By Paul Pannone
The Chicago Bridal Market 2011 is called the most attended and exciting in years by some of the most successful bridal manufacturers of the business. As expected, Allure, Casa Blanca, Mori Lee, Maggie Sottero and other well-established companies creating designs that favor platinum budgets saw brisk activity at their booths.
According to some buyers, the higher-end of wedding gown pricing hasn’t suffered proportionately as much as the middle, where the most congestion and competition exists. Although some of the higher-priced suppliers have added collections that take into account the current economic challenges, there are some that will argue the point by saying the luxury level has suffered just as much.
Buyers at the show told eWedNewz they’re placing their orders more carefully than ever before, considering the reliability of the company, marketing and advertising budgets and support of the products. With a sea of products available– and more reported to be launching– the daunting task of knowing what to buy from whom seems nearly impossible.
“If you add all the name brands together — there are about 1,000 different brands to know and review! These numbers aren’t exact, but this is my best guess: Bridal Gowns — 300 Maids — 130 Headpieces — 75 Accessories — 80 Mothers — 80 Prom — 95 Shoes — 40 Quinceanera– 30 Special Occasion — 105 Jewelry — 65.
That means that if a retail buyer wanted to see all 1,000, they would have to see 200 brand names a day at the Chicago market — or about one brand name every 2 and a half minutes for eight hours a day with no breaks,” according to Jim Duhe.
According to Duhe and others, attendance at the show was better than expected. Earlier this year the Las Vegas Bridal Market was canceled due to lack of interest. Retailers and manufacturers cited the weak economy and the over-saturation of shows, along with growing competition from places like Costco in a shrinking market. Moderate traffic in Dallas, despite aggressive measures taken to fly in buyers and put them up in hotels, showed the weakness of the market earlier this year.
Buyers told eWedNewz they wanted to hold on to orders and see what the season was going to be like. Though many say sales have been “good”, no on is jumping for joy.
“This is an exciting show for us; as you know we unveiled David Tutera and boy, has it really caught on,” according to Steve Lang.
In the way of buzz and promotion, Lang led the pack and was rewarded by winning three DEBI awards for which Mon Cheri was nominated.
“Steve really does a great job with everything he does and deserves everything the company works so hard for,” said Philip Cornier. Cornier was at the show representing Magnolia Bridals in Brooklyn, New York, that recently expanded into bridal gowns after years of making bridal veils. “These days you have to do it all to be successful; there just isn’t enough business for the growing competition, so I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told eWNz.
Cornier and others said traffic at the show started off a bit slow but grew as the weekend progressed. Some wondered about how New York market will be.
“The problem with these shows is the timing. We’re already in production because we started selling way back in May,” according to Larry Warshaw of Justin Alexander.
Warshaw told eWedNewz he was a bit disappointed with the traffic in Chicago but very pleased with his business, overall. Warshaw told eWedNewz he flies selected accounts to exotic locations and shows, including Barcelona, Spain, with no obligation to buy.
Sara Morris, owner of the Something Blue shop in Alabama, says she was flown to spectacular places with zero pressure to buy. She gives Larry Warshaw and the Justin Alexander team a great review and cautioned about some of the other companies that aren’t as conducive to the success of smaller operators.
Larry Warshaw joins other manufacturers that weren’t happy with attendance agreeing the majority of buying is all but over by September. Sources from both the manufacturing and retail side of the wedding dress business, as well as adjunct businesses including tuxedos, say they don’t know what is going to happen to trade shows in general.
Several companies have contacted eWedNewz wanting to know more about internet marketing and direct sales to consumers. None would give their permission to be quoted but admitted traditional methods are fast becoming a thing of the past.
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