The Wedding Business Rocked by Market Facts and Truth

 

By Paul Pannone

In the closing days of 2012 the wedding business is buzzing because of newZ involving major companies who are bailing out of the business, bringing investors in to shoulder the financial burden and responsibility of trying to run a profitable business in the shrinking wedding market.

Yesterday’s story, The Wedding Business in Worse Shape than First Thoughtdrew reaction in all social media formats and plenty of private response from industry veterans who would like to dispute the newZ– but can’t.

 

 “I’ll also bet that few if any of the existing US manufacturers close this year or next, the number will represent an insignificant percentage of the total. Is there anyone out there who will take the bet?” says Jim Duhe.

 

Jim Duhe gave his usual response in his own style saying;

 “Your story isn’t a cheerful launch pad for the start of the new year. Certain aspects may or may not be accurate but I’m not alone in refusing to accept that the sky isn’t falling — at least not quite yet.  The average age of couples who wed has increased each decade since the turn of the 20th century.  When I joined the bridal industry in the 1970′s, we advised advertisers that “brides are older, better educated, and more affluent than ever before in history.”  It was a documented fact in the 1970′s.  It was equally true in the 1980′s.  It was true in the 1990′s.  It was true in the first decade of the 21st century.  It’s still true today.

However, age, education, and affluence don’t necessarily mean that a death knell is replacing wedding bells or that traditional weddings no longer represent a preferable life style choice for a meaningful number of Americans. Research conducted by Bridal Guide and all other publications as well as by prominent on line bridal sites like The Knot indicates that the number of destination weddings that take place in foreign countries is substantial.

Because foreign countries are not required to report the number of US citizens who marry to the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare, it’s difficult/virtually impossible to determine the exact number of Americans who marry annually.   Therefore, it’s difficult/virtually impossible to verify that the total number of American weddings has declined substantially in recent years.  Regardless, many people who select to have a destination wedding continue to purchase bridal apparel in this country. They still create wedding gift registries in this country.

Long range business success requires much more than keeping up with trends. It’s essential to run one step (or more) ahead of them.  Conceptually, the challenges to bridal retailers created by online bridal apparel sales in 2013 aren’t  dramatically different from those offered by direct mail purchases (JC Penney, Sears, et.al.) in the 1980′s.  However, direct mail bridal apparel had an Achilles heel that online retailers don’t have: return policies.  The vast majority of online sales are generated by companies that are headquartered in foreign countries.  These companies can’t be forced to comply with US laws regarding merchandise returns.

Because the majority of China/direct sites offer positive consumer reviews (that may or may not be complete fabrications) consumers are lulled into a sense of security in their buying decision.  Unfortunately, prominent “money back guarantees” offered by China/direct companies generally are unenforceable.  There’s little if anything that a consumer can do to secure a refund for merchandise that is unacceptable or substandard.   Unlike complaints posted on Google, Wedding Wire, and others sites, there is no place for a consumer to publicize a complaint about a China/direct web site purchase.  It’s a perfect storm for China/direct sites:  on site comments are consistently positive; there’s no way for anyone to complain publicly.

Frankly, I don’t have answers to many of the questions that plague independent bridal retailers or tuxedo rental specialists.  However, that doesn’t mean that answers don’t exist.  It may well be that the number of existing independent bridal apparel stores will suffer from attrition. That’s a distinct possibility.  However,  I’ll bet you that new bridal retailers will launch in 2013, 2014, 2015, and beyond.

Seasoned bridal industry experts predicted that there were far too many bridal manufacturers — that there would be a “fall out” in the 1970′s — in the 1980′s — in the 1990′s — in 2000.  These predictions continue today. I’ll bet that there will be more bridal brand names in 2013 than there were in 2012.  There probably will be even more in 2014.   I’ll also bet that few if any of the existing US manufacturers close this year or next, the number will represent an insignificant percentage of the total. Is there anyone out there who will take the bet?”, said Duhe.

Duhe’s statement started strong but seemed to fall asleep by its end. So did that of Christine Boulton, who called to discuss the story. Boulton proposed there are clients who are doing well in the wedding business. We never suggested there weren’t. But Boulton could not argue there are fewer wedding industry professionals doing well than there are doing terrible. In fact none of the discussions could challenge any of the central points of the story. Simply put, the increasing challenges against a shrinking (traditional) market will not lead to a happy ending.

The story dates back to 2009 when companies like David’s Bridal sought positive data, wanting to know when the wedding industry would recover. No such information existed but through hocus-pocus hypotheses (guessing) there would be a spring-back in the wedding business. To date it doesn’t seem likely.

An ongoing eWedNewz investigation concludes the data failed to include variables, including the languishing economy that will continue to plague a full recovery in spending for traditional wedding goods and services. The results, exacerbated by growing competition in all areas of the wedding business, dilutes the ability to command higher prices from consumers. The decline of over four years with no end in sight resulted in decisions by major wedding companies, including owners of David’s Bridal, Leonard Green and Associates, to divest themselves from a majority stake in the wedding business.

The statement is supported by an overnight shift since the story released. An ongoing poll feels the wedding business is deteriorating (29%), stuck in neutral (15%) or is yet to reach the bottom (13%).

What do you say?

 

 

eWedNewz

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2012

The Wedding Business in Worse Shape than First Thought

By Paul Pannone

An ongoing eWedNewz investigation shows the wedding business is in worse shape than anyone is willing to admit. Information and interviews across all channels of the business, including the part reported to be the most important; the dress business, shows severe damage caused by the collapse of the economy in 2008 and a slow recovery through 2011 and most of 2012.

Like brides, dresses come in all colors, not just white. Tuxedos have been replaced by black suits, navy and tan colors and everything you can imagine.

eWedNewz watches trends that includes the longer wait of men and women deciding to get married. The average age for first-time marriages continues to rise.

“The median age for a man’s first marriage was 28.2 years in 2010, up from 26.1 in 1990. The median age for a woman’s first marriage was 26.1 years in 2010, up from 23.9 in 1990,” according to www.infoplease.com  sourcing  U.S. Bureau of the Census information.

According to Census information the combined average age of men and women since 1960 has increased nearly 21% and has continues to rise world-wide. World trends show an even greater increase to resisting marriage. In the UK the average age for men and women hit 30 years this year citing Pew research while exploring probable causes.

Shedding tradition and traditional values continues to affect the number of marriages but also the formality of those weddings that do take place. Stylish, non-traditional weddings express the thoughts of couples who no longer want to be told what to wear, how to feel or plan their day.

Trends and shifts from normal wedding business finds those who plan to stay in the business are forced to change their operations to adapt to the shrinking numbers. Khalilah Olokunola of A Boxed Event and member of the Wedding Water Cooler shared her thoughts in the controversial forum:

“Many vendors I know have tripled up-not fine tuning their business to meet the demands of the changed times but instead (add) a whole new business . IT seems acceptable in some circles to be the baker, designer, director,planner and videographer- and no I’m not making that up there is a business that offers that.

Gone seems the days where you have to have skill and experience before you could add a title to your name. If you truly want to be successful you have to work hard, hustle hard and accept constructive criticism from more seasoned veterans. Geez I do all the time , I’m a coolie.

With brides and other “socialistas” decreasing their average budgets we all find ourselves redeveloping our business plans and offerings but still maintaining our integrity by offering the better bang for your buck,” says Khalilah.

Khalilah and others say the wedding business is flooded with services and products, challenging the pricing ability for vendors who seem to increase faster in numbers than the market shrinks. Plainly put there is no more need or room for another DJ, gown manufacturer, limousine company or any of the products to create traditional weddings. There are even too many catering facilities who’ve been forced to service a broader spectrum of events to keep rooms, kitchens and workers busy.

While investigating the story about the wedding dress business we’ve uncovered a growing number of outside sources infiltrating the business forcing manufacturers to take action. Recent advancements in the fight against pirates who’ve crippled the wedding dress business received no credit from skeptics who say the damage is too deep, too wide-spread and can never return to normal levels.

Across all channels eWedNewz watches and reports the changes taking place at places like David’s Bridal down to the smallest bridal stores who say they’re ready to throw in the towel. Decisions to sell majority equity stakes to investors like the one involving Jim’s Formal Wear become more and more common-place. Store closures servicing the wedding business are expected to increase, as manufacturers and suppliers tell eWedNewz they can no longer manage growing debt because accounts can’t meet their obligations.

Newsstand sale of bridal magazines continues to plummet giving some ammunition to pundits who say digital is killing print. But a closer look by eWedNewz shows grandfather wedding websites like TheKnot.com are also taking a pounding. eWedNewz exposé  stories about scandal, sexual debauchery and reported mismanagement of resources culminated in the death of morph digital/print companies like Get Married. So-far the rebirth of the company failed to come close in recapturing the glory the original launch created before the crash in 2008, now that the wedding business is older and wiser about the fairy-dust that surrounds them.

Planners of all sizes, including celebrity, say they’re looking to exit the business or expand into a broader range of services, no longer able to cut costs or charge enough fees to make it worth their while. Even “Wedding Market Gurus”, A.K.A, snake oil salespeople, are finding it difficult, if not impossible to charge speaking fees they did just a few short years ago. Most avoid our questions and keep pounding their drum of bullshit, acting as though everything is fine, while others see the changes and become alarmist, claiming to have the answer in some seminar or class.

Even hopefuls who thought the addition of Same-sex marriages to the wedding market, backed by the leader of the free world, say the events has so-far been just a small blip on the screen.

Olokunola again gave her view on how some of the troubles could be fixed:

“When the people who govern wedding magazine, trade shows and associations get real maybe– just maybe– it’ll get better. It’ll make it harder for scammers to scam and players to play and when we stick together as a whole. I believe a shift will take place towards an up direction and its there that the industry can begin again,” she said in the WWC forum.

Christine Boulton of Think Like A Bride told the Cooler how some companies are successful in the very tough business climate.

“There has been some serious restructuring in our business over the last four years. Business owners have changed their thinking; they are going after new markets and they have stepped away from an attitude of arrogance. In short, they stopped thinking of themselves as “artist” and begun to see themselves as businesses.”

Endless discussions clearly show the end of the wedding business as it once was. Is it time to stop discussing and look at what the information clearly tells us?

 

In an ongoing poll 32% of respondents so-far say the wedding business is rebounding but slowly.

What do you say?

 

eWedNewz

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2012

Equality Declares Munaluchi is Colorless

By Paul Pannone

Munaluchi Bride magazine gained the attention and praise of another wedding industry segment that connects with their mission and herald the changes that are coming. Statements by the head of Munaluchi, Chike Kwobu, got the attention of Marcinho Savant, a proponent and advocate of human rights, regardless of race, color or sexual preferences.

 

Marcinho Savant  has what it takes– the “O” factor– and uses it to get his message heard.

 

After welcoming Kwobu into a sometimes volatile Wedding water Cooler environment, Savant commented on an eWedNewz story saying:

Bravo, Mr. Nwobu and “Munaluchi Bride” magazine!

Every Bride matters. All brides want to “see” themselves reflected and acknowledged in the broader society. Brides of Color have been invisible, or relegated to special, occasional, “sections” in mainstream black publications because they had no true home. In Munaluchi Bride, now they do! And it’s about time!
According the magazine’s blog:  “The name “Munaluchi” is a combination of two African names (one Ethiopian and the other Nigerian) which when fused together mean “Beautiful Work of God.” The name perfectly describes our target audience, as all women, regardless of race or ethnicity are beautiful in their own light.”

I’d say they’ve hit the nail on the head!  Asante sana, Munaluchi Bridal!  Thank you for providing a home for all the “Munaluchi” on the planet!

 

According to Savant love comes in all shapes and forms but the color restrictions are clear; none.

“As an event Designer I am here 24/7 for the couple to make things happen for them the week of their event. When two people are in love and are willing to dedicate their lives to one another they need to have a great event to mark the official start of their life together. That’s where I come in,” according Mr. Oprah Savant.

 

 

 

 

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2012

The President’s View on Same-sex Marriage Comes Out; what do Wedding Water Cooler members say?

By Paul Pannone

Facing a new low in approval rating earlier this year president Obama took a shot at jump starting his popularity, especially among liberal voters and supporters of same-sex marriages. Members of the Wedding Water Cooler were asked for their thoughts.

 

With political pressure mounting president Obama announces his opinion of same-sex marriages.

 

June Hoffman, an Indiana Officiant asked Weeding Water Cooler members for their thoughts:

“Hi Coolies~

I could hardly believe the radio today when they reported President Obama’s new stance on same – sex marriage. I had to read it myself. Legalizing marriage for same-sex couples could potentially have a huge impact on the wedding-world economy. As Officiants/DJs/MCs, we’ve performed commitment ceremonies and receptions in the past. I know that there would be a huge spike in weddings if this becomes legal. Same-sex couples have the same challenges and dreams as other couples. Times are changing indeed.

President Obama is the first president to endorse this type stand. It would sure do wonders for the bridal gown and tuxedo businesses as well as all other facets of the wedding community [?].”

Certain members of the Wedding Water Cooler– one’s with brains that work– gave their thoughts on the subject that varied from opposition to thanking God for the president’s action. Strong arguments on all fronts presented in a professional way gave similar conclusions favoring personal belief and individuality that resists government intervention.

Peter Gould told Coolies, “Personally I think the government should get out of sanctioning a religious ritual such a marriage, and abide by separation of church and state. I realize that for legal reasons, and there are many we need to recognize some sort of domestic unions and partnerships for all gay or straight, and those that want to have a marriage do so separately in their religion.”

Liz St. John lightened some of the heavy thoughts with some levity pointing out;

” Just an observation here – (though I believe that ANYONE that would like to be married, should be able to make that mistake).

We now have one candidate for president the believes that two people should be able to marry regardless of sex and one candidate that believes that one man should be able to marry multiple women.. Very interesting time to be alive.”

But back to business, Jim Duhe told the group;

“While I personally always have supported same sex marriage, I think that we’re still a long way from having no resistance on this topic.  Look at what just happened in North Carolina.  The battle is far from won.  Obama isn’t a shoe-in for the next election. None of that means that I’m not optimistic.  I want same sex marriages to be a reality because they are the right thing to do.  I hope that they have a positive impact on our industry but I won’t count the money until I see the cash in my hand.  I’m not sure how I’d react if I were personally impacted by this ruling.  I don’t believe that I’d jump up and marry tomorrow but that’s a hypothesis.  I’m not sure what I’d do. “

On the more opininated side Samantha Goldberg who is also from Chicago, told WWC members;

“Not an Obama fan….

1.How he walked into office with accepting the Nobel prize..

2. He is not as sincere as one thinks..I am a Chicago native and that is where he lived for a long time.

3. He thinks he was responsible for Osama? LMAO…I have swampland too..

No comment… Sorry if that sounds cold- He could careless about gay etc.. He is trying to regain what he had when he accepted the role as “President” he lost many believers..that is fact…He’s lost the trust …so what does someone of this caliber due when they begin to lose this? They go for areas that the public fights for…to save his ass…” said Goldberg. So much for “no comment”.

Analyst and creator of the Wedding Water Cooler, Christine Boulton had this to say;

” I think that the right to marry should be a universal right but it must be fought on a state by state basis. Woe be to the politician that puts forth the reported constitutional amendment to define marriage as “between a man and a woman” that it is rumored certain conservative Senators and Representatives are proposing. They risk their reputation with all but the very conservative fundamentalist religious types. (btw, it isn’t just Christians, it is the fundamentalist side of ALL religions)

One thing that President Obama said that was I think the most salient thing he has ever said, it was his children that helped to shape his new view. When in the course of conversation with his daughters it became evident that they saw no difference in the parents of their peers that were same sex couples, if fact, didn’t find it odd in the least, that he changed his view.

That my friends is what will make the change. How we raise or children. If we raise the next generation to be open and accepting, gay marriage will become open and accepted. If on the other hand, we raise them to be bigots, then we will see more repression. Just the opinion of one person.”

Jacqueline Johnson commented;

“I guess I am the only one left to comment on this very important matter.  I applaud the President for having a new revelation on life and addressing the fact that if a couple desires to pledge their everlasting love and loyalty to each other – they should have the right to do so.  Whether it is to get votes or not (no one can tell what is in the heart of anyone) he changed his mind from 3 years ago and now trying to correct a wrong.

I make it a rule not to comment on religion on politics outside of the home - as you always manage to offend someone.  However, the President did inherit a country in serious financial trouble, and while some of his actions I do not agree with, he has done the best job he knows how to: to steer a massive ship fraught with some of the most mean-spirited people you can find in this century.  From a woman’s right to healthcare: you have old, narrow-minded men dictating how we should all live and care for our bodies.

And yes, whether we like it or not, he did give the okay to have Osama Bin Laden taken out.  If the mission had failed, he would be blamed mercilessly for putting the lives of Americans at risk – and how naïve he was to undertake such a mission.  It happened under his watch – so he either gets the blame or the credit.

As one who knows the sting of racism first hand, I believe in live and let live. Gay, lesbian, heterosexual, we should all live our lives in a dignified manner.”

Johnson wrote about the value of the growing GLBT market, challenging the narrow-minded thinkers of the wedding business to embrace, not shun them.

eWedNewz gives the last slot to Marcinho Savant who had this to say in part:

“Some people must be unaware that at certain times throughout history, same-gender unions were, in fact, blessed by clergy and clerics. Life did not begin with the narrow scope surrounding the years we may personally remember— or whatever we may have personally been trained to believe. How lucky one must be to believe that one’s opinion is absolute and correct— beyond questioning, investigation and unimpeachable. What a luxury it must be to be able to smugly discount the pains of other souls. Thank God SOMEONE questioned something or we’d still believe the world was FLAT.”

 What do you think? Do you agree with Obama’s decision to become  the first president to endorse same-sex marriages?

eWedNewz

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2012

 

Cautious Optimism as Proposition 8 Gets Struck Down in California

 

By Paul Pannone

In what’s being called a narrow victory the California court system struck down the state’s voter-passed ban on gay marriage saying it violates the rights of gays in California.

 

Judge Stephen Reinhardt said Proposition lessens the status and human dignity of humans– and not just in California.

 

According to Judge Stephen Reinhardt

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

The news is just another dip in what’s called a roller-coaster ride by conservative onlookers that say they’ve heard it before.

“I am going to stay very cautious until time passes and I’m absolutely certain it’s for real,” says Marcinho Savant.

Savant celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York over the 2011 summer saying, “THIS is the question of the hour!  Running a company specifically designed to care for and protect the weddings of the GLBTI community it is, of course, an interesting proposition that New York (and other states) have recognized full marriage equality. But are we turning back handsprings yet?  No.  We’ve been here from the beginning!  Our doors have been open for each of the legalization in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.  There hasn’t been a “flood” of same-gender marriage bookings, as a result. It’s been much more like a steady flow. In fact, I feel a lot of couples are still ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’; possibly for their rights to be rescinded, as was the case in California.

Savant’s cautiousness continues with today’s latest announcement, issuing the following statement to eWedNewz:

 “Today’s ruling by the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional is a great victory for GLBTI couples in California, to be sure.  I am unaware, at the moment, when marriages will be permitted to resume in the state.  And what happens to the nearly 20,000 licenses already issued to GLBTI couples—  All those couples who tied the knot, only to have it forcibly unraveled before their eyes.

We have already seen the power of the ballot in the hands of a majority who, for their own personal reasons, felt that their views took precedence over fair treatment under the law.  The law passed, they (the opponents) created an initiative and the people voted— declaring and amending the California Constitution to read that marriage could only exist between a male and a female couple.   Led by the ProtectMarriage.com, which garnered the public support of major political figures such as Newt Gingrich and John McCain, a great hue and cry went up to reverse the ruling granting full marriage equality to the residents of the state.

An object lesson in the power of the a constitutional voter initiative, I am cautious about this power, though many hearts and minds seem to have changed since the time of the proposition’s passing. Nobody has the right to VOTE on the liberties of another, law-abiding citizen. It’s as absurd as my thinking I have the right to vote on whether my neighbor has the right to own an aquarium in their house, because I’m afraid of, or just plain hate— EELS!  I’m not lacing up my dancing shoes quite yet, because there is the possibility that there will be, yet another, appeal— though unlikely.

It is abhorrent to me as a human being to think that the couples, already legally married, then not, now possibly again “legally wed”— to think that they could, yet again, have their marriages hammered around like a  Wimbledon Finals volley, nauseate me; that we as human beings are willing to inflict such harm upon others.  There is no gray area in equality.

After what these Californian couples and families have been through, I believe they’ll be cautiously celebratory as well today. Wedding vendors would be wise to be ready for, and highly sensitive to, the battered emotions of this demographic and their future wedding needs.  For now, until couples are assured of their irrevocable right to marry, expect a trickle. Not a flood.”

 

 eWedNewz continues our coverage and investigation into this story. We welcome your thoughts.

eWedNewz

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2012

All Things Savant Suggest Charity and Caring

 

By Paul Pannone

 

Event,  lifestyle expert and author, Marcinho Savant, authorized the creation of a new charity concern nearly a year ago to help others. Affectionately known as Mar Mar, Savant’s name is not the only curious part of this very intricate person.  Mar Mar’s charitable approach to life extends beyond his services to the wedding industry; Savant celebrates life every day.

The learned Savant boarders on brilliance and silly fun, often crossing that boarder at any given moment without a passport. But when it comes to business Savant is all about business, taking each project he undertakes seriously.

His book, Sell or Starve, is a frank account of life during one of the worst economic crisis in the history of the United States and demonstrates how Savant approaches life, always with a realistic perspective and equal expectations.

 

Marcinho Savant plans weddings that are elegant, fun or totally creative.

In all of Marcinho’s undertakings his passion clearly rests on creating interesting and unique events for his clients. With the same understanding, caring and attention to detail he oversees all his business concerns, Savant takes  planning an event for his clients very seriously.

A new e brochure features products and details about what his company offers. But it’s more about the person behind the planning that keeps us interested and watching what this amazing human being is doing.

 

eWedNewz

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2012