As a boutique owner I guess I am somewhat biased as to what I think! However, here are a few things that will hopefully help you understand the difference.
This is how I think it is understood in the world of bridal;
Warehouses = budget prices for new gowns.
Boutique = expensive prices new gowns.
So, what is a warehouse? Elite or Wed2Be are what I class as warehouses. These are usually large shops with hundreds of new dresses – usually lots of the same dress in different sizes and ready to buy off the rack. You will read some of the Facebook wedding groups and every other statement or recommendation is go to Wed2Be. This drives me crazy! Whilst I understand that some brides do not have or do not want to spend a fortune on their gown there are other options.
Having been to both, I can safely say I would prefer a boutique any day of the week. My dresses are out and on show so that the bride can see the fabric clearly and can feel what they are like, rather than be in dress bags so you can’t do this (why I wonder….). The quality is never going to be the same if you are buying a cheaper gown – fact!
Only 4 dresses allowed at a time in the changing room then out to communal area where your family is waiting with every other family in this large open area. Is this what you want? Your special moment of coming out to gasps of joy and tears of happiness shared with other families? Not for me….
And if none of those 4 dresses are right for you then you go and find more then wait until its your turn again. Sounds tedious. But do you know that what you assume is a new dress won’t necessarily be new? How many people have already tried on the dress you have picked off the rack? The consultant won’t know that either, yet you will pay the set price of the gown regardless of how many have tried it on – not looking like the bargain now is it? The price of the gowns is going up – the maximum used to be £600 but now I understand its gone up to £750 – still a good price but is it worth it when you can buy a designer gown with higher quality fabrics and construction for a few hundred more? Alterations for off the rack gowns can actually cost more than the actual dress can as you aren’t necessarily getting the dress closest to you in size – please remember this.
How about a hooped underskirt you don’t need or recommendations to seamstresses they have never met but yet rave about their mad skills. The staff are probably on a target basis and would sell the shoes they are wearing if that meant they hit their target – possibly a little harsh but probably true!
An hour and a half of undivided attention with as many dresses as we can fit in or is necessary until you find the one. Guidance and advice is always given (sometimes I should keep my mouth shut!) on what styles will suit or whether there is another gown that would really work well. Refreshments for your party are made so they enjoy the experience too. As I’m only a small boutique there is only you and your family that will see you in the dress. Once you have said yes to the dress (gasps, tears, hugs) then you are measured so that a new gown can be ordered specifically for you. However, if you need time to think it through then there is no pressure from me at all to buy the gown, in fact I encourage thinking it through it’s a huge decision on THE most important dress a woman will ever wear. I know what experience I would chose – it’s a no brainer for me.
I know some people are also on a tight deadline – don’t let this worry you either. Budget and deadlines can be easily combat. What you will get from your local boutique is usually excellent customer service and they will do whatever they can to get you the dress of your dreams. They will come in on their days off because the customer can’t get across when you’re open (I’ve done this), they will ring their suppliers on their days off as their customer is in a rush and needs a dress quickly and that extra day between now and when you are open could decide on whether they get it or not (I’ve done this), Facebook messages and emails answered at 10pm at night (I’ve done this) – do you think the warehouse staff would do this? I’m guessing not but this is the joy of having your own business so that you can be there for your customer when they need you or need calming down or to go that extra mile to make sure they are happy. Budget – a very emotive subject. How about a designer wedding gown at an amazing price – that’s right an ex sample gown. Generally in excellent condition and needs to be sold to make way for some new gowns. We are honest with our ex samples in that we tell you other people have tried them – that’s why they are reduced. It may need a dry clean and a button sewing on but you know what you are getting as we have been upfront and honest about it – a designer gown for less than a Wed3Be gown – yes please!!
So will you support your local small businesses and give them a visit – they will make it worth your while. They will in return, order you a dress just for you, take delivery of it, check it over to make sure its not damaged, give you a call to let you know its arrived and will scream with excitement as they can’t wait to see you in your very own dress (sorry is that just me!!), make an appointment for you to come in and try it on, store it for you until you are ready to collect it, organise alterations, steam it, then do their accounts, place orders for other brides, clean the shop, order new samples, update Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, answer emails, go to wedding fairs, go to trade shows so they can order new samples…… Who knew there was so much involved with a small business !!
I love my job and seeing a bride make that important decision on her dress – I feel privileged to be a part of the wedding in some small way. So please remember your small local boutiques and the hard work that goes into every exchange of words and appointment x
Article by SamMaxim of www.platinumbridalboutique.co.uk