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Boutique Hub / Dealing with No Shows

Take two of Britain's best bridal boutiques and discover how they manage bookings, mitigate against zero sales and deal with resource-draining No Shows. Here we chat with Laura Daly of Essex-based Bellissima Weddings and Rebecca Baddeley of TDR Bridal, Birmingham



Words from Laura, Bellissima Weddings


How can brides book with you? Phone, direct message, Facebook, online…?

Brides can book with us via telephone, email or Instagram. We don’t operate an online appointment diary for customers to book themselves because I like the extra level of control and personal touch that comes with chatting to prospective customers before they book an appointment with us. If we receive an enquiry via email or Instagram about an appointment, we will ask them for their contact number and their preferred day/time for a call, and we will schedule a one-on-one with them for that time so that we can best help them and understand exactly what they are looking for before they book.


What information do you ask for when an appointment is booked?

We will ask about their wedding date and venue, but more than asking questions, we are managing expectations at this point by informing the customer of what we have, how we operate and what to expect when they visit. We will ask them to complete a wish list on our website, we are extremely transparent about our pricing and don’t get caught up in the murkiness of special prices and deals, so it really helps with the ‘budget’ question, because our prospective brides can see in advance how much our dresses cost.



Do you take a deposit?

Currently no, but despite best efforts to have had a real connection before the appointment via several communications, we are experiencing an uncomfortable high incidence of no-shows, so I will be introducing a booking fee for weekends and evenings to discourage this trend and help manage staffing levels and running costs that much better.


How many appointments can you have running concurrently, at capacity?

We have three downstairs bridal suites and one upstairs for pre-fits and fittings, Downstairs we will see nine first looks in one day, and another six in the evening and upstairs we run on the hour, so six to seven appointments up there too!


Do you check in with brides before their appointment? If so, how?

Yes we do, we’ll send out a booking confirmation after the appointment has been booked, which goes over and expands on all the information that has been given at the first point of contact, and then each stylist follows their bookings and will call their bride before her appointment to chat in more depth about chosen styles and general wedding style and who else will be attending and so on. Then literally the day before we will call again to confirm attendance and take any pre-bookings for drinks.



Do you keep track of no-shows?

We do call if the bride hasn’t shown up, and if they don’t answer, we’ll drop them a quick line to check they are OK. However, I do think that being in retail, you have to grow a bit of a thick skin and realise that if they don’t show up, then they’ve most likely purchased elsewhere and are either embarrassed to call and say so, or don’t even think to tell us. And that’s fine, when the no-shows are few and far between, then I’ve always taken it as par for the course. However, because we are seeing a rise in this trend, I’ll be charging to at least cover my costs for a no show! We don’t blacklist, but our computer system will highlight if someone has already booked an appointment so we can easily check if they showed up or not. We’d bring this fact into the conversation if they try to rebook to make them aware that we noted that they didn’t come, and it may well influence what times in the diary we would offer going forward.


Do you have any tricks for preventing zero-sale appointments?

If you mean zero no-shows, then apart from charging a non-refundable booking fee to ease the pain of a no show, and chatting one-to-one before the appointment to form a bond with the bride, I really don’t know!


You can try to mitigate your no-shows by having as much of a personal, human interaction with the customer before the appointment as possible, backed with a great website and social media - so that in most occasions, this customer will feel she can’t make a decision on anything she’s seen before attending the appointment that she has booked with you.


Ultimately though, you can’t stop someone buying at an appointment before you, or feeling sick, or having a puncture, or all the millions of other excuses we’ve heard - and you can’t stop someone ghosting you by hanging up when you call or leaving you on ‘read’ when you what’s app or text!


You just have to know that you’ve done all you can, and convince yourself that they were never going to be ‘your’ bride anyway!


Words from Rebecca Baddeley, TDR Bridal Birmingham


How can brides book with you?

We take bookings in many different ways because we find that brides simply like convenience. They don’t want to have to go looking for details on how to book anywhere so, a link to our ‘Book Now’ on all social media is a must, alongside side every dress and at the top of every page on our website, we ensure that Book Now button is prominent. We also take bookings through Google, phone, Messenger and any other online directories we feature in.

What information do you ask for when an appointment is booked?

We always ask for the usual details, full name, telephone number, wedding date and so on, but we also ask for the bride's budget and how many guests she will be bringing, just so we have an idea of which suite to allocate to her.


Every bride has access to our portal where we ask about the style of the wedding, her hopes and aspirations for her wedding, what fabrics she is drawn to, and what styles she is drawn to. The bride can also ‘Favourite’ styles on the portal before she comes to the boutique so that the stylist feels her vibe before she arrives.

Do you take a deposit for an appointment?

No, absolutely not, we don’t believe in charging for appointments in any way, this goes against every fibre of retail and, long term does not work. We have tried it simply because we felt pressure that everyone around us was doing it, so we know from experience, that it eventually depletes appointments. It is also a ‘blocker’ to many potential brides and sets the tone for the appointment in a negative way.

The beautiful new celebration suite at TDR Bridal has been a huge hit!


How many appointments can you have running concurrently at capacity?

At capacity, we can do 28 appointments on Saturdays, 21 on Sundays and 35 on our late-night days. We are open seven days and three late nights each week.

Do you check in with brides before their appointment? If so, how?

Yes, we always call our brides a few days beforehand to check in and see how their wedding plans are going. This is a nice way to get to know them before they come into the store and helps them to tell us their fears and wishes before they arrive.

Do you keep track of no-shows?

We hardly have any no-shows, but when we do, we always have a waiting list so appointments are easily filled. We would never blacklist a bride! There could be so many reasons why they didn’t show, we find kindness and understanding go a long way.

Do you have any tricks for preventing zero-sale appointments?

Ah, so the million-dollar question is how to convert every bride! We would love to say we do this, but that wouldn’t be true. We run at anything between 65 and 85% conversion rate at the moment, we have had the odd 100% day which has been cause for much celebration, but generally speaking, we average around 73%. We just believe in listening, understanding, guidance and protection and coming from a place of kindness above all else. We don’t do pressure sales, it’s a pointless exercise in the long run.


Contacts:

Bellissima Weddings / www.bellissimaweddings.co.uk / @bellissimaweds

TDR Bridal / www.thedressingroomsbridal.co.uk / @tdrbridalbirmingham

Rebecca Baddeley also works with fellow bridal professional, Emma Arnold at Wedding Wakeup – The retail platform, knowledge and community for you to learn, grow and excel.




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