By Paul Pannone
The wedding industry continues to implode on the simple fact there are less (formal) weddings and brides that are willing to spend like their relatives did in better economic times. Discussions raised from the eWedNewz coverage of several stories, including whether manufacturers should open retail stores, are re-opening new wounds involving failures and dubious actions of suppliers in the past.
One reader that asked we not identify them compared the current upheaval in the wedding dress business to shady deals that took place behind the scenes in the Invitation business. The pressure to go direct to consumers, whether it be opening retail store or wedding websites, is extreme. Members of the Wedding Water Cooler feel the greater part of manufacturers are already somehow bypassing traditional standards and are “in bed” with favorite stores used as shills.
“Everyone has to be doing it; well, anyone that wants to be successful,” said some Cooler members.
Water Cooler members say they have their suspicion about all manufacturers and how sincere they are. Some said they wouldn’t trust any of them as far as they could throw them– lacking only the proof to nail them.
In a statement, Brian Lawrence admits the owners of Encore Studio wanted to sell direct to consumers.
More information came to light in the ongoing investigation into the failure of Encore Studio invitations. Encore abruptly shut down in September after Brian Lawrence left the company and a dispute on whether to sell direct to the public and bypass Encore accounts a year earlier.
According to a critic of Lawrence, the similarity between dress manufacturers opening stores and a supplier building a website share the same culpability; selling direct to the consumer.
“Your article is actually about what happened to Encore. Encore opened a website to sell directly to the public. The Encore site, weddinginvitations.com, was most likely the idea of former company president,Brian Lawrence and should soon be a prized web address up for sale.Lawrence, while working at Encore, operated a website building company on the side, using the Encore mailing addresses to promote his company and books.
Encore then inked a deal with Red Galoshes (now known as Bridaluxe) to put links to their site on 400+ affiliate vendor websites. No pay per click or advertising necessary. Instantly, they had product offered on 400+ wedding websites.
They did not offer access to this website to their retailers who had spent $1000s of dollars to carry their numerous albums, the main ones being:
The Encore Edge (offered only to exclusive retailers, built around the concept of Starr Jones’ extremely thick wedding invitation)–this one album was never online
The Classic Collection (an album Encore stopped making, choosing instead to offer buy-back programs to retailers, who now definitely wish they had accepted) Simply Encore 2 Expressions of Love Wedding Invitations Expressions of Love Wedding Ensemble Collection ES Wedding Collection Wedding Invitations by Encore
Bat and Bat Mitzvah
Other stationery manufacturers with websites give their retailers access to free versions of their websites (Checkerboard, Carlson Craft, McPherson, Tatex and Birchcraft to name a few).
Retailers, in turn, stopped favoring the Encore albums, only making sales when the customers found their own way to them. Stationery store websites started carrying messages like “This vendor now sells directly to the public. Please support the retailers who invested in their albums.”
You know the rest of the story.
Ironically, Red Galoshes/Bridaluxe was alerted to take their links with Encore down from a retailer who received your eWedNewz email about the Encore closing.”
After receiving the email we reached out to the source that agreed to give more information in the future about the invitation business. We also reached out to Bridaluxe and await their reply. We also posted the statement in the Wedding Water Cooler forum and copied it off to Brian Lawrence. Here is what Lawrence said:
“I was not the company president, and was never in favor of Encore selling direct to the consumer. I felt that it was a personal contradiction to the foundation of how the company was positioned. The owners were insistent and I had to acquiesce and deal with something I tried to stop from happening for years. At the very least the products were sold at the full retail price and there was a dealer locator on the site. The site generated very little sales because there was no real investment in marketing the site and SEO. Also the pricepoint was high for an ecommerce site. Not one sale was made on bridaluxe to my knowledge.
In addition all along faced with Encore deciding to this, I wanted cobranded sites so that Encore dealers would have the same online opportunity and weddinginvitations.com would be another website. The owners never agreed to approve the proposals to have that done.For many years Encore had one of the strongest coop advertising programs that listed dealers and drove brides to local stores and the owners had me stop the program to cut financial outlays. I feel that was a major detriment to the sales of the company. Brand recognition and consumer demand is so important.
I had also advocated to do a new Classic Collection because there were very companies in that space and the main ones required boxed stationery purchases and only sold to stores. It just kept getting put on the back burner.
Most major manufacturers sell direct to the consumer and also sell to online retailers. I do not think that Encore lost favor with the dealers to any great extent the way this retailer depicted it and certainly as mentioned in previous articles I am and continue to be a staunch supporter of retailers and is the foundation of my company “Local Traffic Builder”.”
Lawrence chose to respond to the allegations after staying silent for months after the Encore debacle. During the silence SEO and website experts contacting eWNz criticized Lawrence for his support of what they call “outdated approach to online marketing”. It’s the first time Lawrence admits the owners of Encore wanted to go direct to consumers– as he tries to exonerate himself from any wrong-doing because of lack of sales– in his statement.
One Invitation industry source claims Lawrence lied in boldface fashion. Lawrence was tongue-tied when confronted about selling direct to consumers in 2009 and reportedly concocted some story that wasn’t convincing.
On hearing the latest news she told eWedNewz,
“He has now also purchased most of the legit domain names so he sell them for a profit. If any one pays more 12.95 for the domain without any site backing it they’re out of their minds. I hope he gets stuck with them and loses all of his monetary layout for them.”
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