By Paul Pannone
The New York Post piece about Leonard Green putting David’s Bridal up for sale comes as no surprise, as most investment companies know when it’s time to leave. Guided strictly by hard data and facts the decision reportedly comes from the realization the formal wedding business is failing.
The growth of David’s Bridal has slowed over the past few years and now its owners are getting out.
Sources, including the respected Pew Research data center, suggest irreparable aversion towards marriage in the way it’s traditionally viewed. While there are probably just as many unions that include simple, civil, same-sex, interracial, destination, etc. marriages, to walk down the aisle and run to a catering facility for freezer-tasting meals– for $30,000+– is no longer the standard of today’s couples.
According to sources familiar with the story David’s and its owners are not blind to the facts and series of events leading to their decision to sell. In the past year we’ve seen the Knot run to China looking for a broader market, admitting the competition in the United States makes it difficult, if not impossible to grow. The wedding business saw the predicted failure of Get Married, despite efforts by their owners to try to find creative ways of sustaining a profitable level of operation.
The steady decline of newsstand magazine sales, particularly Brides, who remains in the business despite shrinking advertiser support and a recent revamp of their magazine cover, shows a level of tenacity. But even with thicker, more eye-appealing paper and a slightly different cover, a shrinking magazine can only mean shrinking dollars. Followers of Brides say they’re amazed at how they still exist. Some say they’re on a deathwatch.
Currently, an ongoing eWedNewz poll shows 55% of wedding business respondents say they are keeping their heads above water, hoping for things to get better. But with David’s owners decision to dump the retailer and the steady lament of wedding business owners coupled together leads to one conclusion for the business-minded: get out.
Sources say David’s and its owners are following the move of Martha Stewart who recently abandoned their direct stake in the wedding business, selling their stock in Wedding Wire to a group called Catalyst. Martha took the money, ran and forged a deal with the review website, funneling local traffic to them.
Last year David’s shut down Priscilla of Boston, yielding to the high cost of operating the stores and a less willing consumer to spend for merchandise they offered. Sources told eWedNewz the company was encouraged by the growing interest and success of their Vera Wang partnership, banking that the savings of shutting down Priscilla stores and higher ticket prices delivered by Wang products would improve margins.
Even David’s Bridal that leveraged off-shore manufacturing in China to cripple their competition has found they’re losing sales to online pirates that bypass them and all American gown makers, leaving them at a price disadvantage, as consumers go direct.
While at another news format in 2010 I learned, David’s was hopeful at some flippy-floppy numbers and reports by the Wedding Report that encouraged them to stay in the game. Encouraging numbers that rose after the steep decline in wedding planning and spending during the 2008 market collapse that now falter, growing indicators say a wounded wedding market will not rebound, as hoped.
Crediting a close collaboration between David’s Bridal and Men’s Wearhouse, Vera Wang tuxedos were added for the 2012 season. Online searches for Vera Wang products, including tuxedos, are high on the scale this season, behind Calvin Klein, only because of their longstanding track record in the category.
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