Post by Leslie Voorhees, CEO of Anomalie.
At Anomalie, we’re in the business of making beautiful custom dresses, not opining on macro business trends. But I need to comment on the closures, announced this week, of Style Me Pretty and Weddington Way.
One note: Style Me Pretty has been an invaluable resource to so many brides, including myself. I am heartbroken that it is shutting down. If you have content to share, please contact us at Unboxed@dressanomalie.com. We’d love to work with you to continue creating great content for brides.
It is no secret that retailers have been having a very tough time in the bridal industry. Alfred Angelo, the country’s #2 wedding dress retailer, recently filed for bankruptcy – leaving many brides in a very stressful spot. David’s Bridal, the #1 player, is on the top of Fitch’s bankruptcy watch list. Amazingly, there is no retailer with much above 1% market share after David’s Bridal – the wedding dress market is a dispersed sea of retailers, many of whom are struggling.
Why does this matter for brides? The assumption in the wedding dress industry that gowns must be purchased in a store has dramatically increased prices, limited options, and decreased transparency for brides. Each wedding dress boutique needs to carry an expensive set of inventory of different sizes, and are under huge pressure to unload what they have, resulting in high markups, inexplicably long lead times, and unfortunately, sometimes high pressure sales tactics.
Don’t get me wrong – there are many dedicated small business owners in the bridal boutique space, who provide value for brides every day. But this does not change a simple fact: after interacting with tens of thousands of brides over the past year, we have not met a bride who is 100% happy with the current makeup of wedding dress shopping. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 5, the average rating brides give their experience before speaking to us is 1.5. Our team has been brought to tears listening to brides’ stories about dreading wedding dress shopping because the industry made them feel too curvy, too thin, too large, too tall, or too short. Or feel like they have to spend thousands of dollars to find an acceptable dress. We’ve met brides whose bodies were changed by illness or injury and had zero options. Based on our conversations, we estimate that over 80% of brides don’t fit into the current sample size box, and close to 100% brides have a hard time finding a wedding dress that perfectly fits their size, style, and budget in the current retail environment.
The problem with the wedding dress industry is that it decentralizes something that can benefit from scale and centralization of operations. We partner directly with the workshops that manufacture designer gowns, which enables us to create the gown that brides want without the retail markups.
Our stylist and technical design team works with brides to translate their dress visions to specs for the workshop. Our online experience then allows us to give brides a window into the dress creation process. By centralizing operations and selling directly to brides, we are able to bring more customization and transparency into the process.
Owning the customer service experience AND the dress operations is vital to drive more customization and value to brides – re-structuring how wedding dresses are created is hard, but this is vital to change the economics of the industry in favor of brides (it is not enough to just sell other people’s dresses online, resulting in similar economic challenges to brick-and-mortar boutiques). The more dresses we make, the more we are able to optimize our workshop operations and lower costs on materials, benefits that we can then pass on to brides.
View this post on Instagram
✨Debuting: Creating an Anomalie!✨A visual journey through the dress creation process 👁👗We're thrilled to begin with Reny, who chose Anomalie because she couldn't find the layered, intricate dress of her dreams within her budget. Swipe 👉to see Reny's dress from ideation to finished product (one she describes as “a piece of art she can call her own”). 👰🏼💞👰🏽 From one bride to another: Reny recommends brides go into the process with a really clear vision for their gown: “the stylists are very helpful but they can’t read your mind, so be honest with them every step of the way so you truly get what you envision.” We loved #creatingananomalie for you, Reny! ✨#itsananomalie 📷 by: @featherandnorth • • • #wedding #weddingday #bride #brides #weddingdress #weddinggown #custom #customweddingdress #engaged #married #bridal #anomalie #dressanomalie #lace #bridalparty #bridesmaid #bridesmaids #groom #groomsmen #romantic #startup #trends #weddingtrend #weddingtrends #trending #blog
Building this is an iterative process and our processes are constantly evolving – the one constant we strive to hold onto is to deliver an amazing customer experience and go above and beyond for each bride we work with. Our stylists know their brides and their designs intimately, and we give a 100% refund if a bride doesn’t love her dress. We are proud to be a brand that stands for operational + design excellence, not a specific design aesthetic – making dresses from size 00 to 32, from classic elegance to boho.
If you are in bridal retail and looking to join a team of stylists, designers, engineers and production experts who are working to make the industry more Pro-Bride, contact us at email@example.com. And again, if you’re a writer from Style Me Pretty who still has more content to create, contact us at Unboxed@dressanomalie.com.
Leslie Voorhees, CEO
Photo by: Battle Cry Media
Read more about “4 Royal Shifts” in the wedding industry on Forbes.