In honor of Bridal Reflections’ 40th Anniversary, COUTURE sat down with Vice President, Cristina DeMarco, in order to pick her brain about New York Bridal Fashion Week! With three fabulous salons and an outstanding assortment of American and international designers, it is no surprise that they are dubbed “New York's premiere bridal salon!” COUTURE: Congratulations on your 40 year anniversary! With four decades of success under your belt, what is the most significant change to the industry since you entered the market? DeMarco: Hands down the internet! I would say 90% of our brides do their primary research online. Our homepage is the first impression we have on them and it is so important that it is an accurate depiction of our business! The web has also changed the scope of our competition. Local stores are not the only competitors anymore. Brides now have easy access to retailers and designers worldwide.
COUTURE: How closely do you follow the trends and how do they affect your assortment and is there a certain trend that sticks out as defying a decade? DeMarco: Clearly we alter our collection based on current trends but we also try to consistently have timeless styles. Many designers today are producing trends that are removable such as detachable peplum, one shoulder straps, skirts, and overlays. This way the bride can have the best of both worlds when it comes to tradition vs. fashion! As far as trends over the years, Leg o’mutton sleeves certainly define an era for me. In the 80’s EVERY gown had dramatic sleeves which eventually lead to a backlash of more simplistic silhouettes. So funny how styles change so drastically over time!
COUTURE: As you stated earlier, the internet has clearly made an impact on the business. What other significant changes in the media landscape do you believe affected the industry? DeMarco: Reality TV has had a huge influence on the bridal business. With popular shows like Randy to the Rescue and My Fair Wedding, many brides are watching these programs as a form of research. These brides are getting free consultations from industry professionals in the comfort of their own home! As a retailer it is important to know what messages these shows are putting out there and make sure we offer the trends they are promoting.
COUTURE: Do you think the introduction of these modern influences have affected bridal magazines? DeMarco: Bridal magazines will always be around! Nothing compares to physically flipping through a magazine full of glossy, beautiful, high-quality images. That being said the thickness of the magazines has certainly declined due to the advertisers exploring digital opportunities. There is no longer just one medium and as a retailer we need to be aware of these other platforms in order to reach our customer.
COUTURE: You currently have three successful locations. Do you take each demographic into account when formulating a buy? Does each store have a separate buyer/budget? DeMarco: We currently have one team of buyers for all three locations however we divide our budget accordingly for each store. When purchasing new collections we certainly take into consideration which location will be the most successful with each style. Allocation of goods is also extremely important! Transferring designs between stores to fulfill demands is often necessary.
COUTURE: When you prepare for each market, what are the top three goals you are trying to achieve?DeMarco: (1) Stay within budget! (2) Seek out innovative fashions (3) Remain consistent with product (ie quality, price points and taste level)
COUTURE: What advice can you give to first time retailers at market?DeMarco: Define who you are before going to market. Who is your bride and what she is looking for? Is she coming to you for fashion forward designs or a reasonable price point? Or both? Find your niche in the market and stay true to your brand identity
COUTURE: What advice can you give new designers showing at market? What is the best way for them to catch your attention?DeMarco: We are looking for innovation! We currently carry many designers that have a unique aesthetic. If we decide to bring in a new collection it should fill a stylistic void that’s in the current assortment, not replicate existing designs.
COUTURE: How open should designers be to design edits? How often do you request them and why?DeMarco: We encourage designers to stay true to their designs. We rarely ask them to customize unless there is a specific detail we know will not resonate with our demographics. That being said, a designer should always be flexible when it comes to the demands of our customer. Brides want a dress that is unique and desire the opportunity to tweak the style to make it her own. The designers we partner with are open to such requests.
COUTURE: Bridal Market is just the beginning! What follow up steps from the designer are necessary to insure a smooth transaction?DeMarco: Most importantly the designer needs to be responsible with their delivery times! They should be prepared to let us know when we can physically have the sample in our stores and what the lead time is for our bride. They should also be able to tell us the color and size variations that are available over time. It is essential that they follow through on all the promises they presented at market!
COUTURE: How do you see the bridal retail business evolving in the next 10-20 years and how are you preparing?DeMarco: I think the industry is going through a clean house phase. Many people jumped on the bridal bandwagon thinking it is recession proof however it takes a strong business skill to stay afloat. In order to remain successful, owners need to remain hands on, invest in a professional staff and most importantly service the client!