as we were growing up with its $99 wedding dress sale. While they have added licensing/partnership agreements with Vera Wang and Zac Posen in recent years, company execs made it clear that they weren't forgetting about their target bride. She's going in looking for a dress under $600. So, at the end of the day even though they do have $1500 dresses in store, their focus remains on being a budget store.
With its reputation as a budget store though, David’s is commonly referred to as the Walmart of bridal. Why? Because their products are cheap. (aka: cheaply made of low quality materials) Brides walk in to David’s believing they are getting a deal for a $600, or a $900, or a $1500 dress. However, those same brides could have spent the same amount of money at a boutique! Not only for a better quality dress, a better shopping experience, but also in support of a small business!
What it boils down to is that you don't have to sacrifice quality of service when it comes to wedding dress shopping on a budget.
But Not Every Bride Has a $1500 Budget
If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “But ladies, an Edith Élan bride is not a David’s Bridal budget bride.” You’re right. It doesn’t mean though that an Edith Élan bride may not have a friend with a lower budget in mind.
Even if David’s goes out of business, brides on a budget won’t be out of luck. There are still options out there for her. It just might not be a $100 deal. (Those brides might have to consider white or off-white bridesmaids dresses.)
For brides on the dress hunt with sub $1000 budget, consider consignment, or boutiques’ sample sales, or a discontinued sample directly from a designer. This route will take more time and patience if they’re looking for a particular dress.
Brides with a sub $1500 budget will find plenty of boutiques across the country that cater to them. We promise, they’re there. And the boutique experience will be worth it!
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To read more about David's Bridal missed interest payment click here.