If you are a bridal shop owner and haven’t read this article, you really need to take the time.
The article is about the coming changes at David’s Bridal. In 2012 Clayton, Dubliner & Rice purchased David’s from Leonard Green & Partners. Big deal, right? One private equity firm buys a sluggish performer from another private equity firm. Why should that change anything?
Equity firms buy up companies for usually one of 2 reasons, either they plan to dismantle them and sell them off in pieces or they think they are ripe for a big turn around. They don’t buy them just to keep the status quo.
In this case, my guess is they saw something. Something that may have huge potential. Something that may change the way bride’s think about Davids. Follow me here…
David’s had grown a little ‘dusty’ for lack of a better term. Yes they had a lot of dresses with the manufacturing chain to keep them supplied and they had the price point that many brides wanted. They had added less expensive lines from top shelf designers like Melissa Sweet and Zac Posen to the White line by Vera Wang. Still, the experience was less than desirable. It seems Clayton, Dubliner & Rice set out to keep what worked and fix what’s broken.
They have put together a team that has some serious chops. CEO Pamela Wallack started with Laura Ashley Bridal followed by the retail division of Disney and then masterminded a run at Gap that is still legendary for it’s 18 straight months of growth.
Next they added as creative director Trevor Lunn, formerly of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. While there, Lunn built a little brand you may have heard of, BHLDN.
It is my opinion that Wallack and Lunn can have an extremely positive impact on changing the image that has been burdening David’s for years if, and it is a very big if, Clayton, Dubliner & Rice get out of their way. If you think this is all just hype on paper, they launched the first prototype of the new concept in January 2014 and have been refining it. According to David’s Bridal CMO Brian Beltier “the timeline is “not entirely defined,” “future David’s Bridal stores will follow the Los Angeles model, with the more than 300 existing stores eventually being updated to the more upscale look.”
Other changes in the works are added emphasis on special occasion and prom along with a strong increase in larger size gowns in stores for try-on. They are also taking a long hard look at leaks in the bottom line. Additionally they are spending a great deal of time and effort on the floor staff, both in training and hiring.
My guess is they see some potential. The changes that have been made public are so far cosmetic, a shaking off of the dust, shining up the image and ripping off the vinyl bags. The real telling factor will be if they are really able to make a dent in the customer service. No matter how pretty and shiny they make it, without that they will still be just a shinier version of “the Walmart of Bridal”